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The second child tax credit check is here. But do you qualify? 3 ways to check

If you're not eligible for the money, you may have to pay the IRS back. Here's what else you need to know.

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Parents of newborns born this year can get advance child tax credit payments. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The second round of child tax credit payments were deposited into bank accounts this morning. But the big question is, are you and your family are eligible for the money? And, is this morning's check correct? The advance monthly payments are based on your 2020 tax return, and the money depends on specific income and age requirements.

Some parents received up to $300 per child, and more monthly payments through December. Families can expect the other half of the total amount during tax time. But the advance payments are optional. If you received today's check and you no longer qualify, you can opt out to avoid repaying the IRS or to collect one lump sum with your tax refund. 

If you find that you are eligible, you can check how much you'll get before then with our calculator to get a quick estimate. If not, you can use the IRS Update Portal to unenroll now and avoid the risk of paying the IRS back next year. We'll tell you the best way to check your eligibility, how to use ID.me to manage your payments and reasons why you may want to opt out of advance checks this year. This story has been updated.

1. Read the child tax credit letters from the IRS about your total amount and eligibility 

About 97% of working families are eligible for a child tax credit payment, and qualified families should've received at least one letter from the IRS. That means the agency determined that you qualify for child tax credit money based on your 2019 or 2020 federal income tax return. In that case, you would have automatically received the first July payment unless you already opted out. 

If you don't typically file taxes, the IRS can use any information you submitted online using the nonfilers tool. The White House also launched ChildTaxCredit.gov, which includes a step-by-step guide in multiple languages to help parents use the tool. So yes, even if you didn't file your taxes you may still get advance monthly payments this month. 

The first IRS letter (see sample PDFs 6416 or 6416-A) told families they may be eligible. The second letter (see sample PDF 6417) gave families a customized estimate of what their monthly advance payments will be throughout the remainder of this year. You don't need to do anything if you received these letters, except hold on to them in case you need to reference it later on. If you didn't get a letter, don't worry quite yet; there are other ways to check your eligibility. 

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2. Check your eligibility using the IRS portals 

The IRS has several online portals and tools to help you get your child tax credit money. The interactive eligibility assistant is the quickest way for families to see if they qualify after answering just a few brief questions. You'll need your latest tax return to check eligibility. But if any information has changed since then, you'll need to use another tool to make sure the IRS has the most up-to-date information.

Another online tool, the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, also lets you check to see if you're eligible and your payment history. You can use it to make decisions about opting out of the advance monthly payments and to add your direct deposit information. It will soon let you add new information and correct or update outdated details like the number of kids you have or your income. 

There's also a nonfiler tool for those who did not file a 2020 tax return and don't plan to. While there has been some criticism about it not being user-friendly, lacking a Spanish version and not working well on smartphones, the nonfiler tool is one of the ways that low-income families can give information to the IRS to make sure they get a payment. 

If the IRS says your eligibility is pending, you won't start receiving payments until you've been approved. You can check the status of your eligibility using the Child Tax Credit Update Portal. If the IRS cannot confirm eligibility this year you'll receive the full child tax credit amount when you file your taxes next year. 

On the other hand, if you find out that you're not eligible or you're unsure, there's still time to opt out before the next payment. You'll need to opt out ahead of the upcoming check to avoid getting the next payment, but it's a one-time action. The IRS plans to add a reenrollment option in September. Here are the deadlines to keep in mind. 

Child tax credit opt-out deadlines

Payment date Unenrollment deadline 
July 15 June 28 
Aug. 13 Aug. 2
Sept. 15 Aug. 30 
Oct. 15 Oct. 4 
Nov. 15 Nov. 1
Dec. 15 Nov. 29

3. Calculate your child tax credit total amount

Even if your first child tax credit check is on the way via mail, you can make an educated guess about your qualification status fairly easily. We think the fastest way is to use our child tax credit calculator. Just enter your yearly income and number of kids. Don't worry -- the calculator is private and anonymous and won't store or use any of your personal information.

For the most part, the calculator tool will tell you what you need to know. However, there are some outlier qualifications that could crop up. For example, in some cases, it's possible your income will disqualify you

And while parents of new babies will generally qualify for the full amount, that could change if you have shared custody of a child. US citizenship also plays a role, so if any of your kids are adopted from another country, you'll want to make sure you know all the rules that apply to kids

For more, check here to see if your state owes you money, how you could get money back for your child care costs and if you could get a refund for the unemployment tax break.