Colorado Refugee Group Says Child Tax Credit Audits Confusing
Colorado refugees struggled to secure federal child tax credit payments this summer, while others were baffled by the checks they received, according to a local resettlement organization.
Sarah Hanselin, case supervisor at the International Rescue Committee in Denver, said payments can be confusing for recipients who don’t speak English or Spanish – the languages government notices tend to use. Her clients, who are much more likely to speak Swahili, Somali or Arabic, have asked if the money needs to be refunded and if it will arrive more than once.
“There is just a ton of confusion within these communities as to whether they are eligible or not and sometimes it takes a long time for this money to be received by our clients,” she said.
Government agencies at the state and federal levels say they are aware of language barriers to child tax credits and other government aids, such as stimulus payments.
On July 15, the Internal Revenue Service sent and filed payments to most low-income and middle-class parents in the United States. They will arrive monthly until December.
For parents who filed income tax returns in 2019 or 2020, they automatically arrive in a bank account or mailbox. But those who haven’t filed a case – because they weren’t in the country yet, for example, or made very little money – should navigate to the IRS website and s ‘register or miss it.
“A permanent problem”
It is not known how widespread language barriers are within Colorado refugee communities. Several resettlement groups said they had not heard of child tax credit issues among their clients. Neither the office of US Representative Jason Crow, who represents Aurora’s refugee communities, nor the Aurora International Affairs and Immigrants Office, a city government agency.
“I’m not sure if more accessible information has been provided to refugee families in Colorado or what,” said Ron Buzard, director of the African Community Center in Denver, “but the families we work with know why they are. receive payments and look forward to them.
This is not always the case beyond the borders of Colorado. In southwest Kansas, where Somali and Congolese refugees work in meat packing plants, some residents thought the payments were a scam or worried about how they would reimburse them, the Kansas News Service reported.
In central Iowa, the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants finds confusion among Congolese and Burmese refugees over why parents of 17-year-olds are eligible but not people with older teens, according to Kerri True-Funk, who runs the office of Des moines.
“We’ve seen a lot of questions around all of the different stimulus and pandemic payments that have come out. It’s something we’ve consistently tried to stay one step ahead of, ”True-Funk said, calling it a“ lifelong problem ”.
Government officials have acknowledged that the IRS portal for registering people who do not file taxes is flawed. “The status quo does not work for those who are not registered. We have to do better, ”Gene Sperling, coordinator of the US White House bailout, tweeted on July 28.
Colorado has the third-lowest rate of U.S. residents who take out the earned income tax credit, which is similar to the child tax credit but also benefits non-parents, according to the department. of Colorado Revenue. Data is not yet available on the child tax credit.
“People don’t have access to benefits for many reasons,” said Meghan Tanis, spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Revenue, “including the complexity of the application process, lack of awareness of eligibility and the inherent cultural barriers for those who do not speak English Many families are now eligible for a child tax credit refund, but are unaware of this change.
Another obstacle, according to Hanselin, is a shortage of bank accounts among his customers. A refugee who did not have a bank account but was eligible for stimulus payments throughout 2020 and desperately needed them received the checks in one lump sum this year, Hanselin said. Social workers had to open a bank account so that the person could cash it.
Translations and fees
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment answers questions from refugees and immigrants who don’t trust the IRS and links them to tax filing services. The Colorado Department of Revenue enabled Google Translate on its website, making it available in 108 languages. (The IRS website is available in 21.)
“We are really focused on meeting people where they are and removing barriers to access for all Coloradans,” said Mark Ferrandino, executive director of the state revenue department.
The CDPHE said parents of more than 37,000 eligible children in the state were at risk of not receiving child payments because they failed to file taxes.
But there have been some successes. The IRS transferred about $ 245 million in child tax credits to the parents of 992,000 Colorado children in July. In Denver, the parents of 135,000 children have benefited – 80% of the city’s parents, according to Congress.
US Senator Michael Bennet, architect of the Child Tax Credit Payments, said the IRS “has done a remarkable job” in implementing the payments, but that his office has “strongly and repeatedly” urged the IRS to make its website available in more languages.
“The expansion of the child tax credit is one of the most important investments Washington has made in American families and children in generations,” the Democrat said in a statement, “and it is important that all eligible people receive tax credit payments “.