Democratic women push child tax credit expansion

A group of Senate Democrats is seeking to beef up the child tax credit, which they say has fallen behind in its abilities to help working families.

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The bill from four Democratic women – Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Patty Murray (Wash.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) –would boost the amount of child care expenses a family can write off in a given year, and allow more parents to take advantage of the credit.

Democrats say the tax break in its current form has not kept up with the rising costs of child care.

“For working parents juggling work and family obligations, access to affordable child care is a necessity,”Shaheen said in a statement. “The rising cost of child care is a challenge for families, children and our economy as a whole.

“Updating the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to reflect the needs of families in today’s economy would be a critical step forward on our larger effort to make sure working parents can succeed on the job and at home, and would help break down one of the biggest barriers many mothers face to re-entering the workforce,” added Murray, the Senate Budget chairwoman and a member of Democratic leadership.

The bill comes as House Republicans are pushing their own measure to boost the child tax credit, as both sides seek the political advantage this midterm year.

The Senate measure would more than double the amount of child care expenses that are eligible for the tax break, up to a 20 percent credit for $8,000 of expenses for one child and $16,000 for two or more children.

That would increase the maximum credit to $3,200 for families with multiple children, and $1,600 for those with a single child. Democrats are also seeking to index the credit to inflation.

The current credit allows low- or middle-class families the write-off for up to $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for multiple children. 

The four Democrats also want to make the credit fully refundable, which would make more low-income families eligible.

The House Ways and Means Committee passed a measure last month that would make the credit fully available to families making under $150,000 a year, which Republicans said would end a bias against married couples.

But Democrats complained that Republicans were worried about the wrong end of the income spectrum, because the bill would not extend expansions for working poor families enacted in the 2009 stimulus package.