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Child tax credit calculator: Check your payment amount before your money arrives

Your first child tax credit payment arrives in just over three weeks. See how much your family is eligible to receive on July 15 and beyond.

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Parents could get $3,600 per kid with the expanded credit program, whether in monthly installments or as one big payout. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The first expanded child tax credit payment is scheduled to arrive on July 15 with the rest of the payments coming throughout the year and into 2022. If you're eligible (a quick check with the IRS Eligibility Assistant tool will help), you can get $3,000 for each kid between the ages of 6 and 17 -- and $3,600 for each child 5 and younger. The amount you get depends on your yearly income and the age of your dependents.

We'll explain how the math works for determining your payment amount. If you think the IRS doesn't have the most current information about you or your children, you can now use the child tax credit portals to update your details (and unenroll from the payments). Nonfilers could be eligible, meaning many low-income families will get some extra cash in 2021 if they register their details. 

The IRS has been sending out letters to parents to let them know whether they qualify. Aside from the child tax credit money, you should check to see about claiming up to $16,000 for child care expenses. If you're curious, we've also summarized what's known about a potential fourth stimulus check. This story was updated recently. 

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How do I calculate my family's total child tax credit amount?

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 for a more personalized estimate.

Child tax credit calculator for 2021

Use details from your 2020 tax return.

1. Choose your filing status below.

2. What was your adjusted gross income (AGI)?

3. Number of children age 5 and under by December 31, 2021.

4. Number of children age 6 to 17 by December 31, 2021.

Calculate

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.

What does the 2021 child tax credit monthly payment schedule look like?

Here's how the advance child tax credit payments will arrive, starting July 15 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

Monthly Maximum payment (newborn to 5) Maximum payment (6 to 17) Maximum payment (18 to 24)
Jul 15, 2021: First payment of the year $300 $250 -
Aug 13, 2021 $300 $250 -
Sep 15, 2021 $300 $250 -
Oct 15, 2021 $300 $250 -
Nov 15, 2021 $300 $250 -
Dec 15, 2021: Last payment of the year $300 $250 -
Apr 2022: Second half of payment $1,800 $1,500 $500

How can I unenroll from monthly payments and collect the total credit amount in 2022?

If you'd rather get your 2021 child tax credit money as one large payment, you'll can unenroll from the monthly payments now that the IRS has opened its online portal -- but you need to do so by June 28. The Child Tax Credit Update Portal will enable anyone who is eligible for advance payments to unenroll from the advance payment program. 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.

That same portal will allow people to check on the status of their payments and make updates to their information. 

If I don't typically file taxes, can I still get a child tax credit check? 

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 are 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 non-tax filer families 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. 

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Babies born this year can be eligible for the full $3,600.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Can my new baby also help me qualify for the 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.

What are the age requirements and other rules dependents have to meet?

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 chlld 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 is a full-time college student and turns 25 this year, you won't receive any payment for that dependent.

What should I do if the IRS accidentally sends an 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. 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.