The federal stimulus measures that have been sent out throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have overwhelmingly come from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Despite its occasional missteps, the IRS is a logical partner for this effort. The agency has the names and contact information of most Americans within its files, as well as their economic status. It is accustomed to sending out large numbers of checks at roughly the same time, giving it valuable prior experience for the pandemic. And it has the number of children each family has on file, allowing it to send out stimulus checks for dependents and manage the payment of the Child Tax Credit, which recently expanded in March.
However, there is a problem with managing payments through the IRS – some Americans who are eligible for the payments do not usually file taxes, meaning the IRS has no idea of who they are or where to find them. Usually, if these people do not owe any taxes, this is not a problem, but the pandemic has made it crucial to deliver necessary relief payments into the hands of whoever is eligible. Therefore, the IRS is making a special effort to include groups that are traditionally left out of the tax system – including, among others, U.S. citizens working abroad and poorer citizens who do not have enough income to be taxed – into the Child Tax Credit process.
To this end, the IRS has prepared to roll out two online portals on its website, allowing families to directly enter their information for the Child Tax Credit and make any changes if necessary. For instance, if a child was born between when your taxes were filed – presumably before the May 17 filing deadline – and now, you can use the portal to update your information with the IRS, so that you receive a $300 per month payment for the newborn.
While the first portal is being designed for general use, the second portal was explicitly designed with people who do not traditionally pay taxes in mind. The IRS has said that the two portals should be online by July 1.
In a statement put out on Thursday, June 10 by the House Ways and Means Committee, it was noted that many of those who do not pay taxes are people who do not make enough money that they are required to – in other words, people who presumably were the most severely affected by the pandemic.
The two portals will also allow parents to opt-out of receiving the advance checks for the Child Tax Credit, choosing instead to receive the payments as one lump sum when they file their 2021 taxes in April 2022.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.