Child tax credit countdown: 10 days to calculate how much money you’ll get

Advanced child tax credit payments start July 15.


Sarah Tew/CNET

How much extra money can eligible parents expect with their first advance monthly child tax credit check next week? Each dependent under 6 years old could get you up to $300 per month, and each dependent aged 6 through 17 could get you up to $250 per month. And that’s just for this year alone — the other half of the child tax credit comes when you file your taxes in 2022. Dependents 18 years and older could potentially qualify for one payment after tax season next year.

Before the first monthly payment on July 15, you can check if you qualify based on your family’s income as well as the ages of your children. If you’d prefer to get one large check next year for the total amount (up to $3,600 per kid), you could also opt out of the monthly payment program, which you might want to do so soon. And if the IRS doesn’t have your updated information on file, you’ll probably need to use new child tax credit portals to give the tax agency your details. 

We’ll explain how the math and other requirements work in determining your credit amount. The IRS has been sending out letters to parents to let them know whether they qualify. We can also help you sign up with the IRS to manage your child tax credit payments and tell you what to expect during tax season next year. This story has been updated recently. 

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Calculate your 2021 child tax credit payments here

Start here by entering your adjusted gross income and number of kids. (Our calculator will not store or use your data.) The results you get 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 if you want a more personalized estimate.

Child tax credit calculator for 2021

Use details from your 2020 tax return.

1. Choose your filing status below.

The child tax credit math is somewhat involved this time around: For parents of eligible children up to age 5, the IRS will pay $3,600, half as six monthly payments and half as a 2021 tax credit. For each child ages 6 through 17, the IRS will pay $3,000. The IRS will make a one-time payment of $500 for dependents age 18 or full-time college students up through age 24.

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

Advance monthly child tax credit checks schedule

The first child tax credit payment starts on July 15 and continues through next year. Here’s a breakdown of when payments will be deposited and the max amount to expect based on the age brackets.

Timeline for child tax credit payments

Monthly Maximum payment (newborn to 5) Maximum payment (6 to 17) Maximum payment (18 to 24)
July 15, 2021: First payment of the year $300 $250
Aug. 13, 2021 $300 $250
Sept. 15, 2021 $300 $250
Oct. 15, 2021 $300 $250
Nov. 15, 2021 $300 $250
Dec. 15, 2021: Last payment of the year $300 $250
April 2022: Second half of payment $1,800 $1,500 $500

Requirements that dependents need to meet

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. 

As for your child aging out of a payment bracket, the amount of the credit depends on the age of a child on Dec. 31 this year. So if you have a 5-year-old turning 6 before the end of 2021, 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 2021, you would receive $500 total for that dependent instead of $3,000. If you have a dependent who’s a full-time college student and turns 25 this year, you won’t receive any payment for that dependent.

New parents can qualify for child tax credit payments

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.) This is 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.

Parents who don’t usually file taxes can also qualify

The IRS will automatically make the payments for those who filed their 2020 tax return or claimed dependents on their 2019 tax return. If you didn’t submit your tax return, the IRS won’t know to send you a payment (and also won’t know if you’ve gained dependents since the last tax filing).

If you’re a nonfiler and didn’t file a tax return this year and don’t plan to, the IRS has come up with an alternative. A new “Non-filer Sign-up tool” allows families who don’t file taxes to submit an electronic form to let the IRS know how many kids they have and their ages — including babies born in 2020 and 2021 — so they can get the correct payment amount. 

While the tool is intended to help low-income families enroll in the program, it has been criticized for not being entirely user-friendly. For example, it works better on a computer than a mobile device, and requires that you have access to an email address and understand English. 

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Parents of 2021 newborns and adopted children can still get upcoming child tax credit payments. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Parents can opt out of the advance monthly payments

If you’d rather get your 2021 child tax credit money as one large payment, you can unenroll from the monthly payments now that the IRS has opened its online portal. That means that instead of receiving $300 per month for your 3-year-old (and the remainder of your money in 2022, for example), you’d wait until you filed your taxes in 2022 to claim the full $3,600.

To stop the advance payments, you need to unenroll three days before the first Thursday of the month. So if you want to opt out of that second payment on Aug. 13, you’ll need to do so before the Aug. 2 deadline. 

Later on, that same IRS portal will allow people to check on the status of their payments and make updates to their information. Here’s the monthly schedule to unenroll. 

Child tax credit unenrollment deadline schedule

Payment month Unenrollment deadline Payment date
July June 28, 2021 July 15, 2021
August Aug. 2, 2021 Aug. 13, 2021
September Aug. 30, 2021 Sept. 15, 2021
October Oct. 4, 2021 Oct. 15, 2021
November Nov. 1, 2021 Nov. 15, 2021
December Nov. 29, 2021 Dec. 15, 2021

Only one parent can qualify for shared-custody dependents

If you share custody, only one parent can claim the monthly advanced child tax credit payments. This may be a surprise for parents that were separated, but both received one payment each for their child. Parents should also be careful when claiming the child tax credit money because if the child is filed incorrectly, parents may have to repay some or all of the money. 

How to make sure the IRS doesn’t send an overpayment

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: You’ll use the new Child Tax Credit Update Portal to update your information when that happens. If you need to make an adjustment, the IRS 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 will have to return the excess money on your 2021 tax return next spring, or else accept a smaller 2021 refund or owe more in taxes. Here’s more information on how the child tax credit affects your taxes



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