Opt out of monthly child tax credit payments: Here’s how to get one big lump sum instead

Believe it or not, a lot of families are going to want to opt out of their child tax credit payments in 2021.

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The IRS will automatically send families with eligible dependents the first of the monthly child tax credit checks on July 15. You could receive up to $300 per dependent per month — depending on your household income and the age of your child or children — from July through the end of the year, with the rest coming when you file taxes in 2022. The total tax credit, when you add up the six monthly checks and the lump sum, equals $3,600 for families that qualify for the full amount (for each child).

But not everyone wants to receive a check every month, for a variety of reasons. If you decide you’d rather opt out of the $300 monthly checks in favor of a larger lump sum payment next year, you can definitely do that. The IRS says it plans to open two online child tax credit portals by the end of June. One of those portals will be for making changes and updating your household details, which is especially helpful for those who don’t normally file taxes. And the other portal will be specifically designated for those households that don’t want or need the child tax credit money immediately and decide to unenroll from the monthly payment schedule (we’ll explain why that might be the case below). 

Parents might want to start thinking about how to spend their child tax credit money when it comes. And in addition to the child tax credit, you can claim up to $16,000 in child care expenses as a tax break next year. And if you’re still waiting on your $1,400 stimulus check or your “plus-up” payment, here’s how to track it down. Here’s what we know about the new stimulus plans and how they might bring you more money. This story gets frequent updates. 

Why would parents opt out of advance child tax credit payments?

Here are some reasons why unenrolling from the monthly child tax credit payments 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 and don’t want to deal with having to update your information in the portal.
  • You’re concerned the IRS might accidentally send you an overpayment, and you don’t want to worry about paying that money back next year.

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What is the payment schedule for those who opt out?

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. 

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 next year. The total amount will then arrive with your tax refund, or could 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 on their taxes this year.

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. 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. You can use our child tax credit 2021 calculator to estimate how much you should get.

How will the IRS portals help set up a single annual payment next year? 

If you filed your taxes before the May 17 deadline, then you’ll automatically receive the advance monthly payments starting July 15. But before next month, the IRS will open two portals designed specifically for the new child tax credit payments, with one of them available to households who wish to opt out of this year’s monthly installments. 

We’ll know more about the details once the portals are up and running, and the IRS should have more resources to build the portals with tax season coming to an end. We do know the IRS will have paper forms available for those who don’t have internet access. “We will make forms and instructions available for folks who want to opt out,” IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said April 13.

We also know the portals can be used to update the IRS with any changes that have happened since you last filed your taxes. For example, if you had a new baby in 2021, gained a new qualified dependent or if your income changed recently, the IRS wouldn’t have that on file yet.

For more child tax credit information, here’s what you need to know if you share custody of a child. Also, here’s what to know about the child tax credit payment timeline and the extra thing parents of 2021 babies will need to do to claim their payments.

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