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Opt out of monthly child tax credit checks? 3 reasons you may want to before the next deadline

Child tax credit: Here's how to opt out of monthly payments before the next deadline

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Families that choose to opt out of advance monthly payments get one lump sum in 2022. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

The initial advance monthly installment of the child tax credit will arrive for millions of eligible households next Thursday — and it could be up to $300 per kid. But did you know it’s an option to defer those partial payments in 2021 and get one big payment next year? It might be that your family circumstances, like income or number of kids, are changing this year, and who would want to risk owing any of the credit back to the IRS? If there’s no chance of that, however, the advance checks can bring immediate relief. 

If you decide to unenroll from the advance payment program (in two-parent households, both have to unenroll separately) you’ll wait until next tax season to claim the full amount when you file your tax return. A lump sum could be a better option for families saving for a big expense. If you’re just learning this, you already missed the deadline to opt out of the July 15 check. But there’s still time to opt out before the Aug. 13 check. (The deadline for unenrollment is Aug. 2.) You’ll use one of the new IRS portals to do so, too. 

We’ll tell you why some families might choose to opt out. We’ll also explain how to use the new Update Portal to manage your payments and what to know about upcoming opt-out deadlines. 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 is updated regularly.

Key reasons your family might choose to unenroll

Here are some reasons why unenrolling from the advance 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. 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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How and when to opt out (or opt back in)

The date to opt out of receiving the July 15 payment is past, so your next shot to unenroll is by Aug. 2 for the Aug. 13 payment. You can opt out anytime in 2021 to stop receiving 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 a 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 re-enroll yet. Starting in late summer, you should be able to opt back in.

Here’s how to unenroll:

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. 

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

Extra steps married couples have to take

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

What opting out means for your payment next tax season

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 situation similar to people who have 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 

Additional 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 parents who don’t file taxes can register for payments

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 income tax returns so they can register with the agency and receive 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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