Janna Herron·EditorWed, March 10, 2021
The $1.9 trillion stimulus plan based on President Joe Biden’s proposal and passed by both chambers of Congress includes four key tax improvements that would help Americans in various income brackets.
The plan would change the child tax credit, child and dependent care tax credit, the earned income tax credit (EITC), and taxes on unemployment benefits, helping to alleviate some of financial stress from the coronavirus pandemic and economic shutdowns.
The House passed the amended bill on Wednesday after passage in the Senate on Saturday. The legislation heads this week to the president to sign into law.
Here are the proposed tax changes.
Child tax credit
If the plan passes, the child tax credit would increase to $3,000 per child under 18 and $3,600 per child under 6 for the 2021 tax year. Currently, the tax credit is for $2,000 per child under 17.
The credit would also be made fully refundable for 2021. That means taxpayers receive a refund for the credit, even if it’s more than what they owe in taxes. Right now, the credit is only partially refundable up to $1,400 and those who owe no tax must make at least $2,500 a year to qualify for that $1,400.
The full credit would be available for single filers who make $75,000 or less, joint filers or surviving spouses who make $150,000 or less, and heads of households who make $112,500 or less. After that, the amount of the credit would be reduced by $50 for each $1,000 that exceed the thresholds.
Half of the credit may be advanced to families over the next six months beginning in July, based on the most recent tax information available, either 2019 or 2020. It remains unclear clear if the payments would be monthly or in other increments.
Who this helps: Families with children in bottom 20% of income distribution would get an average benefit of $3,400, according to estimates previously provided to Yahoo Money by the Tax Policy Center, while overall families with children would get an average benefit of $2,300. About half of the benefit would go to families in the bottom two income quintiles, the Center found.
Child care tax credit
President Biden also wants to expand this credit on an emergency basis for one year. Families would get a tax credit equal to 50% of their child care expenses for children under 13, up to $4,000 for one child and up to $8,000 multiple children.
The credit would also be refundable, and families who earn between $125,000 and $400,000 would receive a partial credit.
Before, the credit applied to only 20% to 35% of child care expenses — depending on income — with a maximum of $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for multiple children.
Who this helps: This mostly would help middle and higher income households, according to the Tax Policy Center, which found in a previous analysis of a similar credit expansion that half the benefits would go to households in the top 40% of income distribution.
Earned income tax credit
The stimulus plan also would expand the earned income tax credit, or EITC, for the 2021 tax year. It would increase the age requirements and provide a larger benefit to workers without children.
Childless workers could claim the credit starting at age 19 — instead of 25 — except for some full-time students. The age limit of 65 would be eliminated, too. These workers would also get about three times more from the credit, around $1,500 from $530.
Who this helps: The job losses from the pandemic have disproportionately hit lower earners, who would benefit from the expansion of this credit.
Unemployment benefits tax exemption
Unemployment benefits are typically taxable, but a Senate amendment to the bill would make the first $10,200 of jobless benefits tax free for taxpayers with incomes of $150,000 or less for the 2020 tax year.
If you already filed your taxes but could benefit from this new break, you may need to file an amended tax return, but official guidance hasn’t been given by the IRS, which is likely waiting until the bill becomes law.
Who this helps: Tens of millions of Americans filed for unemployment benefits at some point — if not multiple points — during the pandemic last year. Many of them would likely be eligible for this tax break.