Extending the Child Tax Credit to Break the Cycle of Poverty

Catherine G. Coughlin, MD; Allison Bovell-Ammon, MDiv; Megan Sandel, MD, MPH | November 22nd, 2021

Although taxes may seem outside the scope of medical practice, poverty may be the most important factor affecting the health of patients. Physicians have the unique perspective to demonstrate how economic opportunity enables children to reach their full potential. Of importance, approximately 4 million eligible children will not receive this credit for tax year 2021 unless their parents file taxes or sign up for the credit as nonfilers. Physicians should make it a regular part of clinical care to ask families whether they have received Child Tax Credit payments or have encountered barriers to accessing them. National resources, such as the Medical Tax Collaborative, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Sites, and getctc.org, can help facilitate access to these credits for patients.

There is one more call to action. These expanded Child Tax Credit payments are only slated to continue through 2021. Physicians must advocate for a permanently expanded and inclusive Child Tax Credit to be implemented as part of the national strategy for child health. This re- cent change in legislation is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advocate for an expanded Child Tax Credit that applies to families, particularly families with immigrant children and those with very low income, who would otherwise earn too little to qualify but could benefit substantially from these monthly payments. These Child Tax Credit payments are essential to addressing inequities in child health and to decrease the number of families experiencing poverty. We call on all pediatricians to implore legislators to make these changes to the Child Tax Credit a permanent part of the strategy to care for US children because it has been proven that the changes are associated with not only healthier children but also healthier parents and families.