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Don't Miss Out on an Extra $1,800 Per Kid This Tax Season. Here's What to Know

CNET logo CNET 2/24/2022 Katie Teague
diagram: Advance child tax payments ended in December 2021. Sarah Tew/CNET © Provided by CNET Advance child tax payments ended in December 2021. Sarah Tew/CNET

Over the course of six months last year, millions of eligible families received monthly checks for up to $300 from the expanded child tax credit. Parents can expect more money with their tax refunds this year -- up to $1,800 per child under 6, or $1,500 per child age 6 to 17. Families who opted out of advance payments last year could get $3,600 or $3,000 per child, respectively, after they file their tax returns.

To make sure you get the rest of your money, keep track of Letter 6419 from the IRS. It will tell you how much money you received in 2021 and the number of qualifying dependents used to calculate payments. Make sure all the information on Letter 6419 is accurate before filing your taxes -- otherwise you could risk delaying your tax refund.

Here's what you need to know when you're ready to file your taxes this year. Also, here's how to file your 2021 tax return for free, how to avoid getting flagged by the IRS and why you might want to pay your taxes with a credit card. This story is updated regularly.

Don't lose your child tax credit letter from the IRS

The IRS started sending out Letter 6419 to families in late December. If you haven't received it yet, keep an eye on your mailbox, because some letters are still in transit.

That letter contains important information about your child tax credit payments that you'll need to double-check for accuracy -- for instance, the number of dependents used to determine the amount of money you get.

If you don't receive the letter or lose it, don't panic. All of the important information that you need for your 2021 tax return can be found on the IRS website with an online IRS account. After logging in, simply click "View my tax records" to see your advance child tax credit payments and number of qualifying children for 2021.

In fact, because of some reporting errors in Letter 6419, the IRS recommends double-checking your information on the IRS website. The IRS insists that the information in your online account is accurate and up to date.

How much child tax credit money can you expect to get this year?

If you and your family meet the income eligibility requirements and you received each advance payment between July and December 2021, you can expect to receive up to $1,800 for each child age 5 and younger, or up to $1,500 for each child between the ages of 6 and 17, when you file your 2021 taxes.

There is no limit on the number of children who are eligible for the expanded child tax credit, but your income level will affect the amount of credit you receive. The credit starts decreasing at $75,000 income for single filers or $150,000 for those filing married jointly. It phases out completely at $220,000 and $440,000, respectively.

If you opted out of partial payments before the first check went out, you'll get your full eligible amount with your tax refund -- up to $3,600 per child under 6 and $3,000 per child ages 6 to 17. Any payments you missed due to IRS errors or because you unenrolled should be included with your 2021 tax refund.

What if one of your child tax credit checks never arrived in 2021?

If you're missing money from one of the previous checks due to an IRS error or outdated information, you can either wait for the issue to be resolved when you file your taxes or you can file a payment trace with the IRS. Before you do that, track your check to make sure it's not already on the way.

Note that if you gained a dependent since you last filed taxes, the IRS wouldn't have that information on file. If that's your case, you won't get any money until you file your taxes.

Will last year's monthly payments affect your tax refund?

The child tax credit payments you got this year could potentially affect your taxes (for better or worse). Here's how:

  • You received an overpayment and the IRS didn't adjust the amount on later payments. You'll have to pay this back.
  • You received payments you didn't qualify for. You'll have to pay the IRS back.
  • Your income changed, and you didn't report it to the IRS. This could result in a larger or smaller tax refund or you owing the IRS, depending on if your income was higher or lower than what the IRS used to calculate your payment.
  • You opted out of the payments last year, so the payout will be larger this year.
  • You received money for a child who turned 18 last year. You may have to pay that money back.

If you received more advance child tax credit money in 2021 than you are eligible for, you might not necessarily have to pay it back. Depending on your income level, you may qualify for "repayment protection."

You'll need to account for your advance child tax credit payments on your 2021 taxes. Sarah Tew/CNET © Provided by CNET You'll need to account for your advance child tax credit payments on your 2021 taxes. Sarah Tew/CNET

How to claim your money if you had a newborn or adopted since last filing your taxes

If you had a baby by the end of December -- or adopted one -- you'll be eligible for up to $3,600 for that child when you file your taxes. That includes back pay for the July through December advance payments and the chunk coming with your refund.

You should get that money when you claim your child on your tax return, which will let the IRS know about your household changes. 

Why aren't the enhanced child tax credit checks getting extended?

To date, the enhanced monthly child tax credit checks have expired and will revert back to the original amount unless a vote is made to extend the payments. The House of Representatives passed an extension of the child tax credit increase and advance payments when it ratified the Build Back Better bill in November. However, Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said he wouldn't support the bill unless a work requirement for parents is added, effectively killing the legislation.

President Joe Biden said he isn't sure if the enhanced child tax credit will remain in the Build Back Better bill, but plans to break the package up into chunks. We'll update this story as new information develops.

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