Parents could get $3,600 per kid with the expanded credit program, whether in monthly installments or as one big payout.
Millions of families with children will automatically receive the first monthly installment of the child tax credit next month. For each eligible dependent under 6, you could get $1,800 in advance, paid in six monthly payments of $300. For each eligible dependent 6 through 17, you could get up to $1,500 in advance, paid in six monthly payments of $250.
Of course, every family is different and there are some rules. You’ll first need to take into account your family’s income, how many dependents you have, their ages and a few other factors. If you think the IRS doesn’t have the most current information about you or your children, you can now use the new child tax credit portals to update your details and unenroll from the advance payments.
We’ll explain how the math works in determining your payment amount and tell you how to sign up with the IRS to manage your payments. Also, the IRS has been sending out letters to parents to let them know whether they qualify. And there are ways to plan for tax season next year if you get child tax credit money this year. This story was recently updated.
Child tax credit: Everything we know
Calculate the child tax credit payment for your household
Enter your adjusted gross income and number of dependents below to calculate your payment. (Our calculator will not store or use your data.) The results you get are based on our current knowledge of the law and should be treated as broad estimates only; the IRS will determine the final amount. We suggest consulting a financial professional if you want a more personalized estimate.
Child tax credit calculator for 2021
Use details from your 2020 tax return.
1. Choose your filing status below.
SingleMarriedHead of Household
The child tax credit math is somewhat involved this time around: For parents of eligible children up to age 5, the IRS will pay $3,600, half as six monthly payments and half as a 2021 tax credit. For each child ages 6 through 17, the IRS will pay $3,000. The IRS will make a one-time payment of $500 for dependents age 18 or full-time college students up through age 24.
If your AGI is $75,000 or less as a single filer, $112,500 as a head of household or $150,000 filing jointly, you’ll get the full amount. If your income is higher than the limit for your filing status, your child tax credit payments will begin to phase out by $50 for every $1,000 of income over the threshold.
2021 child tax credit payment schedule
Here’s how the advance child tax credit payments will arrive, starting July 15 and continuing through 2022. The chart shows the maximum payment amount, but you may qualify for less.
For an 18-year-old dependent, as well as for full-time college students ages 19 to 24, you will not receive monthly payments but rather one payment when you file your tax return in 2022.
Timeline for child tax credit payments
Maximum payment (newborn to 5)
Maximum payment (6 to 17)
Maximum payment (18 to 24)
July 15, 2021: First payment of the year
Aug. 13, 2021
Sep. 15, 2021
Oct. 15, 2021
Nov. 15, 2021
Dec. 15, 2021: Last payment of the year
April 2022: Second half of payment
Unenrolling from monthly payments to collect the total credit in 2022
If you’d rather get your 2021 child tax credit money as one large payment, you can unenroll from the monthly payments now that the IRS has opened its online portal. That means that instead of receiving $300 per month for your 3-year-old (and the remainder of your money in 2022, for example), you’d wait until you filed your taxes in 2022 to claim the full $3,600.
To stop the advance payments, you need to unenroll three days before the first Thursday of the month. So if you want to opt out of that second payment on Aug. 13, you’ll need to do so before the Aug. 2 deadline.
Later on, that same IRS portal will allow people to check on the status of their payments and make updates to their information.
What non-tax filer families need to do for their payments
The IRS will automatically make the payments for those who filed their 2020 tax return or claimed dependents on their 2019 tax return. If you didn’t submit your tax return, the IRS won’t know to send you a payment (and also won’t know if you’ve gained dependents since the last tax filing).
If you’re a nonfiler and didn’t file a tax return this year and don’t plan to, the IRS has come up with an alternative. A new “Non-filer Sign-up tool” allows families that don’t file taxes to submit an electronic form to let the IRS know how many kids they have and their ages — including babies born in 2020 and 2021 — so they can get the correct payment amount.
While the tool is intended for low-income families to enroll in the program, it has been criticized for not being entirely user-friendly. For example, it works better on a computer than a mobile device, and requires that users have access to an email address and understand English.
Babies born this year can be eligible for the full $3,600.
New babies could qualify for the enhanced credit
Children born in 2021 make you eligible for the 2021 tax credit of $3,600 per child. (That’s up to $7,200 for twins.) This is on top of payments for any other qualified child dependents you claim. Here’s our guide for parents of 2021 babies, including what parents of adopted infants should know.
Age requirements and other rules for dependents
There are some specific rules regarding qualifications not just for parents and caregivers, but for the children, too. Here’s what to know about dependent qualifications for the child tax credit.
As for your child aging out of a payment bracket, know that the amount of the credit depends on the age of a child on Dec. 31 this year. So if you have a 5-year-old turning 6 before the end of 2021, the total payment amount you could get for that child is $3,000. If you have a 17-year-old who turns 18 before the end of 2021, you would receive $500 total for that dependent instead of $3,000. If you have a dependent who’s a full-time college student and turns 25 this year, you won’t receive any payment for that dependent.
What to do about IRS overpayment
Your family’s eligibility is determined in large part by your adjusted gross income. So what happens if you get a new job or start making more money in 2021? What happens if the payments have already gone out and you spent the money?
The IRS has a plan for this: You’ll use the new Child Tax Credit Update Portal to update your information when that happens. If you need to make an adjustment, the IRS will lower the payment amounts you’d receive if your new income reaches the phaseout level, according to Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst at Tax Foundation.
If you wait until 2022 to update your information when you file your taxes and you continue to receive the full amount based on your lower income, you will have to return the excess money on your 2021 tax return next spring, or else accept a smaller 2021 refund or owe more in taxes.
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