What’s New about the Child Tax Credit in 2021?

Last updated 11/22/2022

It’s not too late to get your 2021 Expanded Child Tax Credit! You may be eligible even if you didn’t have earnings in 2021 or don’t usually file income taxes. To claim your CTC, wait until the 2023 tax season begins to get help filing your 2021 tax return. You can also claim your CTC through GetYourRefund.org starting on January 31, 2023.

What is the Child Tax Credit (CTC)?

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) helps offset the costs of raising kids. Nearly every family is eligible to receive the 2021 CTC this year, including families that haven’t filed a tax return and families that don’t have recent income. Each qualifying household is eligible to receive up to $3,600 for each child under 6, and $3,000 for each child between 6 and 17. The credit is not a loan. Many families received half of their CTC between July and December 2021. If you haven’t gotten the second half of your credit, you can get it by filing a 2021 tax return. If you did not receive the advance payments, you can claim the full CTC by filing a 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022).  

What is new about the CTC in 2021?

The 2021 CTC is different than before in 6 key ways:

  1. Increases the tax credit amount. The tax credit’s maximum amount is $3,000 per child and $3,600 for children under 6.
  2. Makes the credit fully refundable. Even if you don’t owe taxes, you could get the full CTC refund.
  3. Removes the minimum income requirement. You can have zero income and still claim the CTC.
  4. Raises the qualifying age. Children 17 and under can qualify for the credit.
  5. Provides advance payments. If you already qualify for the current CTC when you filed your 2020 tax return (which you file in 2021), you can start receiving part of the new credit during 2021. You don’t have to wait until you file your 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022). The IRS will send you monthly payments for half your new credit between July and December 2021.
  6. Lowers the phase out rate. The CTC amount will start to gradually decrease starting at $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples and $112,500 for head of household).
Click to see a chart to compare the new changes to the CTC
$2,000 CTC (current) 2021 CTC (new)
Age of child Children age 16 and under can qualify for the credit Children age 17 and under can qualify for the credit
Credit Amount $2,000 per child $3,000 per child and $3,600 for children under the age of 6
Refund Amount Up to $1,400 per child is refundable Fully refundable
Income You must have earned income more than $2,500 to qualify for the refundable part of the credit No income requirement, you can have zero income and still qualify for the full credit amount per child
Advance Payments No advance payments Periodic advance payments between July to December 2021
Phase Out Rate The CTC amount will start to decrease at $200,000 for single filers and heads of households ($400,000 for married couples) The CTC amount will start to decrease at $75,000 for single filers ($150,000 for married couples and $112,500 for heads of households)

This is a temporary one-year expansion of the CTC for your 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022).

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Eligibility

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1. Am I eligible for the 2021 Child Tax Credit?

There are three main criteria to claim the 2021 CTC:

  1. Income: There is no minimum income requirement to claim the new CTC. However, the CTC will start to decrease when you make $75,000 if single ($150,000 for married couples and $112,500 for heads of households). Each $1,000 of income above the phase-out level reduces your CTC amount by $50.
  2. Taxpayer Identification Number: You and your spouse need to have an SSN or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
  3. Qualifying Child: Children claimed for the CTC must be “qualifying children.”

To claim children for the CTC, they must pass the following “qualifying child” tests:

Relationship: The child must be your child, grandchild, stepchild or adopted child; younger sibling, step-sibling, half-sibling, or their descendent; or a foster child placed with you by a government agency. Note: if you are the child’s legal guardian, that is considered a child placed with you by a government agency.

Age: The child must be 17 or under on December 31, 2021.

Residency: The child must live with you in the U.S. for more than half the year. Time living together doesn’t have to be consecutive. There is an exception for non-custodial parents who are permitted by the custodial parent to claim the child as a dependent (a waiver form signed by the custodial parent is required).

Taxpayer Identification Number: Children claimed for the CTC must have a valid social security number (SSN).

Support: The child does not provide more than half of their own support in 2021.

Dependency: The child must be considered a dependent for tax filing purposes.

Note: If you do not already have an ITIN, you are NOT eligible for the expanded CTC. If you need to renew your ITIN, you are eligible to claim the CTC when you submit your 2021 tax return along with IRS form W-7, “Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number”.  

Note: If you are separated or divorced, you and your (former) spouse can’t claim different tax credits for the same child. For example, if you take turns claiming a child on a tax return, and you claim a child for the CTC this year, you will also have to claim that child for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) this year, if you are eligible. For more information about custody and the Child Tax Credit, click here to learn more.

2. What if I get government benefits? Will these payments count against eligibility?

Tax credit refunds, including the CTC, don’t count as income against federally funded benefit programs like SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, or the housing choice voucher program (Section 8). Tax credit refunds that are saved are not counted toward asset limits in such programs for 12 months.

3. Do advance payments count as income? Do I need to report it on my tax return?

No. Advance payments are not income and do not need to be reported as income on your tax return. These payments were early payments of your 2021 Child Tax Credit, which you would normally claim as part of your tax refund when you file your tax return. Even though the advance payments don’t need to be reported on your tax return, in January 2022, the IRS sent you Letter 6419 that tells you the total amount of advance payments sent to you in 2021. Please keep this letter for your tax records. On your 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022), you may need to refer to this notice to claim your remaining CTC. You can either use Letter 6419 or your IRS account. Learn more about Letter 6419. 

4. Do I need a Social Security Number (SSN) to get the 2021 Child Tax Credit?

You (and your spouse if you are married, filing jointly) can have either a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to get the CTC.

Children you claim for the CTC must have valid SSNs.

Click here to learn more about how to get an ITIN.

5. Were my advance payments reduced if I owed child support payments, back taxes, federal or state debt, or money to creditors or debt collectors?

No. The IRS did not reduce or offset your advance payments to pay past-due child support, back taxes, and federal or state debts. However, they were not protected from garnishment by creditors and debt collectors. 

When you file your tax return and receive the rest of your CTC as part of your tax refund, it can be reduced to pay past-due child support payments, back taxes, Federal or state debts, and garnishment by creditors and debt collectors.

6. How much will my 2021 Child Tax Credit amount decrease by if I have a higher income?

The 2021 CTC will be reduced in two steps:

  1. The CTC will be reduced to $2,000 per child: It will reduce by $50 for each $1,000 that you are above the income threshold ($75,000 for single filers, $150,000 for married couples, and $112,500 for heads of households) until the CTC reaches $2,000.
  2. The CTC will be reduced again to below $2,000 per child: It will reduce by $50 for each $1,000 that you are above the income threshold ($200,000 for single filers and heads of households and $400,000 for married couples) until the CTC reaches $0.

If you qualify for the $2,000 CTC, you will also receive advance payments.

Read here to see if you are eligible for the $2,000 CTC.

Getting your CTC and advance payments

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7. How would I have gotten the 2021 Child Tax Credit advance payments? 

Advance payments were sent monthly from July to December 2021. You should have gotten advance payments if you fall into any of the below categories: 

If you were required to file taxes:

  • Filed a tax return for tax year 2019 or 2020. Your tax return is used to determine eligibility for advance payments even if you didn’t claim the CTC on your tax return.

If you weren’t normally required to file taxes:

  • Successfully submitted your information using the 2020 IRS Non-Filer portal (the one used to get your stimulus payments).
  • Successfully submitted your information using the 2021 IRS Child Tax Credit Non-Filer portal (no longer available) or GetCTC.
Click to see a table to check if you're required to file a 2021 tax return
Filing Status 2021 Gross Income (Taxpayers under 65) 2021 Gross Income (Taxpayers over 65)
Single $12,550 $14,250
Head of Household $18,800 $20,500
Married Filing Jointly $25,100 (both spouses) $26,450 (one spouse)
$27,800 (both spouses)
Married Filing Separately $5 $5
Qualifying Widow with Dependent Child $25,100 $26,450

If you didn’t receive your advance payments, you can get the full amount of your CTC by filing a 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022). Click here to learn about free tax filing services. 

If you are a first-time filer, you will need a Taxpayer Identification Number. This can be an SSN or ITIN.

Click here to learn more about how to get an ITIN.

Note: If you do not already have an ITIN, you are NOT eligible for the expanded CTC. If you need to renew your ITIN, you are eligible to claim the CTC when you submit your 2021 tax return along with IRS form W-7, “Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number”.  

8. What if I didn’t file a 2019 or 2020 tax return and I didn’t use the 2020 IRS Non-Filer tool, the 2021 IRS Child Tax Credit Non-Filer tool, or the 2021 GetCTC tool? How can I claim the 2021 Child Tax Credit?

While you can no longer get advance payments, you can still get the full amount of the CTC that you are eligible for by filing a 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022). GetCTC will be available through November 15, 2022, to claim your full CTC. Click here to learn about other free tax filing services. 

9. How much money will I get from the 2021 Child Tax Credit? When will I get the payments?

The 2021 CTC is worth up to $3,600 for children under six and up to $3,000 for children ages 6-17. Half the credit was delivered through monthly payments in 2021. The remaining half will be delivered when you file a tax return in 2022. 

Example: Catlin has a 12-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son and earned $12,000 in 2020. When he filed his 2020 tax return (which you file in 2021), he claimed the current CTC and received a total of $1,425 in 2021. Because of the new rule changes to the CTC, when he files his 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022), his CTC will be worth $6,600. Through the advance payments, he started receiving half of his new credit in 2021 ($3,300) in monthly payments from the IRS between July and December 2021. He claimed the remaining amount when he filed his tax return in 2022. 

You can use Propel’s 2021 Child Tax Credit Calculator to calculate how much money you will receive from the CTC. 

Advance payments started in July 2021 and end December 2021. If you didn’t receive your payments, you can get the full amount of your CTC by filing a 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022). Click here for free tax filing services. 

10. How were the advance payments sent?

If the IRS already had your banking information because you had a tax refund directly deposited, your advance payments were sent as a direct deposit. The direct deposits were labeled “ChildCTC.” The IRS uses the sources listed below (in order) to know which bank account to deposit your payments in:

  1. Your 2020 tax return
  2. Your 2019 tax return or the information you submitted to the IRS 2020 Non-Filer tool to get your stimulus checks
  3. Information you submitted to Get My Payment in 2020
  4. A federal agency that sends you benefits (eg: Social Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, or the Railroad Retirement Board)

If the IRS did not have any of your banking information, your advance payments were sent by mail.

11. Was there a deadline to sign up for advance CTC payments?

The opportunity to sign up for advance CTC payments has ended. If you didn’t receive some or all of your advance payments, you should file your 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022) to get the full amount of your CTC.

IRS Non-Filer Portal

The IRS Non-Filer Portal is closed, as of October 15, 2021.

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12. What is the IRS Non-Filer Portal used for?

The IRS Non-Filer Portal is now closed. When it was open, you could use it to:

  • Sign up for the CTC and advance payments
  • Sign up for the third stimulus check
  • Get your first and second stimulus check as the Recovery Rebate Credit (if you didn’t get them or didn’t get the full amounts that you are eligible for)

13. How do I sign-up for the CTC advance payments using the IRS Non-Filer portal?

The IRS Non-Filer Portal is now closed.

GetCTC.org

GetCTC will be available through November 15, 2022 at 11:59 pm PT. GetCTC is a mobile-friendly tool created in partnership with the White House to allow people to sign up for their CTC.

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14. What is GetCTC.org used for?

You can use GetCTC.org to:

  • Sign up for the CTC
  • Sign up for the third stimulus check as the Recovery Rebate Credit

15. How long can I use GetCTC.org?

You have until November 15, 2022 at 11:59 pm PT to use GetCTC before the portal closes. If you did not receive advance payments in 2021, you can get your full CTC amount when you file your 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022).

IRS Child Tax Credit Update Portal (CTC UP)

CTC UP is no longer available. Click below to jump to a specific question

16. What is the Child Tax Credit Update Portal (CTC UP) used for?

CTC UP is no longer available. The IRS Child Tax Credit Update Portal (CTC UP) allowed you to opt out of advance CTC payments, change how you received advance payments, and check the amount of advance payments you received.  

17. How do I use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to opt out of advance payments?

CTC UP is no longer available. This CTC UP Guide includes screenshots and step-by-step instructions to create an account, check your eligibility for advance payments, get information about monthly payment amounts, opt out of advance payments, and other features of the portal. 

18. When can I update my family, address, banking, and income information on the Child Tax Credit Update Portal?

CTC UP is no longer available. See QA16 in the IRS 2021 Child Tax Credit and Advance Child Tax Credit Payments FAQs, to learn more about when the IRS made new features available on CTC UP.  

19. Why would I have wanted to opt out of CTC advance payments?

Advance payments allowed you to receive half of your CTC through monthly payments sent from July to December 2021. If you opted out of advance payments, you were choosing to receive your full Child Tax Credit ($3,600 per child under age 6 and $3,000 per child age 6 to 17) when you file your 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022). 

Here are some reasons why you may have wanted to unenroll from getting CTC advance payments: 

  • Changes to your household: Advance payments were based on your 2019 or 2020 tax return. If you claimed a child on your 2019 or 2020 tax return and that child no longer lived with you in 2021, you were no longer eligible for the CTC and advance payments for that child. One exception is if the other parent agrees to allow you to get the advance payments and CTC (a waiver form signed by the custodial parent is required). 
  • Changes to your income: You qualified for the CTC advance payments based on your income on your 2019 or 2020 tax return. If in 2021, you earned more money and were no longer eligible for the full CTC, you may have wanted to opt out or update your income on CTC UP (which is no longer available). Refer to Question 6 to see how the CTC decreases. 
  • Prefer one large payment: You wanted to receive your CTC in one payment when you filed your 2021 tax return (which your file in 2022). Example: You were planning to move to a new apartment with your family, which required a large deposit. You rather wait to receive your entire CTC payment in 2022 for the deposit instead of receiving smaller, monthly payments. 
  • Changes to your payment information: Your mailing address changed since you filed your 2019 or 2020 tax return, which meant the IRS sent advance payments to the wrong address. CTC UP (no longer available) allowed you to change your address. 

While you may be concerned about repaying your CTC advance payments, Congress enacted repayment protection for families with lower incomes if the IRS overpays you. Depending on your income, you may not have to pay anything back (see Question 27 for more information). 

In addition, if you are married filing jointly, remember that your spouse also needed to unenroll if your household did not want to receive any advance payments. If your spouse did not unenroll, your spouse would have still gotten half of the joint advance payments. 

Source: Code for America’s Reasons to Opt-out of AdvCTC 

20. What was the deadline to opt out of CTC advance payments?

Payment Month Unenrollment Deadline Payment Date
July 6/28/2021 7/15/2021
August 8/2/2021 8/13/2021
September 8/30/2021 9/15/2021
October 10/4/2021 10/15/2021
November 11/1/2021 11/15/2021
December 11/29/2021 12/15/2021

You had to opt out by 11:59 pm Eastern Time on the unenrollment deadline. You didn’t need to opt out each month. If you missed the deadline to opt out you would have gotten your next scheduled advance payment until your unenrollment request was processed (which could have taken up to 7 calendar days). 

Troubleshooting

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21. What if I share custody of my child? Who will get to claim the 2021 Child Tax Credit?

Only one person — whoever lives with the child for more than half the year — can claim the CTC. If you claimed your child on your 2020 tax return (or 2019 return if you haven’t filed your 2020 tax return), starting in July 2021 you should have automatically begun receiving half of the new CTC through advance payments. You will receive the rest of the CTC when you file a 2021 tax return in 2022.

For more detailed information, view this guide on the Child Tax Credit and divorced, unmarried, separated, and non-custodial parents and guardians.

22. What if my advance payments were based on my 2019 tax return and I recently filed my 2020 tax return with changes? Would the IRS update the amounts of my advance payments?

Yes. As soon as the IRS processed your 2020 tax return, the amount of your advance payments was adjusted if there are changes to your income, number of qualifying children, or filing status.

Because of the IRS delay on processing tax returns, your advance payments may not have been adjusted in time. For example, if you added a new child on your 2020 tax return but the return hadn’t been processed, that child was not included in your advance payments. To resolve this issue, file your 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022) to get the money that you are owed. 

23. What if my CTC advance payment amount was wrong?

Your CTC advance payments may have been too little or too much. Your advance payment amount could have been wrong because: 

  • The number of children in your household changed. You may have had a new baby in 2021 or your children were no longer living with you. 
  • Your income changed. Your income may have been lower or higher in 2021. Since advance payments were based on your 2019 or 2020 tax return, the payments may not have accurately reflected how much you currently made. 
  • Your marital status changed. If you got divorced in 2021 and you were claiming the children on your 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022), you may have missing all or some of the advance payments that you were eligible for. 
  • Garnishment. While your CTC advance payments were protected from tax debts, state and federal debts, and past-due child support, the advance payments were not protected from garnishment by your state, local government, and private creditors. 

If you wanted to adjust your advanced payment amounts, you could have: 

  • Filed your 2020 tax return. If you hadn’t filed your 2020 tax return, you could have filed it to provide the IRS with your most current information, such as your number of children, income, and marital status. *Because of the IRS delay on processing tax returns, your advance payments may not have been adjusted in time. You would have needed to file a 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022) to receive any missing money that you were owed. 
  • Updated your information in CTC UP (no longer available). You could have updated your income in CTC UP to ensure that your advance payment amounts were correct.  
  • Opted out of advance payments. You could have also chosen to opt out of advance payments and re-enroll later in the year once you updated your information. 
  • Requested your garnished advance payment to be released. You could have requested that your state, local government, or financial institution release your advance payment to you. 

24. What if I filed a 2020 tax return, but the IRS still hasn’t processed my 2020 tax return?

The IRS used your 2019 tax return to determine if you were eligible for advance payments and if you were, the amount you qualified for. Once your 2020 tax return was processed, your payment amount may have changed. 

Because of the IRS delay on processing tax returns, your advance payments may not have been adjusted in time. You will need to file a 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022) to receive any missing money that you are owed. 

25. If I hadn’t filed a tax return in years, could I have signed up for CTC advance payments? What if I owed taxes?

Yes. Even if you hadn’t filed a tax return recently, you could have signed up for CTC advance payments, if you were eligible. Not everyone is required to file taxes. 

If you were under the income requirements to file a 2020 tax return (check the table in Question 7), you could have used the IRS Non-Filer portal (closed on October 15, 2021) or GetCTC.org to sign-up for advance payments. 

If you missed the deadline to sign up for advance payments, you can still get the CTC. You will have to file a 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022) to get the full amount of the CTC that you are eligible for. Even if you’re not required to file, filing a tax return will allow you to get the CTC and additional tax credits that you may be eligible for, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). There is no penalty for not filing in the past if you don’t owe taxes. 

If you haven’t filed a tax return for this year or previous years, and you think you may owe taxes, refer to “Filing Past Due Tax Returns” on the IRS website to learn what to do. 

You may be subject to penalties and fines for not filing or not paying taxes. However, you can request penalty relief. If you owe taxes and can’t pay them in full, it is important to pay what you can and make a plan. Consider using a payment plan. Note that if you don’t pay the amount owed in full, you will be charged interest and penalties. 

To learn more about your different payment options based on your financial situation, read What to Do if I Owe Taxes but Can’t Pay Them. 

Your CTC advance payments were reduced if you have overdue tax debt. However, when you file your 2021 tax return in 2022 to claim the other half of your CTC, your tax refund may be reduced to pay for any taxes you owe and other federal or state debts. 

26. I didn’t receive my advance payment. What do I do?

If you did not receive your advance payments in 2021, you will need to file your 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022) to receive the full payment.

27. What if I received more money than I should have as part of the advance payments for the 2021 Child Tax Credit?

Congress enacted a repayment protection for families with lower incomes if the IRS overpays you. If your 2021 income is less than $40,000 ($60,000 for married couples and $50,000 for heads of households), you are not required to repay anything back. 

This protection only applies if you are overpaid because there were changes to the number of children you claim, not changes in income. The protection amount gradually decreases as your income increases. If your 2021 income is $80,000 or above ($120,000 for married couples and $100,000 for heads of households), you are required to repay the full excess amount. 

If you earn more than the protection allows and received more money than you should through advance payments in 2021, the IRS may require you to pay back the excess amount when you file your 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022). This means that you will either owe more taxes or see a decrease in your tax refund. 

An example is if you received advanced payments for a child who lived with you in 2020 but moved in March 2021. Once you file taxes in 2022 (for Tax Year 2021), you will have to pay the money back if your income is over $40,000 (single), $60,000 (married filing jointly), or $50,000 (head of household). 

The CTC Update Portal (no longer available) provided the opportunity to opt out of advance payments if you were unsure if you were eligible for the 2021 CTC (e.g., you anticipated that your income would change or the dependents you could claim would change). The portal also allowed you to update your income, which would help the IRS to pay you the correct amount.  

28. Are these new changes to the CTC permanent?

Maybe. The new rule changes to the CTC are temporary. They only apply to your 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022).  Legislation is being proposed to extend the changes.

Need help with filing your taxes?

If it’s your first time filing or you need help filing your tax return to claim the CTC, you can: 

 Check out more Child Tax Credit Resources

  • GetCTC.org: This mobile-friendly tool is created in partnership with the White House and allow people to sign up for their CTC and any missed third stimulus payments. You can use GetCTC through November 15, 2022. 
  • Free Tax Filing: This webpage lists free in-person and virtual tax filing resources you can use to get your CTC and any other tax credits you are eligible for. These resources include help from IRS-certified volunteers to file your taxes. 
  • ChildTaxCredit.com: This website features FAQs and a CTC eligibility calculator that can help you understand how much you can get from the credit. 

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