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Email Marketing Isn’t Dead: Your Guide To Boosting Email ROI With Relevance Improvements

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By Amine Rahal, entrepreneur, writer and CEO of IronMonk, a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO and CMO at Regal Assets, an IRA company. 

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Email marketing doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves. While SEO and voice search often hog the spotlight these days, old-fashioned email marketing still brings in higher returns, according to business owners. 
In fact, a 2019 survey found that over 70% of marketers believe email marketing generates “good” or “excellent” returns as a marketing channel — a higher satisfaction rate than both paid search and organic SEO.

If you’re already leveraging email marketing but aren’t getting the results you want, you might have a relevance problem. As the owner of two digital marketing companies, I’ve helped countless clients optimize their email marketing strategy by following these key guidelines and techniques.
Email Relevance 101
We all know what it’s like to have our inbox flooded with newsletters we couldn’t care less about. Like clockwork, they either get sent to the trash bin or remain forever unread. The reason you never open them is they aren’t relevant to your interests or needs.

If your email open rate is low, it probably has more to do with the relevance of your email than the subject line you’ve written. Below, I’ve outlined some of the best ways to boost your open rates via relevance-building. 
Step 1: Revamp Your List
If your mailing list is bought and paid for, forget about it. Ditch it and start fresh. If your mailing list is organic but not converting, you also need to change your email recruitment strategy. 
When recruiting subscribers to your mailing list, you need a marketing funnel. Since that goes beyond the scope of this article, I recommend checking out this informative article on funnel construction. The key difference is that the CTA at the end of your content must always point to your mailing list, and the prompt should involve a benefit (i.e., discount, promotional codes) in exchange for their email.
Cleaning up your email list starts with proper targeting. If your content is hyper-targeted to your niche, and solves real problems that your niche has, then chances are you’ll accrue a list of IDs that are interested in opening your emails. 
The same goes for invalid email addresses. If you use email automation like HubSpot or MailChimp, you can adjust the settings to immediately weed out “stale” addresses. For manual users, you’ll have to do this manually whenever emails bounce back. 
Step 2: Optimize Timing
Timely messaging is important. If your message is inapplicable to your readers, they’re not going to open it. Studies have found that most people shop online on Sundays and Mondays, so announcing a sale on an e-commerce product might be optimal on these days. Likewise, holiday emails should be sent out well in advance (two or three weeks) so that your audience has time to consider making a purchase throughout the holiday season.
Step 3: Consider Context-Triggering
Personalized emails should be sent out at various points triggered by customer behavior. For example, a clever reminder email (i.e., “Can We Help You With That?”) should be sent out a few hours after a prospect has abandoned a shopping cart.
Likewise, welcome emails should be sent after someone joins your mailing list. The same goes for reengagement (i.e., “We Miss You! Here’s a Coupon for 10% Off”) if a customer has gone a specific amount of time without visiting your website.
Step 4: Curate Your Audience’s Emails
Segmentation is important if you want to maintain your audience’s attention over time. When users create an account on your website or sign up for your mailing list, ask them what kind of content they do and don’t want to be informed about. This way, you can avoid sending irrelevant emails to customers and instead send them information they’re interested in (i.e., sales and promotions, but not long-form informative content).
Step 5: Subject-Line Optimization
Your subject line is critical. However, it still ranks second in importance to relevance. Once you’ve tweaked your emails to hit more relevant targets, then you can move forward with subject-line optimization by following these basic rules:
• Keep it brief (I recommend 40 characters or less).
• Create a sense of urgency or time-sensitivity.
• Avoid fluff words or jargon.
• Avoid using personal names in subject lines.
• Make it clear that there’s a benefit for the reader inside.
Your subject line has to draw the right kind of attention. If you’re spammy or misleading, you’ll blow all the trust you’ve built with your mailing list and your open and conversion rates will suffer as a result. For more on proper subject line etiquette, check out my full-length guide to subject line mastery.
Putting It All Together
Irrelevant emails never convert. They don’t even get opened. That’s why you should never rely on mass email blasts without first considering whether they’re truly relevant to your audience. Fortunately, you can tweak your email marketing strategy to make your messages more timely, personalized, and targeted. 
Email marketing and content marketing are inextricably tied. If you build high-quality content that solves important problems for your audience, then a dedicated and targeted mailing list will naturally build with time — assuming you include your email sign-up in your CTA. This is the first and most important step in crafting emails that convert.

Growing Your Business? How Process Automation Can Help And Why You Need It Sooner Than Later

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By Riccardo Conte, serial entrepreneur, founder of Virtus Flow, a no-code digital process automation platform that streamlines work through process automation.

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A common misconception due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic is that companies are shutting down or performing less efficiently. While this is the case in certain industries, operations like marketing, online banking, mobile applications and online ordering have been booming — leading to substantial growth for many. 
With unexpected global changes coming in from all angles, business preparedness took the spotlight, making organizations realize the importance of powerful, reliable processes. For those who saw unprecedented shifts in the market, were they prepared for overnight growth as much as they were for hardship? This is where strong business operations must come into play.

Inc.com explained it best when looking at the eight biggest dangers of a business growing too quickly: “Getting bigger means that you need to get more organized. Working fast and loose may have been fine for your small team of superstars, but it won’t work as well with a bigger group. As your ranks grow and positions that were filled by individuals transform into teams of people, the need to stay organized becomes amplified,” they stated.
Similarly, studies have shown that companies lose 20% to 30% in revenue every year due to inefficiencies. If these inefficiencies become the norm at your organization, not only will your business remain stagnant, but it will eventually fail — unless process automation is on your radar.

Why Your Company Needs Process Automation In 2021
Certain industries and companies are prospering in spite of the pandemic. Whether it was a foreseeable increase in sales or completely unexpected growth, there must be a plan in place to ensure this growth remains. Process automation is that plan. 
Process automation allows businesses to stay afloat in the ever-changing digital world through flexible systems that support any situation that may arise. This is key as we turn into a faster-paced society and companies no longer have the luxury of time. 
For example, when indoor dining closed in early 2020, restaurants had to rethink the way they handled their business. If they were not available through DoorDash, GrubHub, Uber Eats or other mobile applications, they were not able to successfully deliver their food to customers, therefore hindering revenue. Without processes in place to make this switch, quickly and efficiently, they were destined to fail. In fact, it is estimated that up to 85% of independently owned restaurants could close due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
This same concept applies to any other business sector, as unexpected situations often arise and they must ensure business continuity at all costs.
When using the proper process automation tools, companies can benefit from processes involving:
• Marketing and sales, for functions like email, social media, reporting and tracking to optimize efforts
• IT and technical services, such as automated maintenance and status reports, problem ticketing and resolutions
• Administrative duties that tend to be tedious and time-consuming
• Logistics, an operation that often looks for support in shipment routing, labeling, ordering and tracking
• Human resources for employee onboarding, benefits and payroll processing
Getting The Most Out Of Process Automation Solutions
Most companies use automation tools for a multitude of business operations. Many of these tools are efficient and cost-saving and remove the need for error-prone data entry. But how do they support the company in the long-term? To truly benefit from business process automation (BPA), there are three key areas to consider:
1. Stay away from data silos. Data silos are pieces or collections of information only available to one group or organization. When this occurs within the same company, there can be damaging consequences, from unfinished work to a hostile company culture due to a lack of transparency and accountability.
2. Look for integrations with current platforms. With dozens of applications and attempted process automation tools in the market, uniformity can be tough. Yet integration continues to be a key aspect to get the most out of your process automation solutions, as these automation tools can help employees avoid repetitive tasks, improve customer service and ultimately help in the digital transformation of a company. Even though simply purchasing an app won’t add structure, consistency or centralized control to your company, this can be the first step toward an organizational shift.
3. Evaluate your business needs and forecasts. What works for the marketing department might not necessarily work for others, and a solution that works for a small company might not necessarily work for a multinational corporation. To ensure your needs are met, evaluate expected growth, departmental goals and your nice-to-haves. Once you have a list, make sure to find the BPA platform that best supports this list.
From Segmented Operations To End-to-End Process Automation
We’ve briefly covered the dangers of inconsistent and separate tools and how unstructured data can harm a company by generating miscommunication, unwanted repetition and even higher operating costs.
Conversely, with end-to-end process automation, you’ll be able to:
• Oversee the entire lifecycle of each process journey
• Identify sources of waste and understand whether additional steps are needed for improvement
• Improve interdepartmental consistency and transparency by easily managing decentralized teams
• Make better projections by having relevant information all in one place
• Reduce process time and heighten productivity
• Gain greater customer satisfaction, and more!
These benefits will lead to healthy company culture, a more efficiently run business and cost reductions for the entire company. So why waste time?
Change Without Disruption Is Possible
As averse to change as companies can be, by implementing process automation into your growing business, you’ll gain the chance to better the organization, streamline each process and ensure all your systems are running smoothly — all while maintaining the core of your business. The right process automation tools can alleviate dreadful paperwork, harmful human errors and many more day-to-day issues that prevent you from thriving at what you do.
Intelligent automation is the way of the future, and as your company grows, the benefits will only increase. Simply put, process automation is the way to be successful in 2021 and beyond.

Eight Steps Managers Can Take To Facilitate An Employee’s Move To Another Department

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There may come a time for certain employees when they notice that their skills or interests are better suited to another part of the company and they ask to switch to a different department to better serve their goals. When this happens, managers may not know how to react as the request may come out of the blue or it could be taken as a slight on their current department.
However, it’s important to keep a few key ideas in mind and help this employee grow and develop the most positive way possible. To help managers keep perspective, eight experts from Young Entrepreneur Council discuss what managers should do when an employee asks to move to a different department and why facilitating these moves could be to the benefit of the employee and the company as a whole.

Young Entrepreneur Council members suggest what steps a manager should take if their employee asks to move to another department.
Photos courtesy of the individual members.
1. Understand Why They Want To Move
The first thing a manager should do is try to understand why the employee wants to shift to another department. The reason for their request can help you facilitate the employee better. Sometimes, people want to move to another department because they are not being challenged where they are at the moment. It’s also possible that there is an interpersonal conflict taking place. Having a conversation with your employee and understanding why they want to move to another place can help you come up with the right solution and make sure that people are working to their strengths in your organization. You’ll also uncover problems at the workplace that otherwise might not have come to your attention. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

2. Find A Workable Path For Them
Great managers unlock human potential and translate it into performance—not just within their department, but within the company as a whole. If you’re a manager and a high-performer on your team expresses interest in moving to a different department, you should guide them. Find a workable path to enable them to explore things further, to see whether the new role or department is actually a good fit for their talents and abilities. A workable path means a way for your high-performing employee to explore new opportunities without negatively impacting your current department or the company overall. You keep top talent by opening doors, not closing them. – Ben Landers, Blue Corona
3. Be Completely Supportive
One of the things you have to get used to as a boss and manager is that your team always changes. While your goal is to hire good people who are the right fit for their roles and the company (and then hopefully retain them), it is inevitable and totally natural that employees are looking to build their careers and, in time, move on. I think it is really important that as a boss you support your employees’ career goals, as this is how you can get the best work from them. Discuss career goals up front and how you can help them get there. This means that from the start they know you’re working to help them take the next step in their career. This way they are motivated to do their current job while still keeping their eye on the prize. – Maria Thimothy, OneIMS

4. Offer To Set Up An Informational Interview For Them
The manager should encourage the employee to apply to any open positions in the department they are looking to move to through the regular channels and let them know that they would be happy to recommend them. Managers are often reluctant to lose good team members, but hindering a transition that an employee desires would be a mistake. At the same time, to throw the team member right into a new situation, even on a trial basis, may cause problems in the new department. If the manager has any close contacts in the new department, he or she might offer to set up an informational interview for the team member to ask questions and find out what a typical day might be like in their desired department. – Reuben Yonatan, SaasList
5. Encourage Them To Take On A Trial Project
I’m a big fan of letting employees test out a role before formally moving into it, especially when stepping into a new department. For example, our managers encourage employees considering a move to get involved in a project in the department they’re interested in. It gives them front-row seats to how the department works and demonstrates where their skills will really shine. Even if there’s not a role available, this trial period can help the team figure out a new role that fits their needs and the employee’s interests and talents. It’s also a low-stakes way to see if the move is a good fit for everyone. We’ve found this has helped employees move across departments more seamlessly and create roles where they will flourish. – Sean Harper, Kin Insurance
6. Reach Out To The Other Department Lead
The manager should contact the department lead to see if they have the time and resources to train a new person. You may have to make some adjustments if not, but this is usually a good first step. After a week or two of training, ask the employee if they still want to transition to the new position. If not, you can put them back in their old spot. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC
7. Set Up A Shadowing Opportunity
You want to ask a lot of questions so that you can understand their motivations for wanting to be part of a different department and ensure that the move would actually give them what they are wanting. Setting up a time for them to shadow someone in that department will also give them more insight to be sure that it’s a switch they want to make. Then, if they are confident it’s a switch that makes sense for them, do everything in your power as a manager to make it happen. The worst managers are territorial and would try to sabotage their employees from switching roles—you do not want those managers at your company. – Kelsey Raymond, Influence & Co.
8. Ensure They Can Handle The New Tasks
Before the employee moves to a new department, it’s important for the manager to ensure that the employee can handle the new tasks efficiently. A good way to make that happen is to set a one-month training period before they assume the new role. In this period, the employee should undergo rigorous training so that they can properly fit into the new role. To know that the training is successful, you can also ask them to take a quick test if necessary. – Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite

Part One: Your 30 Step Guide To Stressing Less About Business Tax

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By Shiloh Johnson, CPA and founder of ComplYant, a technology platform giving entreprenuers a simple way to manage tax rules and requirements.

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Tax time is no one’s favorite time of year, but it also means added stress for business owners. When you own a business, there is a lot more information to be aware of and tax compliance requirements to maintain so you don’t have the various taxing authorities coming for you. While dealing with tax as a business owner can be tough, we’re breaking it down so that, in thirty easy steps, you can feel good about your tax situation and have a strong idea of how to move forward. 
Step 1: Understand how your business structure affects your tax requirements.
Every business structure has different income tax responsibilities. For example, sole proprietors pay tax on their business income through their personal return via Schedule C. If you have a partnership or corporation, you have different tax obligations and paperwork. Through the Small Business Administration website, you can learn more about business structures and how they affect taxes and liability. 

Step 2: Have a clear understanding of other business tax types and requirements.
One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs tend to make is not having a very clear understanding of what types of tax they are responsible for paying. There are six separate types of business tax to be aware of: federal and state income tax, sales tax, business property tax, annual reports and business licenses. Consulting with a professional can help you determine what types of taxes apply to your business structure based on what, how and where you are doing business.
Step 3: Learn about self-employment tax.
For sole proprietors, being self-employed means being responsible for a lot of your own benefits, like health insurance and retirement. The same is true for Social Security and Medicare. The self-employment tax — at a 15.3% rate — covers the employee and employer portion of Social Security and Medicare. If you work traditional W-2 employment then managing this taxation is typically taken care of for you by human resources: Your employer covers half, while the other half is taken out of your check. Business owners, however, pay for both halves themselves. 

Step 4: Know your tax bracket.
How much you pay in income tax can partially be determined by your tax bracket, which refers to the percentage of tax you pay on your income. There are different “brackets” that relate to specific percentages ranging from 10% to 37%. For example, if you earn $40,526 to $86,375 as a single filer, your tax rate will be 22%. Find out more about tax brackets via the Tax Foundation. 
Step 5: Set calendar reminders for estimated tax payments.
As a business owner, not staying on top of tax compliance dates can be very costly by way of penalties and interest for non-compliance. That means paying your quarterly estimated payments for federal and state income tax. To make sure you don’t miss the deadlines, set calendar reminders for estimated tax payment dates. Tax deadlines for estimated payments are typically January 15, April 15, June 15 and September 15. 
Step 6: Understand business tax deductions.
One way to make self-employment more sustainable is to take advantage of business tax deductions. You should know what qualifies as a business tax deduction and what does not. You can deduct business expenses such as cell phone payments and software subscriptions and may be able to deduct the use of your home or vehicle for business use as well. Learn more about deducting business expenses from the IRS, and if you have additional questions, you can talk to a tax professional. 
Step 7: Review state income tax requirements.
You are required to pay federal and state income tax on all revenue earned. Keep in mind there are some states that have no income tax requirement like Texas and Florida. Each state has its own rate system, and if you physically lived in any other state during the course of the year you’ll need to file returns for those states as well. To get a handle on your business tax payments, you will want to know what that rate is and what your local state income tax requirements are. You can check out state income tax rates here via the Tax Foundation. 
Step 8: Get your info in order.
Before actually filing your returns, you’ll want to have your tax identification number and previous tax returns nearby. To make things easier with payments or refunds, having your bank account number, as well as the routing number, can help. If you are paying a different type of business tax requirements like sales tax or annual reports you’ll need to have your revenue reports handy as well. Getting your info in order and keeping proper records can save you money and time at filing.
Step 9: Separate personal and business income and expenses.
When you’re just starting out as a business owner, you may think it’s okay to intermingle your personal and business income and expenses, especially if you’re a sole proprietor. But it can make tax time a pain to sift through and try to determine which is which. Do yourself a favor and separate your personal and business income and expenses. You should open a separate business checking and savings account, and use a bookkeeping system to help you track your business expenses. No one wants to go through a box of receipts at tax time.
Step 10: Set up a tax savings account.
Now that you have an idea of what types of tax you are responsible for, you’ll want to make sure that you are segregating those tax amounts as you earn revenue. Setting up a separate bank account can help eliminate overspending. It’s important to think of revenue as only 70% yours, while the other 30% or so belongs to the federal, state and local tax authorities. 
Stay tuned for part two (steps 11 through 20) coming soon.
The information provided here is not investment, tax, or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.

New Stimulus Bill Includes Monthly Payments for Parents

Photo by Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com
Congress just passed a major expansion of a tax credit that experts say will drastically reduce child poverty and reach more than 90% of American children.The changes to the child tax credit are one of the key provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion stimulus package that includes expanded unemployment benefits and the long-awaited $1,400 stimulus checks. President Joe Biden signed the bill into law Thursday.
Some 69 million households are set to benefit from the child tax credit expansion in 2021, according to The New York Times, up from the estimated 48 million last year.
In its current iteration, the credit allows parents to claim up to $2,000 per year for each qualifying child in their care. The expansion increases that number to $3,600 per child under the age of 6 and $3,000 for all other children under age 18 — including dependent 17-year-olds, who were previously considered ineligible.
The bill also removes the earnings floor, which previously excluded the poorest families from accessing the credit by requiring minimum earnings of $2,500 annually to qualify.
Perhaps the biggest change, though, is that the bill allows for part of the credit to be paid out in advanced, monthly payments, rather than credited to their federal income taxes.
So, if you’re a parent or guardian — or you’re going to become one in 2021 — there’s a high chance you’ll be affected. Tax law can be loaded with confusing jargon and buzzwords, so we’ve broken down everything essential for parents to know.

Who’s captured in the expanded eligibility?
The American Rescue Plan Act outlines two key changes in eligibility for the 2021 child tax credit.
First, it raises the age cutoff from under 17 to under 18. That temporarily closes a loose end that has been an annoyance to parents for decades.
In recent years, you could only claim a $500 credit, instead of the full $2,000, if you had a dependent aged 17 or older. And before 2018, 17-year-olds didn’t qualify for any credit; instead, parents could claim a dependent exemption, which allowed you to exclude some income from your taxes.
Additionally, while the stated goal of the child tax credit, one of three tax breaks for children, is to help eliminate childhood poverty, critics have long noted that it actually does relatively little to help the poorest families, since you had to earn at least $2,500 per year to qualify. To fix this problem, the bill expands eligibility by removing that earnings floor altogether.
But getting a tax credit into the hands of folks who would typically not have to pay income tax at all requires some extra legwork, which is why the other changes for 2021 — partially paying out the credit in advance and making it fully refundable — are essential.
What are the new income requirements?
The tax cuts the Trump administration spearheaded in 2017 increased the income cutoffs for claiming the full child tax credit. But now lawmakers are walking that back to target the larger payments to lower- and middle-income households.
Under the new provisions, the enhanced tax break would begin to phase out at $75,000 in adjusted gross income for single filers, $112,000 for head-of-household filers, and $150,000 for joint filers.
By comparison, phase-outs in 2018 and 2019 did not begin for single and head-of-household filers until $200,000, and $400,000 for joint filers.
This brings up one major criticism of the expansion: For families (especially single parents) in expensive metro areas like San Francisco or New York, lowering the income threshold without consideration for local inflation leaves out many middle-income earners.
How will the payments work?
Probably the most significant change to the 2021 tax credit is that the bill allows for half of the credit ($1,800 for children under the age of 6 and $1,500 for eligible older children) to be distributed via monthly payments from the IRS between July and December 2021.
While it’s still unclear how these payments will be distributed or if parents will need to manually opt in, the bill states a preference for direct deposit payments.
Under the current child tax credit, parents have had two routes for receiving the money, neither of which involve monthly cash payments.
The first is to claim each eligible child ahead of time on your W-4. The amount of federal income tax that gets taken out of each paycheck for that year is then reduced to reflect however many claims you make.

The second would be to skip the allowances on your W-4s, pay income taxes as usual and then, come tax season, claim the number of children on your return and receive a refund for the amount of money that was overpaid.
Now, with the changes, parents still have the option for either of those routes, but they’ll see half of their credit via cash payments starting in July.
Here’s how that would look: Let’s say you’re a married couple earning less than $150,000 and you have two children under the age of 6. You qualify for the maximum amount of the credit, $3,600 per child, for a total of $7,200. You’ll receive half of that — $3,600 — in monthly payments of $600 during the second half of the year.
By front-loading a portion of the benefit in the form of monthly payments, parents ranging from the most impoverished to the working and middle class will have more cash on hand throughout the year.
While the extra money is obviously meant to benefit families — whose annual expenses are approximately $12,000 more per child than child-free households — the child tax credit is not a welfare program like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). So, there are no restrictions on what you can and can’t spend the money on.
What does ‘fully refundable’ even mean?
The new enhancements make the credit fully refundable, whereas before it was mostly considered non-refundable (although some low-income families qualified for a partial refund up to $1,400). This is another move to ensure that the lowest-income parents, who owe less in federal income taxes, get more money in their pockets.
Under the previous rules, if the amount of child tax credits you qualified for was more than the amount of income tax you owed, the leftover value of the credits would not be paid to you — that’s the “non-refundable” part. For example, if you owed $2,500 in federal income tax and qualified for $4,000 in child tax credits, your federal income tax would just be reduced to zero.
Now, though, under the same scenario, you would qualify for a refund of the credit, meaning that $4,000 would cover your $2,500 tax liability and then you’d receive the remaining $1,500 after filing your taxes.

So, how much money are parents getting?
It wouldn’t be an unfair assessment to say that the American Rescue Plan Act is the most generous stimulus bill for parents thus far. With a more than 50% increase to the child tax credit, millions of families are likely going to notice more money in their bank account. But the total amount of money most parents are eligible for from the stimulus package is actually much more.
On top of the enhanced child tax credit, the bill temporarily increases the income cutoffs and value of the child and dependent care tax credit, designed to help offset the cost of child and dependent care for working families.
The credit, which has also been made fully refundable, previously had a maximum value of $2,100. The new maximum value for 2021 is up to $4,000 for one child’s expenses and $8,000 if you have childcare expenses for more than one kid. The income level for when the credit starts phasing out has also seen a significant bump from $15,000 to $125,000.
Parents who qualify for the next stimulus check will also receive $1,400 each, plus an additional $1,400 for each dependent, including adult dependents who were left out of earlier stimulus checks.
If the previously mentioned family of four qualifies for both tax credits and full stimulus checks, they’re set to receive $20,800 from the federal government over the course of 2021.
How long will these changes last?
While the changes to the child tax credit are a major overhaul of some of the credit’s most backward features, one of the key takeaways to understand is that all of these changes are temporary. They only apply to the 2021 tax year — for now.
Many supporters and lawmakers are pushing to make the changes permanent, and some want to go even further in restructuring how family benefits will work.
Most recently, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) proposed scrapping most child welfare and tax credits altogether and replacing them with a family allowance at a maximum of $15,000 each year. And in 2019, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) proposed permanently turning the child tax credit into an annual child allowance up to $3,600 per child.
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