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Code for America Tool Helps Families Get Child Tax Credit

Code for America launched a new resource to help families that are eligible for a child tax credit navigate the myriad complexities of the U.S. tax system. The tool is especially designed for those without much tax history.

tax refund check
Shutterstock/William Sawalich
Code for America (CfA) recently released a resource,, to help families who may qualify for the child tax credit (CTC).

The CTC was increased through the American Rescue Plan, signed in March 2021. The resource is separate from, a similar CfA resource unveiled in 2020 in order to help people with the full tax return process.

The web resource was something CfA decided to create a couple months ago in preparation for the many anticipated questions about the credit, according to David Newville, senior program director for tax benefits at CfA.

The website was created to help people overcome the challenges in navigating a complex tax system, he said. It was designed with those who have not recently — or ever — filed taxes in mind.

Newville believes that the CTC is more confusing than most new tax provisions targeted at low-income families, as this is one of the first attempts at advance monthly payments. In addition, it is occurring outside of tax season, which can be complicated for those who do not follow this process closely.

“This benefit — thanks to the expansion for the eligibility for the child tax credit in general — is available to a whole new group of families that typically haven’t been eligible for tax benefits,” Newville explained.

He was referring to the families with little to no income who have traditionally been completely outside of the tax system, and thus were unfamiliar with the process of filing. He stated that it is a “very steep learning curve.”

Newville noted that the process becomes increasingly complicated for nontraditional families, including those with shared custody of a child or other unique circumstances that may further complicate tax filings.

As of right now, the website features a list of frequently asked questions in plain language with the latest information from the IRS, which will be updated as new information is released. New features will also be released on a regular basis, Newville explained.

A key component in making this resource accessible is that the information is also available in Spanish, which differentiates this resource from the IRS non-filer portal.

Another important feature is the live chat function at the bottom of the page. This allows users to connect with a human to ask questions that may not be displayed. If users ask a question in the live chat box after working hours, a human will follow up with them.

“It's really important to do more than just [raise] awareness,” Newville explained. “You need to offer resources and tools that make it very easy for folks to actually get through the filing process and to eventually get those benefits.”

Upcoming features will go one step further to allow families to get the help they need, but as Newville explained, there was an urgent need to get a basic version of the website out as soon as possible — what he refers to as a “1.0 version.”

The most significant will be the creation of a portal — comparable to what CfA did for the economic impact payments with — to make this process accessible to a greater number of families. By scaling it for mobile devices and offering it in more than one language, it is intended to simplify the filing process.

Newville believes the portal component will be available later this summer.

Unlike the previous portal, which used the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, a limited availability of resources and volunteers caused CfA to take a different approach for the CTC.

CfA applied for an electronic return originator and a transmitter in software development certifications with the IRS, as Newville stated, allowing the organization to build its own software and e-file directly outside of VITA for the CTC revenue procedure.

Another addition will be a website section dedicated to organizations that are working to do outreach to help families, especially non-filers. CfA will also be adding videos, materials and more — what they call “navigator resources” — based off the Affordable Care Act navigator program.

The CTC resource complements the prior, Newville said. Users of the CTC resource may be directed to if they are found to be eligible for other benefits, such as the earned income tax credit, that may make it beneficial to file a full return.


Civic Tech
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.