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Advance Child Tax Credit Payments: Learn if You Need to Pay Money Back

If you received too much child tax credit money in 2021, do you need to return it? Maybe.

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Most eligible US families received six monthly advance child tax credit payments in 2021.
Sarah Tew/CNET

This story is part of Taxes 2022, CNET's coverage of the best tax software and everything else you need to get your return filed quickly, accurately and on-time.

Last year's expanded child tax credit brought monthly advance payments to millions of American families in the final half of 2021. Now it's time for parents to report those payments on federal tax returns and receive the other half of their child tax credits.

The enhanced child tax credit program sent parents money up to $300 per child, per month, between July and December last year. If you decided to opt out of last year's advance payments, you'll get the total amount with this year's tax refund. You can use CNET's child tax credit calculator to get an estimated total if you haven't already. You should have also received a letter from the IRS detailing how much money you're eligible for.

While most families were eligible to receive the full payments, some parents who didn't qualify or whose eligibility changed during the year received money anyway. If you received a higher amount of child tax credit payments than allowed by the IRS, it's possible you'll have to pay back a portion of that child tax credit money when you file your taxes this year.

Read on to learn about the qualifications for the child tax credit, how to tell if you received the correct amount and how to determine whether or not you have to pay any extra money back. 

For more, read about the biggest changes for this tax season, how to track your tax refund, when to file taxes in 2022 and what to do if the info on your IRS child tax credit letter is inaccurate. We've updated this story recently. 

What qualifies me for enhanced child tax credit money?

Parents may qualify for the full child tax credit if they were in one of the following categories outlined by the IRS. 

  • $150,000 or less in total earned income if married and filing jointly
  • $112,500 or less in earned income if filing as head of household 
  • $75,000 or less in earned income if filing single 

If parents meet these income requirements, each dependent under age 6 may get parents up to $3,600 total. Children ages 6 to 17 may yield up to $3,000 each. Parents of dependents ages 18 to 24 will get up to $500 when they file their taxes. 

If you make more than the income requirements, you may still get advance child tax credit payments, but less than the maximum amount. The IRS subtracted $50 from each advance check for every $1,000 earned above the income limit. So if you made $85,000 as a single filer, you would've been eligible for up to $200 per month, depending on your child's age.

There are a few other eligibility requirements for dependents to keep in mind. They: 

  • Must be a US citizen 
  • Must be younger than 17 before the last day of the tax year
  • Must be claimed on the parent's tax return 
$300 cash with calculator

Dependents ages 18 to 24 can claim the full child tax credit amount during tax time this year.

Sarah Tew/CNET

How do I check my child tax credit eligibility online? 

Before you begin, make sure you've got a copy of your most recent tax return. If you don't have a tax return on hand, you can use your filing status and the number of children you claimed, along with an estimate of your total income for 2021.

Use the IRS Eligibility Assistant tool to answer a few quick questions to see if you qualify. Here's how.

1. Go to the Advance Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant tool page on the IRS website.

2. Tap or click Check Your Eligibility.

3. You'll then need to answer a few questions about yourself and your taxes. For instance, the form will ask if you claimed the child tax credit on a previous tax return.

4. You may need to provide additional information, depending on how you answered the questions. Here's where you fill in your filing status, adjusted gross income and the number of children you claimed on your tax return (along with their ages).

5. After you hit Next, the tool will let you know whether you qualify based on the answers you provided. It'll tell you the amount each kid under 6 qualifies you for, and how much each kid 6 and older qualifies you for. It'll also show you the income phaseout details.

6. From here, tap or click Manage your advance child tax credit payments, which will take you to the child tax credit portal.

Keep in mind that the Eligibility Assistant tool and Child Tax Credit Update Portal do not tell you how much you are eligible for. The tool also doesn't tell you:

  • The personalized total you'll get from the child tax credit payment. It leaves it up to you to do the math.
  • How much the payments will be reduced if your income exceeds the limit.
  • That only one parent can claim the money for any given child in a shared custody situation.

What if parents don't qualify for child tax credit checks? 

If you're unsure of whether or not you qualify based on the requirements, confirm that you do with the Eligibility Assistant tool and update your information using the Child Tax Credit Update Portal or wait to update the IRS when you file your tax return. 

Can new parents get child tax credit money? 

If you adopted or had a baby sometime in 2021, you'll need to update the IRS with that information when you file your taxes. When the agency has your updated details on file, you'll be eligible for the money. For instance, if your baby was born Dec. 20, you can claim the money you didn't get from July through December when you file your taxes. If you had a newborn in January 2022, you won't be eligible for the larger sum of money that was approved in the American Rescue Plan, but you could be eligible for the original amount.

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