The American Rescue Plan Act provides sweeping relief measures for eligible families

The American Rescue Plan Act provides sweeping relief measures for eligible families

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The $1.9 trillion law is intended to provide far-reaching relief from the economic and other repercussions of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to funding for testing, contact tracing, vaccinations, education, and state and local governments, the ARPA includes extensive relief that could directly impact your finances.

Child tax credits

The new law temporarily expands the $2,000 Child Tax Credit (CTC) significantly. For 2021 only, eligible taxpayers will receive a $3,000 credit for each child ages 6 to 17 and a $3,600 credit for each child under age 6.

The $2,000 credit is subject to a phaseout when income exceeds $400,000 for joint filers and $200,000 for other filers. The ARPA continues this treatment for the first $2,000 of the credit in 2021, but it applies a separate phaseout for the increased amount — $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for heads of household and $150,000 for joint filers. So, in other words, for 2021, the credit is subject to two sets of phaseout rules.

The ARPA directs the U.S. Treasury Department to create a program to make monthly advance payments for the increased CTC beginning in July, based on taxpayers’ most recently filed tax returns. That means eligible taxpayers will receive half of the credit before year end. If the advance payments end up exceeding the amount of the credit due on the 2021 tax return, the excess amount must be repaid. The IRS will establish an online portal where you can opt out of advance payments or enter information that modifies the amount of your monthly payments, if you’re eligible.

Child and dependent care tax credit

The ARPA expands the child and dependent care tax credit substantially, albeit again temporarily. For 2021, taxpayers can claim a refundable 50% credit for up to $8,000 in care expenses for one child or dependent and up to $16,000 in expenses for two or more children or dependents — so the credit ultimately is worth up to $4,000 or $8,000. It begins phasing out when household income levels exceed $125,000; for households with income over $400,000, the credit can be reduced below 20%.

For comparison, the 2020 expense limits were $3,000 and $6,000, and the credit topped out at 35% of the expenses. The phaseout began when household income exceeded $15,000, though the credit is no less than 20% of the allowable expenses regardless of household income.

The ARPA also increases the limit on tax-free employer-provided dependent care assistance for 2021 to $10,500 (50% for married couples filing separately). That’s more than double the current limit of $5,000.

© 2021