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Estimating the Net Fiscal Cost of a Child Tax Credit Expansion

SIEPR
Nov 2021
Working Paper
21-052
By  Jacob Goldin, Elaine Maag, Katherine Michelmore

Recent proposals to expand the Child Tax Credit (CTC) are at the center of current policy discussions in the United States. We study the fiscal cost of three such proposals that would expand refundability of the credit to low-income children, increase the maximum credit amount, and/or eliminate the income phase-out to make the credit universal. For each proposal, we use the Current Population Survey to estimate three components of the net fiscal cost: the direct cost (additional tax refunds or lower tax liability), revenue changes due to taxpayers’ labor supply responses, and long-term changes in tax revenue due to changes in children’s future earnings. We find that direct costs are by far the most important component but that long-term earning changes also play an important role, offsetting 20% of the direct costs of making the credit fully refundable. In contrast, labor supply responses modestly contribute to the fiscal cost of the CTC expansions we model.