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Child tax credit portals in coming weeks: IRS to let parents update info and opt out of monthly checks

The soon-to-be-unveiled tools will give families the chance to inform the IRS of household changes before child tax credit payments start July 15.

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The first monthly child tax credit check will arrive next month. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Before July 1, families that are eligible for this year's enhanced child tax credit will gain access to some useful online tools. Two IRS portals will allow them to update key information like marital status, change in income and number of kids, as well as defer the monthly child tax credit payments. In other words, parents can decide to opt out of receiving half the total amount through advance monthly installments this year and instead receive one larger payout in 2022. 

The IRS is also sending out letters to the 36 million families who may qualify for a payment of up to $3,000 for each child aged 6 to 17, or $3,600 for children under 6. If you still don't know how much your family can expect to get when the checks roll out on July 15, use our child tax credit calculator

We plan to update this story as the IRS releases more information about these resources, but here's what we know about the child tax credit letter you may have received. We can also suggest some ways to use your child tax credit checks, give you details on how you might receive your payment and tell you how to claim thousands of dollars back for child care expenses

What will the online child tax credit portals be for?

Here are how the IRS portals coming in the next few weeks will help parents with eligible dependents:

  • One portal will help you determine whether you qualify for the advance child tax credit payments.
  • The second online tool -- which the IRS is calling the "Child Tax Credit Update Portal" -- will let you opt of of the advance payments to instead receive one payment in 2022. Later this year, the IRS said, this portal will allow you to check on the status of you payments and update the IRS with your current information. Those who don't typically file tax returns can also use this portal to update the IRS with their status -- including changes to the number of dependents, filing status or income -- so they can receive the correct payment amount they qualify for.

When will the IRS launch the child tax credit portals?

The IRS has set an open deadline of July 1, though we don't have an exact date yet -- the portals could be up and running sooner than that. The IRS is simultaneously processing tens of millions of tax returns, which may affect the timeline while it organizes the child tax credit program.

How can the portals help opt out of monthly payments?

The main portal will let you opt out of receiving the monthly child tax credit payments. What does that mean? It means that instead of receiving monthly payments of, say, $300 for your 4-year-old, you can wait until you file your 2021 taxes in 2022 to receive the $3,600 lump sum.

You may also want to opt out because you're expecting your circumstances to change and don't want to update your information in the portal.

How can the portals assist parents who don't file taxes?

The IRS will open a second portal dedicated to people who don't typically file their income taxes. This child tax credit portal will allow this group to give the IRS their updated information, including the number and ages of their qualifying child dependents. 

The portal is expected to let tax nonfilers submit a simplified electronic form to the IRS to secure their eligibility. This group would include people who don't have bank accounts, as well as the homeless population.

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There is no limit on the number of children that parents can receive the credit for as long as both they and their dependents qualify.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What other details are available about the online portals?

Taxpayer families will be able to make changes to any life circumstances since they last filed their taxes, such as an income change and child custody status. For example, if you started making less money this year, you'll want to update the IRS about those changes so you can get the correct child tax credit amount.

If you had or will have a new baby this year, it's important to let the IRS know, so you can receive your payment for up to $3,600 for that child. The same applies if you adopted a child or if you gained a new child dependent since you last filed your taxes. 

Also, if you've gained full custody of your child, you'll be the parent who receives the money for your kid. Note that parents who have shared custody will not each get a payment. This is important for domestic violence survivors, according to comments during an IRS oversight hearing by Nina Olson, executive director of the Center for Taxpayer Rights. "That change of circumstances portal should allow them to enter their change in marital status and also where the children are."

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What about families with no permanent address?

The IRS is urging people to share information about the child tax credit with those who don't have permanent addresses. By doing this, you're helping make sure families receive the payments they're eligible for. You can share information about the online portals with them so they know about the programs to help them file a tax return.

What information about the portals hasn't been released? 

There are many details that are still unclear about the IRS' child tax credit portals, including:

  • The exact date the portals will be available to families.
  • How the portals will work for families updating their personal details or whether they can update their bank information.
  • How families will differentiate between the two portals.
  • The process for opting out of the monthly payments.

For more child tax credit 2021 details, here's how much money you can expect. Also, here's what it takes for you and your dependents to qualify for the payments.