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Today's the last day to opt out of the December child tax credit check. What to know

You're running out of time to unenroll from the December payment. Here's what you need to do.

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Unenrolling from advance payments now could help reduce a financial headache next tax season. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The December child tax credit payment will be disbursed in a little over two weeks. However, if you'd rather not receive the last check of the year, you'll need to unenroll today. Millions of eligible families are getting immediate relief from the advance installments this year instead of waiting to get all of the credit during tax time in 2022 -- parents are receiving as much as $300 per month per kid. But some families are still choosing to opt out, even though the majority of checks have already gone out. 

You have until tonight, Nov. 29, to update your banking information or address, or to opt out of the final 2021 check. Unenrolling is one quick fix for parents having trouble updating their household changes or those who are concerned about possibly needing to repay the IRS if initially sent too much money. This may be the case for divorced or single parents with joint custody. It's also an option for those who'd prefer a bigger tax refund in 2022. Opting out might help nontraditional families avoid some of the ongoing child tax credit problems.

The key to managing your checks, updating your information and opting out is the IRS Update Portal, which requires an ID.me account. If you decide to use the advance payments to cover expenses now, here are some ways to spend your child tax credit money. This story was recently updated. 

This is why parents are unenrolling from the monthly child tax credit checks

Here are some cases where unenrolling from the 2021 advance child tax credit program could be a good idea: 

  • You'd rather have a larger payment next year instead of the multiple smaller payments spanning 2021 and 2022. This could be the case for families saving up for a big expense, those who've budgeted that money to pay off outstanding debt or those who are accustomed to getting a bigger refund at tax time. 
  • You know your household's circumstances or tax situation will change (or they've already changed) this year and don't want to deal with having to update your information, especially since the option to make those changes in the IRS Update Portal isn't yet available to parents. This could be the case for separated, divorced or unwed parents who alternate custody of a child. 
  • You're concerned the IRS might send you an overpayment based on old tax information, and you don't want to worry about paying any of that money back. That could be the case if your household income went up because you returned to work or got a new job. It could also be the case if a dependent you claimed previously is aging out of an age bracket before the end of 2021. 

Keep in mind that you won't be turning down the credit if you opt out -- you'll just be postponing the remaining portion until after you file your taxes next spring. Remember that the child tax credit isn't a tax deduction but an actual cash credit, and the money you receive won't count as income on your 2021 tax return.   

How to unenroll from the last remaining monthly payment 

If your circumstances have changed, you can opt out of receiving the remaining monthly advance, even if you've already received the rest of the payments. You can opt out of December's check before tonight at 8:59 p.m. PT (11:59 p.m. ET).

If you miss the deadline, you will get the next scheduled advance payment. Here's how to unenroll:

1. Head to the new Child Tax Credit Update Portal and click the Manage Advance Payments button.

2. On the next page, sign in using your IRS or ID.me account. If you have neither, the page will walk you through setting up an ID.me account. You'll need an email address, a photo ID, your Social Security number and a smartphone or tablet to verify your identity. 

3. On the next page, you can see your eligibility and unenroll from the monthly payments. 

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Both parents need to opt out separately to stop getting payments entirely

Unenrolling applies only to one individual at a time. So if you're married and file jointly, both you and your spouse will need to opt out separately. If only one of you does so, you will get half the joint payment you were supposed to receive with your spouse, the IRS said.

Here's what happens if you opt out of the payments

Those who choose to decline this year's child tax credit installments will still receive the same amount of money but are simply delaying when they receive the rest of it. So, if you have a child who's 5 years old or younger by the end of 2021 -- and your income meets the requirements -- you'll still get the full $3,600 in the end, with the bulk of the money coming after you file taxes in 2022. 

That means that if you unenroll before the Nov. 29 deadline, you won't see another payment until after the IRS processes your 2021 tax return. The amount of your credit will be adjusted and will arrive as part of your tax refund or can be used to offset any taxes you owe at that time; you'll be in a situation similar to people who've had to claim missing stimulus checks this year. Keep in mind that accepting the advance payments now could lower your tax refund in the spring because you've already collected some of the credit. 

You can use our child tax credit 2021 calculator to estimate how much you should get and see a breakdown of the monthly payments if you choose not to opt out. 

Child tax credit payment schedule

Monthly check Maximum payment per child age 5 and younger  Maximum payment per child age 6 to 17
July 15 $300 $250
Aug. 13 $300 $250
Sept. 15 $300 $250
Oct. 15 $300 $250
Nov. 15 $300 $250
Dec. 15 $300 $250
April 2022: Second half of payment  $1,800 $1,500 

Let the IRS know of any household or income changes

The Child Tax Credit Update Portal is the best way to quickly make any changes that have happened since you last filed your taxes. Right now, you can use the portal to update your income, banking information and mailing address. 

For more child tax credit information, here's what to know about the child tax credit payment timeline and how to estimate your total payment using CNET's child tax credit calculator.