On Thursday, families across the country will begin receiving monthly checks as part of an expansion of the child tax credit.
The monthly payments, which were included as part of the most recent COVID-19 stimulus bill, will continue through the end of 2021. The extra income to needy families has the potential to slash child poverty in half, according to an analysis from Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy.
Here’s everything you need to know about the expanded child tax credit payments:
Who qualifies for the expanded child tax credits?
Working families with dependents qualify for the full credit if they earned up to $112,500 as a single parent (known as a head of household) or $150,000 jointly. After that, the payments begin to phase out.
Individuals earning more than $200,000 per year and married couples with incomes above $400,000 a year don’t qualify.
The credit will also be available to more low-income parents thanks to Congress making it fully refundable, meaning families will receive it even if they don’t have a federal tax liability or aren’t required to file taxes.
How much will the child tax credit be?
Eligible families receive a tax credit up to $3,600 a year for each child under 6, and up to $3,000 for each child between the ages of 6 and 17. That’s an increase from $2,000 per child.
Half of that credit — up to $300 a month for each child under the age of 6 and up to $250 for each child between the ages of 6 and 17 — will be sent by the government on the 15th of each month for the rest of 2021.
If you filed your 2019 or 2020 tax returns electronically, you’ll receive the payments as a direct deposit, similar to how the COVID-19 stimulus checks were paid. The Biden administration estimates 80% of the payments will be made electronically, while the rest will be sent as paper checks or debit cards.
What if my child was born in 2021?
Parents of 2021 babies are still eligible to receive child tax credit payments.
The IRS has set up a Child Tax Credit Update Portal that allows families to report any change in status — including the number of dependents and income — throughout the year.
Families with babies born between January and July 2021 will receive advance checks along the same timeline as families with children born prior to this year.
For babies born between July and November 2021, families will receive all subsequent checks moving forward, and can claim the remainder of the credit on their tax return at the end of the year.
What if I don’t pay federal income taxes?
Families who don’t earn enough to be required to file a tax return can still receive the expanded credit. To sign up, go to the IRS non-filer sign-up tool on the IRS website.
Families already signed up with the non-filer tool to receive a stimulus check don’t need to take further action.
What if I don’t want to receive the payments monthly?
If you would rather wait until you file your 2021 tax return instead of receiving the expanded tax credit monthly, you can log on to the IRS website and unenroll from the advance payments.
Will the payments continue beyond 2021?
Under current law, the new child tax credit is only for 2021. Democrats are pushing to make it permanent, while President Joe Biden has proposed a four-year extension through 2025 in the American Families Plan that was introduced last month.
The proposals face stiff opposition from Republicans, who didn’t support the COVID-19 relief bill that included this year’s expanded tax credits.
Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) is among those who support the idea of permanent tax credits.
“When you start getting into the tax code there is plenty of money there if you have your priorities right,” Casey told reporters in May. “And if we don’t make the freedom of children a priority then shame on us as a country.”