The IRS had come under criticism for an online tool targeting the neediest recipients of advance child tax credit payments that was not mobile-friendly and lacked non-English language resources.
Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee are backing a $1 billion investment for the IRS to support enrollment in the advance child tax credit (CTC) program among non-English speakers and eligible recipients who don't file tax returns.
The House Ways and Means Committee is meeting this week to markup the legislation – envisioned on the House side as a $3.5 trillion package infrastructure, climate and economic proposals created in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokesperson for the committee told FCW the markup includes $1 billion in administrative funding for the IRS to help increase enrollment in the program, and to improve the accessibility of a signup tool which faced criticism for lacking a mobile-friendly version and language translations when it was launched earlier this year.
The Treasury Department took the unusual step of tapping Code for America to build a mobile-friendly signup tool called GetCTC that includes a Spanish language version after widespread criticism of the IRS Non-Filer Sign Up Tool, a web portal connecting families who earned too little to file tax returns in recent years to the CTC program. The CTC offers eligible families monthly cash payments in advance of tax filing season.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, asked in a letter sent to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in July if the agency had included language translations and mobile-friendly versions of the portal in its contractual agreements as required by federal law while urging for immediate improvements to be made to the system.
"While I deeply appreciate the tireless work of the dedicated staff at the IRS to quickly stand up this critical resource, I am concerned that technological and design constraints on the portal will prevent America's most vulnerable communities—those who make so little income they previously did not file—from even applying for this important funding," he wrote. "This is because, as has become all too apparent over the course of the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis, many of the most vulnerable families in this country only access the internet via their mobile devices. Yet, the portal does not account for this reality, and is not optimized to work on mobile devices, or in languages other than English."
According to the Ways and Means Committee, the $1 billion will go towards creating a more accessible portal as well as supporting free tax assistance and additional changes to help more families access the new CTC.
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