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IRS child tax credit: Here's how to get the rest of your money

Parents still have a lot of 2021 child tax credit money left on the table.

Hundred-dollar bills fanned out

Advance payments have ended, but half (or more) of the expanded child tax credit remains to be claimed.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Tax season is now in full swing -- that means you can now submit your tax return to the IRS. Jan. 24 also marks the first chance that parents have to claim the rest of their expanded child tax credit money. Monthly payments ended in December, but there's still more money to come from the enhanced credit. When you file your 2021 tax return, you'll be able to claim any child tax credit money you haven't yet received -- at least half, or more if you opted out of advance payments or had a new baby later in 2021.

To make sure you get the rest of your money, keep track of Letter 6419 from the IRS. It contains details about your child tax credit status that you'll need for your taxes. If you haven't received that form yet, watch for it in the mail. That IRS letter will tell you how much money you received in 2021 and the number of qualifying dependents used to calculate payments.

You may be wondering if the child tax credit has been extended for 2022 or if Congress will ever reauthorize the expanded child tax credit or the advance payments. We'll explain the latest on the child tax credit and what to expect when you're ready to file your taxes this year. 

Also, here's how to file your 2021 tax return for free, 13 tax credits and deductions you might not know about, the best tax software for 2022 and why you might want to pay your taxes with a credit card. This story is updated regularly.

Store your child tax credit letter with other tax documents

The IRS said it started sending out Letter 6419 to families in late December and will continue sending it through January. If you haven't received the letter yet, keep an eye on your mailbox, because you'll need it when you file your taxes this year. The note contains important information about your child tax credit payments that you'll need to double-check for accuracy -- for instance, the number of dependents used to determine the amount of money you get.

How much child tax credit money you could get with your refund this year

If you and your family meet the income eligibility requirements and you received each payment between July and December last year, you can expect to receive up to $1,800 for each child age 5 and younger, or up to $1,500 for each child between the ages of 6 and 17, when you file your 2021 taxes. There is no limit on the number of children who are eligible for the expanded child tax credit.

If you opted out of receiving payments before the first check went out, you'll get the full amount you qualify for at once -- up to $3,600 per child under 6 and $3,000 per child ages 6 to 17. Any payments you missed due to IRS errors or because you unenrolled should be included with your tax refund.

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If you opted out of advance payments, you could receive $3,600 per child when you file 2021 taxes.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What if you never received one or more child tax credit payments last year?

If you're missing money from one of the previous checks due to an IRS error or outdated information, you can either wait for the issue to be resolved when you file your taxes or you can file a payment trace with the IRS. Before you do that, track your check to make sure it's not already on the way.

Note that if you gained a dependent since you last filed taxes, the IRS wouldn't have that information on file. If that's your case, you won't get any money until you file your taxes.

Will the monthly payments you received affect your taxes this year?

The child tax credit payments you got this year could potentially affect your taxes (for better or worse). Here's how:

  • You received an overpayment and the IRS didn't adjust the amount on later payments. You'll have to pay this back.
  • You received payments you didn't qualify for. You'll have to pay the IRS back.
  • Your income changed, and you didn't report it to the IRS. This could result in a larger or smaller tax refund or you owing the IRS, depending on if your income was higher or lower than what the IRS used to calculate your payment.
  • You opted out of the payments last year, so your payout will be larger this year.
  • You received money for a child who turned 18 last year. You may have to pay that money back.
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Your taxes could be affected by the child tax credit payments.

Sarah Tew/CNET

How to get your child tax credit money if you had a newborn or adopted since last filing your tax return

If you had a baby by the end of December -- or adopted one -- you'll be eligible for up to $3,600 for that child when you file your taxes. That includes back pay for the July through December advance payments and the chunk coming with your refund.

You should get that money when you claim your child on your tax return, which will let the IRS know about your household changes. 

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The latest on enhanced child tax credit checks this year

To date, the enhanced monthly child tax credit checks have expired and will revert back to the original amount unless a vote is made to extend the payments. The House of Representatives passed an extension of the child tax credit increase and advance payments when it ratified the Build Back Better bill in November. However, Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said he wouldn't support the bill unless a work requirement for parents is added, effectively killing the legislation.

President Joe Biden said he isn't sure if the enhanced child tax credit will remain in the Build Back Better bill, but plans to break the package up into chunks. We'll update this story as new information develops.

For more information, here's how to calculate how much child tax credit money you should get, how to use the IRS portals to update your household details and how to contact the IRS about child tax credit questions.