$3,600 child tax credit: What you need to know about opting out of advance monthly payments

Eligible families that choose to opt out of advance monthly payments get one lump sum next year. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Millions of families across the US are relying on this year’s recurring child tax credit payments to bring some immediate financial relief. The first check of up to $300 per child will arrive next week — it’s an advance installment of the credit families would normally see when filing taxes in the spring. But some households might choose to opt out. It might be that your family circumstances, like income or number of kids, are changing this year and you don’t want to risk owing any of the credit back to the IRS next year. 

Once you unenroll from the advance payment program, you’ll claim the full amount (if still eligible) when you file your tax return in 2022. And a lump sum could be a better option for families saving for a big expense. If you missed the deadline to opt out of the first check on July 15, there’s still time to opt out before the Aug. 13 check. You’ll use one of the new IRS portals that launched this month to do that. 

We’ll describe how to use the portal to manage your payments and what to do if you miss a deadline. We’ll also tell you why some families might choose to unenroll, as well as the extra steps married couples will have to take. Here’s how you can claim up to $16,000 in child care expenses as a tax break next year and some ideas for the best ways to spend your child tax credit money. This story sees regular updates.

How to opt out of the advance child tax credit payments 

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. 

Three main reasons to opt out 

Here are some reasons why unenrolling from the monthly child tax credit payment program may be a good idea: 

  • You’d rather have one large payment next year instead of seven smaller payments spanning 2021 and 2022. This could be the case for families saving up for a big expense or those who have budgeted for that money to pay off outstanding debt. 
  • You know your household circumstances or tax situation will change at some point this year and don’t want to deal with having to update your information in the portal.
  • You’re concerned the IRS might send you an overpayment based on old tax information, and you don’t want to worry about paying that money back next year. That could be the case if your household income goes up or if a dependent ages out of an age bracket before the end of 2021. 

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Opt-out deadlines and how to opt back in

You can opt out anytime in 2021 to not receive your remaining monthly payments. To unenroll, the IRS said you must opt out three days before the first Thursday of the month to not receive the next month’s payment. See the chart below for more. If you miss that deadline, the IRS said you will get the next scheduled advance payment until the agency can process your request to unenroll.

The IRS said currently if you unenroll, you can’t reenroll yet. Starting in late summer, you should be able to opt back in.

Extra steps for married couples

Unenrolling applies only to one individual at a time. So if you’re married and file jointly, both you and your spouse need to opt out. 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.

Child tax credit payment unenrollment dates

Payment month Unenrollment deadline Payment date
July June 28 July 15
August Aug. 2 Aug. 13
September Aug. 30 Sept. 15
October Oct. 4 Oct. 15
November Nov. 1 Nov. 15
December Nov. 29 Dec. 15

What opting out means for the 2022 payment

Those who choose to decline this year’s child tax credit installments (amounting to half the total) will still receive the same amount of money in the end, but are simply delaying when they receive 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 get $3,600 total when you file your taxes in 2022. 

Be aware that if you unenroll from getting the monthly child tax credits from July through December, you won’t get your full payment — or any payment at all — until after the IRS processes your 2021 tax return in 2022. The total amount will then arrive with your tax refund or can be used to offset any taxes you owe at that time; you’ll be in a similar situation to those people who had to claim missing stimulus checks this year.

However, if you choose to receive monthly payments, you’d get six installments of $300 payments each month this year and another $1,800 with your tax refund next year instead. Keep in mind that if you take the money in advance now, it could lower your tax refund next year. 

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 and meet all eligibility requirements. 

Child tax credit payment schedule

Monthly  Maximum payment per child 5 and younger  Maximum payment for each child; 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 

Other ways to use the IRS update portal

The Child Tax Credit Update Portal will also let you add any changes that’ve happened since you last filed your taxes. For example, if you had a new baby in 2021 or gained a qualified dependent or if your income recently changed, the IRS wouldn’t have that on file yet. 

Before the end of 2021, the IRS will give the portal more functionality. By early August, you’ll be able to update your mailing address. Later in the summer, you’ll be able to add or subtract qualifying children, report a change in your marital status or income or reenroll in monthly payments if you previously unenrolled. 

How non-tax filing parents can register

If you filed your taxes before the May 17 deadline, then you’ll automatically receive the advance monthly payments starting July 15. An online IRS portal for nonfilers is also available for families who don’t normally file an income tax return so they can register with the agency and receive their payments. However, the tool has been criticized for not being easy to use — especially on a phone. 

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



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