Politico: But What If Some People Don't *Want* Extra Money?
One of the best parts of the American Rescue Plan is the provision expanding the Child Tax Credit and sending out part of it in monthly installments. As we've noted, it could cut child poverty in half if it's made permanent, which Democrats are pushing to do.
Next month, the first payments will start going out to people who qualify for the expanded benefit, and Politico has an important question: What about people who don't want the extra monthly cash, is anyone thinking of them???? We tried to recall whether there's an actual name for the genre of reporting here, but we'll just call it Politico Shits On A Nice Thing.
Now, it is true that there may be some people who would prefer to get the entire child tax credit in a lump sum when they file their taxes, instead of having half of the credit sent in monthly installments and then getting the rest at tax time. Eventually, several paragraphs in, the story notes that anyone who would rather get the payment all at once will be able to opt out; the IRS will have online instructions for how to do that by the end of this month.
But dang, look at all the ways Politico tries to suggest extra money every month will somehow be a terrible burden, starting with the lede:
The Biden administration is preparing to send money to millions of Americans — including to some who may not want it.
Oh dear, whatever shall they do? (They can opt out.) This is so very problematic!
The explanation of how the expanded tax credit works really tries to suggest the Biden administration didn't think this wacky benefit through, especially as it applies to folks at the higher end of the eligibility range.
But the administration intends to automatically enroll everyone who takes the credit — some 50 million families, earning up to $400,000 — in the monthly payment program unless they opt out.
That may come as a surprise to many, and not a welcome one — particularly to people who aren't low-income — because it could come back to bite them at tax time.
"They might have a smaller refund in the spring or they might end up owing some of this money back," said Elaine Maag, an expert on the initiative at the Tax Policy Center.
"That will probably annoy some people."
So they will have to opt out. You just said they can opt out.
The piece also notes that some lower income earners may actually prefer to get the benefit in a single lump sum at tax time. Know what they can do? They can opt out and ask to get it that way!
But did you know that money is complex? The fact that some people would rather not get monthly payments, we're told,
underscores how the decision on whether to participate in what is a signature initiative of the administration can be more complicated than it appears — turning on people's individual circumstances as well as their personal preferences.
What's more, the story also takes its sweet time getting to the details on who exactly might find extra money every month a great big pain in the ass. About halfway through, the story notes that the monthly payments "are primarily designed to help low-income people with unexpected expenses throughout the year, and they will get the biggest increases in payments." Plus it's fully refundable, meaning it goes to those who were too poor to receive it before, because they didn't earn enough to pay federal taxes.
And the benefits really are quite good, for those getting the fully expanded credit, which was boosted from $2000 per child to $3600, for kids under the age of six, or $3000 for kids six and up. That's the increase for couples making up to $150,000 a year, at least.
See what Politico did there? It kind of lets you figure out by yourself that those who'll be "inconvenienced" by the additional money are folks who have higher incomes — up to $400,000 a year — and will see proportionally smaller monthly checks, based on their annual income. But if they don't want those small monthly payments, they can opt out.
If you read nearly to the end, you'll finally find out who'll be burdened the most by the monthly payments: Folks who make enough money that they don't even qualify for the expanded benefit! These are literally the last three paragraphs of the story:
About 20 percent of families receiving the credit make too much money to qualify for the newly expanded credit — they will continue to receive the underlying, pre-2021 credit, doled out in monthly installments. A couple with two kids making $300,000, for example, can expect to receive $333 beginning next month.
But they may not need the money or even realize that it's coming. And taking those payments now means they won't be able to use it later to reduce their tax bills next filing season.
"If you're above those income thresholds and you're not getting any additional child tax credit, then maybe you don't want to mess around with it," said Maag.
Gosh, if some really well off people don't opt out, which they can do quite easily, they will be unable to reduce their tax liability by some amount that's not stated here.
Will no one think of their struggle?
But if you know folks who don't make enough money that they have to file federal taxes, make sure they know they can sign up for the enhanced child tax credit right here. Then they too can complain to Politico about having extra money to pay the bills each month.
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