Millions of families across the US will be receiving their third advance child tax credit payment next week on Sept. 15. You could be getting up to $300 for each kid under 6 years old and $250 for each kid between 6 and 17, depending on your household income. Unless you've chosen to opt out of this year's monthly payment program, the IRS will continue sending installments through December, with the remaining credit coming as part of your tax refund next spring.
Are you concerned that the IRS is sending you more or less than you qualify for? The advance 2021 payments are based on the latest tax return processed (usually 2020, occasionally 2019). So if a family has different circumstances this year, like income or kids, the amount the IRS calculated could now be inaccurate or outdated. Child tax credit checks might also be too little or too much due to complications with eligibility or simply a glitch by the tax agency.
By answering a few quick questions with our child tax credit calculator below, you can confirm what your family's total should be over the course of 2021 and 2022. If you don't need the cash immediately, or if you're worried about math errors, we'll tell you how to opt out of the monthly payments and receive the remaining credit next year. We can also tell you what to expect during tax season in 2022. This story has been updated recently.
Calculate your total child tax credit amount
Start by entering your adjusted gross income and number of kids. (Our calculator will not store or use your data.) The results are based on our current knowledge of the law and should be treated only as broad estimates; the IRS will determine the final amount. We suggest consulting a financial professional if you want 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 somewhat involved this time around. Let's say the above calculator says that you'll receive $3,000 in monthly payments from July through December 2021. That means you should take that total and divide by six to see how much the IRS should be sending you each month in advance this year.
Here are the basic rules this time around: For parents of eligible children up to age 5, the IRS will pay up to $3,600 for each kid, half as six advance monthly payments and half as a 2021 tax credit. For each child aged 6 through 17, the IRS will pay up to $3,000, divided in the same way. For dependents aged 18 or full-time college students up through age 24, the IRS will make a one-time payment of $500 in 2022.
If your AGI is $75,000 or less as a single filer, $112,500 or less as a head of household or $150,000 or less filing jointly, you'll get the maximum amount. If your income is above the threshold for your filing status, your child tax credit payments will begin to phase out by $50 for every $1,000 of income over it. If the calculator above gives you a figure much less than $3,600 total for your 3-year-old, that probably means your household income is too high for the full payment.
2021 child tax credit payment schedule
The first child tax credit payment went out on July 15 and the second on Aug. 13. Here's a breakdown of when payments will be deposited and the maximum amount to expect based on the age brackets. Keep in mind that if you have dependents aged 18-24 you will have to wait until tax time next year to claim the full amount.
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|
Age requirements for dependents
There are some specific rules regarding qualifications not just for parents and caregivers, but for the children, too.
The amount of the credit depends on the age of a child on Dec. 31 this year. So if you have a 5-year-old turning 6 before the end of 2021, 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 2021, you would receive $500 total for that dependent instead of $3,000. If you have a dependent who's a full-time college student and turns 25 this year, you won't receive any payment for that dependent.
Here's what to know about dependent qualifications for the child tax credit.
Newborns can qualify
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. However, the IRS might not have any information on your new dependents and couldn't include them in your estimated amount. The key to fixing this is to log on to the IRS Update Portal later this month when you'll be able to make changes to your number of qualifying dependents.
Here's our guide for parents of 2021 babies, including what parents of adopted infants should know.
Families that don't file taxes can qualify
The IRS will automatically make the payments for those who filed their 2020 tax return or claimed dependents on their 2019 tax return. 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're a nonfiler and didn't file a tax return this year and don't plan to, the IRS has come up with an alternative. A "Non-filer Sign-up tool" allows families who don't file taxes to submit an electronic form to let the IRS know how many kids they have and their ages so they can get the correct payment amount.
While the tool is intended to help low-income families enroll in the program, it has been criticized for not being entirely user-friendly. For example, it works better on a computer than a mobile device, and requires that you have access to an email address.
How to unenroll from the advance monthly payments
If you're worried about your child tax credit advance payments being for the wrong amounts (or if you're concerned about an IRS overpayment) and you'd rather get the rest of your 2021 child tax credit money next year, you can unenroll from the monthly payments. That means that instead of continuing to receive $300 per month for your 3-year-old, you'd wait until you filed your taxes in 2022 to claim the remainder of the $3,600 credit. You can do that by setting up an account and managing your payments through the Update Portal.
To stop the advance payments, you need to unenroll three days before the first Thursday of the month. If you want to opt out of that fourth payment on Oct. 15, you'll need to do so by the Oct. 4 deadline. Here's the monthly schedule to unenroll.
Child tax credit unenrollment deadline schedule
|Payment month||Unenrollment deadline||Payment date|
|July||June 28, 2021||July 15, 2021|
|August||Aug. 2, 2021||Aug. 13, 2021|
|September||Aug. 30, 2021||Sept. 15, 2021|
|October||Oct. 4, 2021||Oct. 15, 2021|
|November||Nov. 1, 2021||Nov. 15, 2021|
|December||Nov. 29, 2021||Dec. 15, 2021|
Only one parent in a shared-custody situation qualifies
If you share custody, only one parent can claim the monthly advance child tax credit payments. This may be a surprise for parents who were separated and received one stimulus payment each for their child. Parents should also be careful when claiming the child tax credit money because if the child is filed incorrectly, parents may have to repay some or all of the money.
Update household details to avoid wrong payment amounts
Your family's eligibility is determined in large part by your adjusted gross income from the latest information the IRS has on file. 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: You'll use the new Child Tax Credit Update Portal to update your information when that function is made available later this month. If you make an adjustment this year, the IRS will then lower the payment amounts you'd receive if your new income reaches the phaseout level, according to Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation.
If you wait until 2022 to update your information, you might 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. Here's more information on how the child tax credit affects your taxes.