Putting It In Perspective: The Child Tax Credit—Dignity for America's Children

Posted by Jeremy Hiken on Thu, May 03, 2012 at 16:07 pm

As a third-year college student in Washington, I see people on the street begging for money every day. While the majority of these people are individuals, impoverished families are not uncommon. It is of course hard to see individuals struggling to get by, but it is even harder to see children deprived of the opportunities I had growing up. As a result, I became interested in what is being done to help alleviate the dire situations of these people.

During my first few weeks at HIAS, I took part in a conference call about the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), which are invaluable to poor working families. Originally passed in 1997, the CTC and ACTC have saved eligible families up to $1,800 per qualifying child, enabling them to use more money on basic necessities such as food, shelter, and transportation. According to a study by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the two tax credits saved 1.3 million children from poverty in 2009 and 2010.

Many families rely on the CTC and ACTC during these tough economic times. The CTC and ACTC are especially valuable to people, including many immigrant families, who have lower income levels. A significant feature of the CTC is that immigrants do not need to have a social security number (SSN) in order to qualify for the credit. As many immigrants lack a SSN, the IRS allows for applicants to use an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), which is assigned to any taxpaying person who does not qualify for an SSN.

Unfortunately, legislation was passed in House of Representatives this past April that would significantly reduce the number of immigrant families eligible for these tax credits. The amendment, known as the Refundable Child Tax Credit Eligibility Verification Reform Act (H.R. 1956), was introduced by Rep. Samuel Johnson (R-TX) last May and currently has 40 co-sponsors. The bill stipulates that in order to be eligible for the CTC and ACTC, the taxpayer or spouse must have a social security number.

Were this legislation to become law, over 2 million families, including over 4 million children, would no longer be able to obtain these benefits. The House-passed bill represents a tax increase on lower-income working families, 85% of which are Latino. In fact, it would prevent up to 5.5 million American children from qualifying for the credit. Out of these children, 88% are US citizens, who, despite being entitled to the same benefits as all other citizens, would be deprived of much-needed resources for no fault of their own. To put this bill into financial perspective, 70% of families receiving the tax credits earn less than $30,000 annually. Families with just one eligible child would be losing, at a minimum, 6% of their income.

As someone who was taught the importance of human dignity, it is hard not to think back to those struggling families I have encountered in DC and how they would be affected. Elected officials should not punish the children of hard-working, taxpaying parents simply because of the immigration status of their parents. As a nation, if we are unable to take care of our own residents, especially the poorest among us, how will we be able to successfully address the pressing issues that are found throughout today’s world?

Comments (0)