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What does the new child tax credit mean for your 2022 taxes? Here’s what we know

What does the new child tax credit mean for your 2022 taxes? Here's what we know

$300 in $100 bills

Families that receive more money than they’re eligible for may have to pay it back to the IRS. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

There are a lot of changes to the child tax credit payments this year. For starters, this year’s credit is a big difference from last year, when children under the age of 6 got $2,000. Now it’s $3,600. But there are many other changes that can be confusing. Fortunately, the IRS has plenty of resources to help you check your eligibility, opt out of the program, and more. Ninety-two percent of all families with children in the US could receive their first automatic payment on July 15 and continue to receive up to $300 per month for each kid until the end of the year. 

But what does that mean for your taxes? The IRS bases eligibility and the credit amount on your household’s 2019 or 2020 tax return, and we know plenty can change between tax seasons — for instance, a pay increase. One way to guarantee that a tax adjustment doesn’t result in owing money back to the IRS is to update your info using the new tools. 

We’ll explain the math to estimate how much money you’ll get, how you can prepare now to avoid having to pay the IRS later, and what non-tax-filing families should know about the credit so they can register for payments. You can also see if your family qualifies before payments on July 15. 

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Child tax credit: Everything we know


Will you need to pay taxes on this year’s child tax credit money?

The short answer is no, but there are some financial details you still need. Child tax credit checks don’t count as income, so you won’t have to pay income taxes on the payments, Mark Jaeger, vice president of tax operations at TaxAct, told CNET. 

The IRS refers to these checks as “advance” payments ahead of 2021 tax season. “That means you’re simply getting the payments sooner rather than waiting to receive that money when you file,” Jaeger said. 

While you won’t pay taxes in 2022 on the payments you receive this year, you still may need to repay the IRS some part of the “advance” payment when you file your income tax return in 2022. 

Will you need to report your 2021 payments when you file your taxes next year?

Yes. In January 2022, the IRS will send families that received child tax credit payments a letter with the total amount of money they got in 2021. Hold on to this notice — which the IRS is calling Letter 6419 — you’ll need information from it when you file your 2021 tax return during next year’s tax season. (This is not the same letter that the IRS is sending this year about the payments.)

To make sure the IRS has your most recent mailing address, you’ll be able to update it through the Child Tax Credit Update Portal in coming months, the IRS said. You can also change your address through the Postal Service.

Will you ever have to pay your child tax credit money back?

Maybe. Unless you unenroll, or opt out, from the monthly child tax credit payments, you’ll automatically get half of your estimated amount this year from the IRS. Forgoing the monthly payments means that instead of receiving seven smaller installments — six in 2021 and one in 2022 — you will simply collect one large payout when you file your taxes in 2022.

You can also use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to update your information and receive reduced advanced monthly payments to avoid paying the IRS back next year. 

If for whatever reason you wind up getting paid more than you actually qualify for, you may need to repay some of the money. That could be the case if someone in your household ends up getting a better paying job that pushes you out of your prior income bracket, or if one of your dependents ages out of an age bracket. 

Those kinds of changes in circumstances are one major reason why the IRS is giving folks the option of opting out of the advance payments. To reduce the chance you receive an overpayment this year, you will soon be able to update the IRS with your current family status using the child tax credit portal (those update categories on the portal aren’t yet available). You should continue to keep the IRS up to date with family changes through the end of 2021.

It’s important to know that if the household’s adjusted gross income, or AGI, for 2021 is below a set income level, you likely won’t owe the IRS anything, even if you received more child tax credit money than you technically should have. Above this income level, the amount you need to repay increases, or phases in, until you owe a full repayment above a set cap.

This is what the IRS calls “repayment protection” so that lower-income families won’t be on the hook to repay money. 

Income caps for repaying child tax credit payments

Filing status Qualify for full repayment protection Repayment protection phases out
Single filer Up to $40,000 Over $80,000
Filing as head of household Up to $50,000 Over $100,000
Married filing a joint return Up to $60,000 Over $120,000

The letter the IRS sends you in January will help you determine if you received an overpayment and if you need to repay all or part of the advance payments.

Could you be owed even more child tax credit money in 2022 after filing your taxes?

Yes. After you compare the information on the letter the IRS sends you in January 2022 with what you are eligible for, you may discover you are due more than you received in advance payments, based on your actual 2021 income. If that is the case, you can claim the remaining amount of your child tax credit when you file your return.


Child tax credit payments start July 15 for 92% of U.S. families with children. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Will the child tax credit affect other federal benefits you receive?

According to the IRS, no. Because the advance child tax credit payments don’t count as income, federal, state or local agencies can’t use the amount when determining if you or your family is eligible for other benefits or assistance.

For more financial benefits this year, here’s how to save money on child care costs and health care expenses.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

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