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Parents of 2021 babies can claim child tax credit payments. Here's how

For families to get the full $3,600 benefit for newborns, they'll need to be patient and take a couple of extra steps.

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Parents with babies born in this calendar year will benefit from the child tax credit. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Pandemic costs and stresses can add up quickly, especially for parents of 2021 babies. Daycare costs and day-to-day expenses can be a big financial burden. The good news is that the new child tax credit can help, with 35 million families that have received the July, August and September payments. But the question is, do parents of newborns qualify for the advance monthly checks? 

In prior years, parents would have to wait until tax time to claim $2,000 child tax credit in one lump sum as a part of the refund check. But this year, eligible children under age 6 can get up to $3,600 and $3,000 for kids between ages 6 and 17. Also, this year the IRS is sending monthly partial payments to qualifying families in advance of next year's taxes unless they opt out

But the IRS is using older tax returns to issue the advance payments and some updates still need to be made to the IRS tool, which leaves parents waiting a bit longer to claim a new child. Not to mention, the IRS still hasn't made it possible for parents to add dependents in the Update Portal yet. Once parents can make these changes online, they could receive the remainder of this year's checks. 

Read on for eligibility requirements and how IRS web portals can help you manage your account and add dependents. Plus, here's how to claim an additional credit for child care expenses and how to deal with missing payments or other child tax credit problems. This story has been updated.

How can parents of newborns get the child tax credit?

If your dependents weren't reported to the IRS already (or haven't even been born yet), you have two options for receiving the child tax credit. First, you could wait until you file your 2021 tax return next spring and receive the entire child tax credit in one lump sum, just like how the former version of the credit worked. For that option, you might have to unenroll in the advance payment program, since those monthly payments are automatic for eligible families. But if you'd like to receive some advance monthly payments before next year's tax season rolls around, there's a second option. 

The Child Tax Credit Update Portal allows taxpayers to make sure their household information is correct, check payment status and unenroll from the monthly checks. Soon, the portal will let parents report any changes in status that differ from the latest tax return the IRS has on file (either 2020 or 2019). The IRS announced that in late summer or early fall, eligible families will be able to use the Update Portal to add more dependents, like babies born or adopted this year. 

Because the option to add a new dependent won't be made available by the IRS until later, parents will have already missed the July, August and September advance payments. However, if they add a new 2021 dependent in time for the October check, they can receive the remaining installments: October, November, December and, of course, the 2022 payment. Let's walk through a few examples:

  • Babies and children born or adopted before 2021: You don't have to do anything to receive child tax credit payments, assuming that the IRS has your 2020 or 2019 tax return on file. However, even if you don't usually file taxes, you could still qualify.
  • Babies born or adopted between Jan. 1 and July 31, 2021: If the child was somehow reported to the IRS before the first check was sent in July, checks will follow the usual timeline shown in the chart below. However, it's more likely that the IRS wasn't informed of this new dependent; in that case, the dependent will have to be added when that option is made available on the Update Portal sometime this fall. 
  • Babies born between July 1 and Nov. 30, 2021: Because some payments have already gone out by the time you're able to register or update your information through the portal, you'll receive all subsequent monthly payments, with the remainder coming with your tax return next spring. The IRS has announced it'll also adjust the amount of each of your remaining monthly payments to account for having missed the first several payments. 
  • Babies born in December 2021: After the last check is sent, on Dec. 15, you'll no longer need to use the IRS portals to manage your household details and monthly payments. Instead, you'll receive the full amount when you file taxes in 2022 and claim your new dependent there.
  • Babies born in 2022 and beyond: Unless the expanded child tax credit is extended, parents of 2022 babies will not be receiving monthly checks or the full 2021 amount of $3,600. That means a baby born on Dec. 31 is eligible, while a baby born Jan. 1, 2022, isn't. 

Are there any requirements for parents to get monthly payments?

Eligibility is based on your child's age at the end of this calendar year. That means all qualifying children (there are other requirements we explain below) born on or before Dec. 31, 2021, will receive the full $3,600 tax credit over the course of 2021-2022. And parents of twins can get up to $7,200. The only variation will be in the timing and amount of each check.   

The 2021 child tax credit for newborns will be capped at $3,600 total per eligible child, going down from there as your income goes up. The IRS uses different adjusted gross income phaseout limits (when your income is too high to qualify for the full amount of the credit) for single filers, heads of household and married couples filing jointly. 

CNET built a calculator for determining your specific payment eligibility, which you should definitely try out, especially if you also have older children, share custody or have concerns about your income. Remember that your child's age group is based on the age at the end of this calendar year, so keep that in mind for any dependent aging into the next payment bracket at any point in 2021. For example, if your 5-year-old turns 6 in October, you'll qualify for a smaller amount. As for other requirements, you and your child must be US citizens and your child needs a Social Security number. 

You can also check to see if you qualify using the Eligibility Assistant tool. Then use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to see if you're enrolled and to update your banking information or mailing address. 

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What is the child tax credit payment schedule?

The expanded child tax credit will be paid out in two distinct phases. Half your child tax credit total will come in advance, divided up in monthly checks, which started July 15 and will continue through December. The other half will be paid out on your 2021 tax return when you file in 2022. The next advance monthly payment will be disbursed on Oct. 15. 

2021 child tax credit payment schedule

Monthly Maximum payment per child 5 and younger Maximum payment per child; 6 to 17
Jul 15: First 2021 check $300 $250
13-Aug $300 $250
15-Sep $300 $250
15-Oct $300 $250
15-Nov $300 $250
Dec 15: Last 2021 check $300 $250
Apr 2022: Second half of payment $1,800 $1,500

One option for parents with new dependents is to simply unenroll from the advance payment schedule entirely. If you opt out now, you'll receive the remainder of the child tax credit money with next year's tax return. For more information about opting out through the Update Portal and all the unenrollment deadlines, see our story here

We'll keep this story updated with new information. Still have unanswered questions? Here's what to know about 2021 income limits and frequently asked payment questions.