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Immigrant children without lawful status should qualify for $3,600 child tax credit: advocacy group

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the expanded child tax credit as Social Security payments for children that would cost an "enormous amount of money" if made permanent.

Updated: June 22, 2021 - 12:49pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

An advocate with the Children's Defense Fund said immigrant children who lack Social Security numbers should qualify for the expanded child tax credit, worth up to $3,600.

Speaking at an event with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Saira Soto, the deputy executive director of Children's Defense Fund California, lamented that the GOP's 2017 tax reform law required tax filers to include Social Security numbers for their dependent children in order to qualify for the credit.

"Unfortunately, due to the 2017 Tax Cuts and JOBS Act, children must have Social Security numbers in order to receive the federal child tax credit," Soto said Monday at an event for Child Tax Credit Awareness Day. "So Children's Defense Fund California and other coalitions of organizations will continue to work hard to make this temporary expansion permanent."

Biden and the Democrats expanded the child tax credit in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to allow individuals without an income to claim the tax refund for their dependents on their tax return. Individuals and couples filing jointed who do not pay income taxes are now eligible for the tax refund under the new rules. The IRS has advised the public on its official website that "filing a 2020 tax return, even if you don't have to, could put money in your pocket."

Biden's rescue plan also required the IRS to set up a system to allow parents to receive the tax credit in advance on a monthly basis, which is expected to take effect on July 1. 

A White House web page outlines the requirements parents must satisfy to claim the tax credit for their dependents. The requirements include having an individual tax ID number as the tax filer and Social Security numbers for the filer's children. According to the National Immigration Forum, most ITINs, commonly referred to as tax ID numbers, are issued to illegal immigrants.

Prior to the 2017 tax reform law, tax filers with or without Social Security numbers were able to claim the child tax credit for their dependents who lack Social Security numbers due to unlawful immigration status. The 2017 tax reform law doubled the value of the child tax credit but added the Social Security number requirement for dependents starting in tax year 2018, according to the IRS.

Reached by email following the event, Soto explained why she thinks tax filers should be able to claim the credit for their children who are not U.S. citizens and therefore lack a Social Security number.

"The child tax credit is meant to support children and families, especially the ones who need it most," Soto said. "In order to ensure a fair and just system that helps grow and boost our economy, and one that supports our children, immigrant families must be included."

Just the News asked Pelosi's office if the speaker agreed with Soto that Social Security numbers should not be required as a condition for tax filers to receive the child tax credit for their children, but we had not received a response by publication time. 

Pelosi is seeking to make the expanded credit permanent despite its "enormous" cost.

"That is our fight," she said. "The proposal right now is that we would extend it for five years. It's an enormous amount of money to extend it permanently. We think of this as almost like Social Security for children."

As Just the News previously reported, the IRS estimated that 12% ($4.5 billion) of child tax credit payments, $39.1 billion, were considered improper in FY 2020. 

An improper payment includes tax credits sent to parents who file tax returns separately and claim the same child on both returns. Improper payments can also include tax credits sent to individuals who file fraudulent tax returns. For example, in 2012 investigators reportedly "uncovered more than 1,000 tax returns linked to eight addresses in North Carolina … with refunds worth more than $5 million" as part of a fraudulent tax return scheme, according to a local news report.

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