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Advance child tax credit 2021: See if you'll receive $500, $3,000 or $3,600 for each child

CNET logo CNET 5 hrs ago Katie Conner
Calculate how much money you could get from the revised 2021 child tax credit. Sarah Tew/CNET © Provided by CNET Calculate how much money you could get from the revised 2021 child tax credit. Sarah Tew/CNET

You don't have to wait for your first child tax credit payment to arrive in July to see how much money you will receive for each qualifying child and dependent. If you and your family are eligible, CNET's child tax credit calculator can help you estimate your monthly and total payments, before that first batch of payments arrive. (Here are some ways to use the money when it comes.)

© Sarah Tew/CNET

Half of the total amount you'll receive with the advance tax credit will come in monthly payments through the second half of 2021, with the remainder arriving in 2022, as part of March's $1.9 trillion stimulus law. (President Joe Biden is pushing for the payments to be extended to 2025 in his next two stimulus proposals.) If you want, you can choose to opt out of monthly payments and receive just one payment in 2022 through a portal the IRS is expected to roll out by July 1.

If your taxes were filed before the new American Rescue Plan was passed in March, you shouldn't need to file an amended tax form. (Track your tax status with the IRS.) The IRS is still sending stimulus checks and "plus-up" payments, but will soon be able to focus on the child tax credit payment details. While you're here, see how to find out if the IRS has an unclaimed tax refund for you and how some could save up to $50,000 on their taxes this year. Also, here's how you can get up to $16,000 back for child care expenses. Here's what we know about a fourth check and what is happening with student loan forgiveness. This story is frequently updated.

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Calculate your amount for the child tax credit payment for 2021 and 2022

The revised child tax credit raises the 2020 limits from up to $2,000 per child to a maximum of $3,600 -- but the math gets complicated fast. Qualified children aged 5 and under count for $3,600. Kids between 6 and 17 years old count for $3,000 maximum per child; 18-year-olds and full-time college students 24 and under can bring parents a one-time $500 payment. 

Enter your details below, including your adjusted gross income, or AGI, to see your payment breakdown. This calculator does not store or use your data. The results are based on our current knowledge of the law and should be treated as broad estimates only (the IRS will determine the final amount). We suggest consulting a financial professional for a more personalized estimate.

Note: If your AGI is less than or equal to $75,000 as a single filer, $112,500 as a head of household or $150,000 filing jointly, you'll receive the full amount. For incomes higher than $150,000, your child tax credit payments will begin to phase out by $50 for every $1,000 of income over the threshold.

How the IRS payment schedule will work

Here's how the payments will arrive, starting in July through 2022.

You can opt out of receiving the smaller monthly payments. Here's how

If you'd rather get your 2021 child tax credit money as one large payment, you'll be able to opt out of monthly payments once the IRS opens the online portal to help you make that decision and input other information, like if your AGI or other changed circumstances. The IRS is expected to open its child tax credit website by July 1. 

Opting out would mean that instead of receiving $300 per month for your 3-year-old, and the remainder of your money in 2022 for example, you can wait until you file your taxes next year to claim the full $3,600 amount.

What happens if your kids age out of a payment bracket by the end of 2021?

If you have a 5-year-old turning 6 by the end of the year, 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 the year, you would receive $500 total for that dependent instead of $3,000. 

Here's more information about qualifications your child must meet for you to receive advance payments. Also, if you have a dependent who is a full-time college student and turns 25 this year, you won't receive any payment for them.

diagram: If you had a baby any time in 2021, you'll be able to claim up to $3,600 for your new addition. Sarah Tew/CNET © Provided by CNET If you had a baby any time in 2021, you'll be able to claim up to $3,600 for your new addition. Sarah Tew/CNET

Parents with 2021 newborn babies: You're eligible for the larger amount

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). That's on top of payments for any other qualified child dependents you claim. Here's our guide for parents of 2021 babies, including what parents of adopted infants should know.

IRS overpayment and income: Details you'll need to know

Your family's eligibility is determined in large part by your adjusted gross income. 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, a child tax credit portal the agency will make available by July 1 so you can update your information. If you need to make an adjustment, it will lower the payment amounts you'd receive if your new income reaches the phaseout level, according to Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst at Tax Foundation.

If you wait until 2022 to update your information when you file your taxes and you continue to receive the full amount based on your lower income, you would either have to return the excess money on your 2021 tax return next spring, according to Watson, accept a smaller 2021 refund or owe more in taxes.

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Your submitted 2020 tax return determines how much child tax credit money you'll get

You need to file your 2020 taxes to get the credit if you're a nonfiler. The IRS will automatically make the payments for those who have their taxes filed by the May 17 tax due date, the IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said. So if you don't have your tax return submitted by this time, the IRS won't know to send you a payment. Also, if you plan to file a tax extension, you'll likely be able to use the IRS portal, where you can update your information in case you've gained dependents since the last tax filing.

Your dependents need to meet these eligibility requirements

There are some specific rules regarding qualifications not just for parents and caregivers, but for the children, too. Here's what to know about dependent qualifications for the child tax credit. And here's how you could get up to $50,000 back through one-time credits and benefits.

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