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Trump changes course on child-care benefit after criticism he would mainly help well-off families

Ivanka Trump, daughter and adviser to President Trump, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a dinner in Berlin. (Reuters)

The White House is pursuing a new approach to providing relief for families burdened by child-care costs after receiving criticism that a campaign proposal would have done little to help working-class families while providing disproportionate benefits to well-off parents.

The Trump administration is now looking to bolster the Child and Dependent Care Credit, which allows working parents to slice a maximum of $2,100 from their tax bill for spending on child care, according to a senior administration official.

The centerpiece of Trump’s earlier approach would have allowed parents to deduct the average cost of child care from their income taxes, a strategy that would have benefited families with a high level of income. Lower-income families often don’t have a federal income tax burden and so wouldn’t have received much of a benefit under the plan. The campaign also proposed child-care spending rebates through the Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax credit for the working poor, which would have been capped at $1,200 per family. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center had estimated that 70 percent of Trump’s child-care plan would flow to families earning more than $100,000 a year.

Now, the administration is focusing on the Child and Dependent Care Credit. A senior administration official said the White House is looking to increase the value of the credit, while limiting how much higher-income parents can benefit from the tax credit. The administration is also considering proposing making the tax credit refundable, which would allow lower-income families to benefit from it even if they pay minimal or no federal income tax.

Senior officials are also considering the creation of child- and eldercare savings accounts, with additional benefits for low-income households. Further details were not available. The Trump administration will also push for legislation that incentivizes on-site child care and take steps to ease regulations to allow more child-care operations.

Word of the efforts come as Trump plans to announce Wednesday principles for a broad overhaul of the tax code. Those principles were not expected to discuss proposed changes to child-care tax credits in any detail.

The senior administration official said the Treasury Department is running “point” on this process, and there is also a team within the White House that is working on women’s economic and family issues. Ivanka Trump, the first daughter who this month became assistant to the president, has been pushing the effort on Capitol Hill.

The financial burden of child care varies widely across the country. In Alabama, for example, the average cost of infant care annually is about $5,500, while parents in D.C. typically shell out $22,000.