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Qualify for the child tax credit next month? Here are 3 ways to check

Qualify for the child tax credit next month? Here are 3 ways to check

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Eligible parents could receive a $250 or $300 advance monthly payment in less than three weeks. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Do any of your friends, relatives or co-workers qualify for the first child tax credit payment, on July 15? Better yet, do you and your dependents qualify? Now that a few useful online tools have been made available by the IRS, with just a little time and effort you can see if you’re eligible. The bottom line is that it depends heavily on income requirements and age limitations, but the vast majority of US households with children will receive the benefit. 

There are also some specific rules, including for those in a shared custody arrangement or living outside the US. And there’s a bit more prep work for families that aren’t usually required to file an income tax return (what the IRS calls a “nonfiler”). And to top it off, we can help you calculate how much you’ll get over the next year, so you can start planning. 

For more details about the child tax credit, you can read this primer on payments. We can walk you through how to use ID.me to log in to the IRS tools, and explain how payments this year could affect your taxes next year. We’ve also put together key details on receiving the third stimulus payment. We’ve recently updated this story. 

1. Look for two IRS letters in the mail

If a letter arrives in your mailbox from the IRS, don’t despair. Chances are, it’s the tax agency letting you know you’re one of 36 million families who may be eligible for a child tax credit payment. The IRS will send the letter if it has determined that you could qualify for child tax credit money based on your 2019 or 2020 federal income tax return. If you don’t typically file taxes, the IRS can use any information you submitted online, using what’s called the nonfilers tool, to flag you for eligibility if you have kids. 

That’s just the first letter giving you a heads-up that you might qualify. The IRS plans to send a second letter to confirm that you’re eligible, and to estimate how much child tax credit money you could get when payments start July 15. To recap, the tax credit is up to $3,600 per child under age 6, and up to $3,000 for each child ages 6 to 17. When broken down into the advance monthly payments you could choose to receive this year, that’s $300 or $250 per child. 

You don’t need to do anything if you receive this letter, except hold on to it in case you need to reference it later on. Nonfilers and other people who don’t get the letter, don’t worry quite yet. Here’s more to know about the IRS letter — and read on for more qualification tips.


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2. Use the eligibility assistant online and register through the IRS portals 

As of June 22, the IRS has both of its web portals open to help you get your child tax credit money. The portal for nonfilers opened last week, while the second portal called the Update Portal opened Tuesday. Another tool, an interactive eligibility assistant, can help families determine whether they qualify — this is useful if you haven’t received a letter in the mail from the IRS about your eligibility. 

The online portals let you add new information, correct or update outdated details — like the number of kids you have — and make a few other decisions about opting out of several smaller payments. 

$300 cash with calculator

Calculating your child tax credit payment in advance can help with budgeting expenses. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

3. Review child tax credit rules and calculate your amount

Instead of waiting for the IRS to send you a letter, you can make an educated guess about your qualification status fairly easily. We think the fastest way is to use our child tax credit calculator. Just enter your yearly income and number of kids. Don’t worry — the calculator is private and anonymous and won’t store or use any of your personal information.

For the most part, the calculator tool will tell you what you need to know. However, there are some outlier qualifications that could crop up. For example, in some cases it’s possible your income will disqualify you

And while parents of new babies will generally qualify for the full amount, that could change if you share custody of a child. US citizenship also plays a role, so if any of your kids are adopted from another country, you’ll want to make sure you know all the rules that apply to kids

For more, check here to see if your state owes you money, how you could get money back for your child care costs and if you could expect a refund for the unemployment tax break.

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