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Child tax credit portal: Review your payments, opt out and more

Multiple IRS tools can help you manage processed payments, verify eligibility and more. Here's how they work.

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You can see if your child tax credit payments have been processed in the Update Portal.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Millions of parents received their third child tax credit payment today for up to $300 per kid. But if you're experiencing issues with this month's check -- as many families did with the last two -- you can use online resources to find answers to your questions, rather than waiting for live assistance from the IRS

The Child Tax Credit Update Portal is where you'll find most of your answers. You can check on processed payments, modify household information and opt out. The portal's features are currently limited, but sometime this month you should be able to update your marital status and income if necessary, as well as the ages of your dependents. Informing the IRS of these changes in 2021 will help ensure your family is getting the right credit amount (and help avoid owing the IRS money next year).

We'll tell you how to use the portal if you're missing the July, August or September checks, or if you want to unenroll from monthly payments to avoid repaying the IRS. If you're still on the fence about opting out of the advance checks, here are a couple of reasons why you might want to. We'll also tell you about the IRS tool to verify your eligibility and another one that helps low-income families register for the credit. This story was updated recently.

How do I opt out of the remaining child tax credit checks?

Most families who qualify for the expanded credit didn't need to take action to receive the advance payments in 2021. If you already filed a 2019 or 2020 federal income tax return (or used the nonfiler tool in 2020 to register for stimulus payments), you would have started getting the credit automatically in July. And the credit is nonrefundable, so you don't need income to get it, and families can pocket the extra cash if the amount of the credit is higher than their total tax bill. 

The Child Tax Credit Update Portal lets you opt out of receiving this year's monthly child tax credit payments. That means that instead of receiving monthly payments of, say, $300 for your 4-year-old, you can wait until filing a 2021 tax return in 2022 to receive the remainder of the $3,600. You can unenroll at any time, but you must opt out at least three days before the first Thursday of the month you're unenrolling from (here's a useful list of dates to know). At this point, the IRS says unenrolling or opting out is a one-time action -- and you won't be able to opt back in until later this month. The next deadline to opt out is Oct. 4 by 9 p.m. PT (midnight ET). 

You may choose to unenroll from the advance monthly payment program because you're expecting circumstances to change or if the partial monthly payments will interfere in tax planning. Families that usually owe money to the IRS when they file taxes may want to instead use the full credit next year. Or you might want a larger payout if your household is saving for a big expense. 

To unenroll, visit the Child Tax Credit Update Portal and tap Manage Advance Payments. You'll then need to sign in with your IRS username or ID.me account. (You can create one on the page if you don't have one.)

After you sign in, if you're eligible, you'll see an option to opt out of the payments. The IRS says if you filed jointly on your most recent tax return, unenrolling will only affect your, and not your spouse's, advance payments. That means both parents need to opt out separately. 

When can I update household details? 

You'll need to let the IRS know as soon as possible if your income or dependents change to avoid repaying money that you may not qualify for. Later this month, you'll be able to indicate changes to any life circumstances since you last filed your taxes, such as a change in income, an addition to your family or a change in child custody status. For example, if you started making more or 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 payment for up to $3,600 for that child. The same applies if you've adopted a child or 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. The Child Tax Credit Update Portal later this year "should allow them to enter their change in marital status and also where the children are," Olson said.

Remember that collecting the money when ineligible may mean repaying the IRS during tax time in 2022. If you're not sure if you qualify, you can opt out of advance payments to be on the safe side. You'll collect the child tax credit money during tax time next year. 

What are each of the IRS child tax credit tools for?

The online tools are useful for a variety of reasons. Here's how they help parents with eligible dependents: 

  • The Child Tax Credit Update Portal lets you verify that your family qualifies for the credit and opt out of receiving any payments in 2021. You can use it now to view your payment history (including if the money is coming by paper check or through direct deposit) and provide the IRS with your current mailing address and bank details. 
  • nonfiler portal lets you provide the IRS with basic information about yourself and your dependents if you normally aren't required to file a tax return. The tool is intended to help low-income households register for the payments.
  • The Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant can help you determine whether you qualify for the advance child tax credit payments. The interactive tool is now available in Spanish and other languages. 

What other toolkits and resources are available now? The IRS regularly updates its child tax credit FAQ page and has a PDF with details on the portals. The White House has launched a website for the child tax credit that provides information for families, details about eligibility and more downloadable information.

The 2021 enhanced child tax credit is a financial boost for many families but for others it could spark worries about messy taxes.

How can I verify that my family qualifies?

The new Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant allows families to answer a series of questions to quickly determine whether they qualify for the advance credit. This can be helpful for families who haven't received a letter from the IRS confirming their eligibility. The tool is now available in multiple languages, including Spanish.

How can I check my payment history in the portal?

Using the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, you can view your payment history and add your direct deposit information if the IRS doesn't have it from a recent tax return. If the IRS has invalid bank account details, it will send the check in the mail. Families that receive their payments by snail mail should allow extra time for delivery. 

The IRS reported that some recipients who received their July payment through direct deposit received the Aug. 13 payment by mail due to a tax agency issue, which was supposed to be resolved by the Sept. 15 payment. 

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Parents can still unenroll from monthly payments to get the remainder of the credit next year. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Am I eligible for child tax credit payments if I didn't file taxes this year?

It's not too late for low-income families to sign up for advance child tax credit payments. The child tax credit Non-Filer Sign-Up Tool is a way for those who aren't required to file a tax return to give the tax agency basic information on their dependents. This tool can be used by low-income families who earn too little to have filed a 2020 tax return but who need to notify the IRS of qualifying children born before 2021.

With the nonfiler tool, you'll be able to electronically file a simple tax form with the IRS with enough information for the agency to determine your family's eligibility for the advance child tax credit payments. You shouldn't use this tool if you are required to file a tax return but just haven't yet. Also, don't use this tool if you actually filed a 2020 tax return or if you claimed all your dependents on a 2019 return.

To use the tool, families must have had a primary residence in the US for more than half the year. To register, parents should have their personal details on hand, including an email address, Social Security numbers for dependents and a bank account routing number. 

Heads-up: The IRS recommends using the portal on a laptop or desktop computer, not on a phone. While the tool is not mobile-friendly, according to The Washington Post, you can access it from a browser on your smartphone. In addition to requiring an email address, you need to know your filing status and other tax-related information, which as a nonfiler you may not have readily available. 

The IRS provides some guidance on how to fill out the form as a nonfiler. Note that it can take up to 48 hours for the IRS to confirm your email address -- and another 48 hours after submitting your information for the IRS to accept it.

1. To get started, create an account if you don't yet have one. You'll need an email address to confirm your information.

2. On the next page -- with the heading Fill Out Your Tax Forms -- enter your information, including your filing status and details about dependents. Because this portal is an update to the tool nonfilers used to claim stimulus checks, you can add information about those payments, called "Recovery Rebate Credit" on the form. Add your banking information to receive your payments electronically instead of in the mail. Tap Continue to Step 2 when ready.

3. On this page -- "E-File Your Tax Forms" -- you'll provide your adjusted gross income, or AGI, and sign the form electronically. (Here's more on how to do that.) When done, tap the Continue to E-File button to submit your information.

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How can families without a permanent address register for payments?

The IRS is urging people to share information about the child tax credit with others 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 and resources with them so they know about the programs to help them file a tax return. 

Read more on income requirements and age qualifications for the expanded child tax credit.