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How is the child tax credit calculated? Estimate your household total here

In just one month -- on July 15 -- the advance monthly checks will begin arriving. Use CNET's calculator to see how much your family qualifies for.


Parents can get as much as $3,600 per kid for 2021-2022 whether in monthly installments or as one big payout. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The total amount of child tax credit money your family qualifies for between 2021 and 2022 isn't what you'll get with the advance monthly installments that begin July 15. The amount you'll get varies depending on your yearly income along with a handful of other important factors. The child tax credit can be complicated, so we'll help you estimate your family's total below. 

While you wait for the payments to arrive, the IRS will continue sending out letters to millions of parents letting them know if they qualify for the newly enhanced credit. Many parents will get a financial boost that's more than the $1,400 stimulus checks. Even nonfilers could be eligible  to get some extra cash for their children this year. 

If you think the IRS has incorrect information on your dependents or if you recently had a change in income, you should prepare to use the upcoming child tax credit portals. As a parent, brush up on how to claim up to $16,000 for child care expenses. Here's more on a possible fourth stimulus check. This story was updated recently. 

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Payment calculation for your 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.


The child tax credit math is complicated, but we'll explain: For parents of eligible children up to age 5, the IRS will pay a total of $3,600, half as six monthly payments and half as a 2021 tax credit. For each child ages 6 through 17, that total changes to $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.

Advance monthly payment schedule for 2021 and 2022

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)
July 15, 2021: First payment of the year $300 $250 -
Aug. 13, 2021 $300 $250 -
Sept. 15, 2021 $300 $250 -
Oct. 15, 2021 $300 $250 -
Nov. 15, 2021 $300 $250 -
Dec. 15, 2021: Last payment of the year $300 $250 -
April 2022: Second half of payment $1,800 $1,500 $500

Deferring partial monthly checks and collecting one large sum

If you'd rather get your 2021 child tax credit money as one large payment, you'll be able to opt out of monthly payments once the IRS opens its online portals by July 1. 

One portal will allow families to tell the IRS they want to receive the benefit in full at tax time rather than on a monthly basis. Opting out would mean that instead of receiving $300 per month for your 3-year-old (and the remainder of your money in 2022, for example), you wait until you file your taxes in 2022 to claim the full $3,600.

Another portal will let you input other information, such as a change in your AGI or marital status. 

Details for people who don't usually file a tax return

The IRS will automatically make the payments for those who filed taxes by the May 17 tax deadline, according to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. So 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, the IRS will make a portal available before July to help you. The portal is expected to let tax nonfilers submit a simplified 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. You can also submit a tax return now if you don't want to wait for the portal.


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

Good news for new parents this year

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.

Child tax credit requirements 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. You should also see if you're eligible for a child care tax credit if you paid for daycare, an after-school program or a babysitter. 

What to do if a child ages out of a payment bracket this year

If you have a 5-year-old turning 6 by the end of the year, 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 the year, 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 to do if the IRS sends more money than estimated

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: The agency will make the child tax credit portal available by July 1 so you can 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 would 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.