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New mobile-friendly, bilingual child tax credit sign-up tool is now available

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There's a new way to sign up for the child tax credit focused on reaching more eligible families.

Code for America, a nonprofit tech organization, today launched a free, mobile-friendly platform in both English and Spanish where families can sign up to receive the enhanced child tax credit, including monthly payments through the end of the year.

The new site, GetCTC.org, is being released in collaboration with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the White House. Code for America is also providing training materials and other resources to community-based organizations on the frontlines of helping eligible families sign up for the benefit.

"In just two months, it's already clear that the CTC is having a meaningful impact for working families in America," David Newville, senior program director for tax benefits at Code for America, said in a statement. "Now, we want to do all we can to ensure every family has access to the CTC."

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Details of the enhanced child tax credit

The American Rescue Plan enhanced the existing child tax credit, adding advance monthly payments and increasing the benefit to $3,000 from $2,000, with a $600 bonus for kids under the age of 6, for the 2021 tax year. The enhanced credit is also fully refundable — meaning families with very low or no taxable income can get the benefit for the first time.

Many eligible families have been getting the first half of the credit in monthly payments, which started in July and go through December, of $300 for children under 6 and $250 for those aged 6 to 17. They will get the second half when they file their 2021 tax returns next year.

Most families started getting the money automatically based on previous tax returns. But those who traditionally don't file because they don't make enough money might have missed out, as they needed to sign up through an IRS site to get the credit.

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That left some 4 million children eligible for the credit at risk of not receiving it, according to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. And, some of these families may have had difficulty signing up through the IRS site, which wasn't mobile-friendly but does offer languages other than English.

Code for America's sign-up tool uses a simplified return that only includes information needed to sign up for the credit, so it should be easier for families to submit their information. Those who sign up now could start receiving monthly benefits in a few weeks, according to the organization, and will also receive the three economic impact payments — better known as stimulus checks — that they are eligible for and may have missed out on.

Of course, there still may be barriers for some families in signing up for the new child tax credit. Going forward, Treasury along with Code for America hopes to add more features to the sign-up tool, to ensure even more eligible families get the benefit.

Though the current enhanced credit is only available for the 2021 tax year, Democrats are currently writing their $3.5 trillion spending plan, which will extend the child tax credit and other safety net programs. Committees are responsible for having their pieces of the legislation ready by Sept. 15.

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