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

This page will be regularly updated as new information becomes available.

Last updated 11/24/2021

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. Families can receive half of their new credit between July and December 2021 and the remaining half in 2022 when they file a tax return.

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 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 are 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 will send 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 and advance payments?

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 and advance payments.

Children you claim for the CTC must have valid SSNs.

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

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

No. The IRS will not reduce or offset your advance payments to pay past-due child support, back taxes, and federal or state debts. However, they are 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 do I get the 2021 Child Tax Credit and get advance payments?

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

If you are 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 aren’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 or GetCTC.
Click to see a table to check if you're required to file a 2020 tax return
Filing Status 2020 Gross Income (Taxpayers under 65) 2020 Gross Income (Taxpayers over 65)
Single $12,400 $14,050
Head of Household $18,650 $20,300
Married Filing Jointly $24,800 (both spouses) $26,100 (one spouse)
$27,400 (both spouses)
Married Filing Separately $5 $5
Qualifying Widow with Dependent Child $24,800 $26,100

If you haven’t received 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.

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 GetCTC? How can I claim the 2021 Child Tax Credit and get advance payments?

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). Click here to learn about  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 will be delivered through monthly payments in 2021. You can get the remaining half 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 will start receiving half of his new credit in 2021 ($3,300) in monthly payments from the IRS between July and December 2021. He will claim the remaining amount when he files 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 haven’t received your payments by now, 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 be sent?

If the IRS already has 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 does not have any of your banking information, your advance payments will be sent by mail.

11. Is 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 can 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 is closed, as of November 15, 2021. GetCTC was a mobile-friendly tool created in partnership with the White House to allow people to sign up for advance CTC payments. It was an alternative to the IRS Non-Filer portal.

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14. What is GetCTC.org used for?

GetCTC is now closed. When it was open, you could use GetCTC.org to:

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

15. How long can I use GetCTC.org?

You had until November 15, 2021, to use GetCTC.org before the portal closed. If you miss the deadline to sign up for CTC advance payments this year, 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)

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

The IRS Child Tax Credit Update Portal (CTC UP) allows you to opt out of advance CTC payments. You may want to do this if you aren’t eligible for the advance payments or if you prefer to receive the full refund when you file your 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022). See Question 17 to understand more about opting out of payments. You can also add or change bank account information to get direct deposit, change the address where your payments are mailed, and update your income.

Later in the year, the CTC portal may allow you to make other updates, including updating the number of dependents you have, your income, or your marital status. For example, if you have or will have a new baby this year, you will be able to update your number of qualifying children on the CTC portal. Life changes can affect the amount of CTC you are eligible for. Making updates will help make sure that the IRS is sending you the correct amount of your CTC.

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

You can use this CTC UP Guide, which 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?

Date You Can Make Changes (subject to change) What You Can Do
June 21
  • Find out if you’re eligible
  • Unenroll from payments
  • See a list of your payments
June 30
  • Make changes to your bank information for your payments beginning in August
August 20
  • Make changes to your address
November 8
  • Make changes to your income
Fall
  • Make changes to your dependents and marital status

Source: IRS 2021 Child Tax Credit and Advance Child Tax Credit Payments

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

Advance payments allow you to receive half of your CTC through monthly payments sent from July to December 2021. If you opt out of advance payments, you are 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 want to unenroll from getting CTC advance payments:

  • Changes to your household: Advance payments are 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 lives with you in 2021, you are no longer eligible for the CTC and advance payments for that child. There is an exception 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 qualify for the CTC advance payments based on your income on your 2019 or 2020 tax return. If in 2021, you earn more money and are no longer eligible for the full CTC, you may want to opt out or update your income on CTC UP. Refer to Question 6 to see how the CTC decreases.
  • Prefer one large payment: You would rather receive your CTC in one payment when you file your 2021 tax return (which your file in 2022). Example: You are planning to move to a new apartment with your family, which requires a large deposit. You would 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 has changed since you filed your 2019 or 2020 tax return, which means the IRS will send advance payments to the wrong address. CTC UP will allow you to change your address.

While you may be concerned about repaying back your CTC advance payments, Congress has 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 25 for more information).

In addition, if you are married filing jointly, remember that your spouse also needs to unenroll if your household does not want to receive any advance payments. If your spouse does not unenroll, your spouse will still get half of the joint advance payments.

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

20. What is 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 must opt out by 11:59pm Eastern Time on the unenrollment deadline. You don’t need to opt out each month. If you miss the deadline to opt out you will get your next scheduled advance payment until your unenrollment request has been processed (which can take up to 7 calendar days).

If you need to, you’ll be able to re-enroll for CTC advance payments in late September 2021.

Troubleshooting

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

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 are based on my 2019 tax return and I recently filed my 2020 tax return with changes? Will the IRS update the amounts of my advance payments?

Yes. As soon as the IRS processes your 2020 tax return, the amount of your advance payments will be 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 be adjusted in time. For example, if you added a new child on your 2020 tax return but the return hasn’t been processed, that child hasn’t been 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 is wrong?

Your CTC advance payments may be too little or too much. Your advance payment amount may be wrong because:

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

To adjust your advance payment amounts you can:

  • File your 2020 tax return. If you haven’t filed your 2020 tax return, you can file 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 be adjusted in time. You will have to file a 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022) to receive any missing money that you are owed.
  • Update your information in CTC UP. You can update your income in CTC UP to ensure that your advance payment amounts are correct. Later in the year, you may be able to update the number of children you have and your marital status. After you submit your information, the IRS will adjust the amount of your advance payments.
  • Opt out of advance payments. You can also choose to opt out of advance payments now and re-enroll later in the year when you can update your information.
  • Request your garnished advance payment to be released. Request if your state, local government, or financial institution can 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 will use your 2019 tax return to determine if you’re eligible for advance payments and if you are, the amount you will get. Once your 2020 tax return is processed, your payment amount may change.

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

25. If I haven’t filed a tax return in years, can I still sign up for CTC advance payments? What if I owe taxes?

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

If you are 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 (closed on November 15, 2021) 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 will not be 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 haven’t received my advance payment. What do I do?

You can check to see if and where your advance payment has been issued on the Child Tax Credit Update Portal.

If your payment has been issued, you can request a payment trace to track your payment. The IRS will be able to track your payment after you wait:

  • 5 days since the deposit date and the bank says it hasn’t received the payment
  • 4 weeks since the payment was mailed by check to a standard address
  • 6 weeks since the payment was mailed, and you have a forwarding address on file with the local post office
  • 9 weeks since the payment was mailed, and you have a foreign address

To start a payment trace, mail or fax a completed Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund.

27. What if I receive more money than I should 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 are 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 receive 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 provides the opportunity to opt out of advance payments if you’re  unsure if you will be eligible for the 2021 CTC (e.g., you anticipate that your income will change or the dependents you can claim will change). The portal also allows you to update your income, which will help the IRS to pay you the correct amount. Later on, you may be able to update the number of dependents you have or your marital status.

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

  • Free Tax Filing: This webpage lists free in-person and virtual tax filing resources you can use to get half or all of your CTC. These resources include help from IRS-certified volunteers to file your taxes.
  • Child Tax Credit Update Portal Guide: Use this guide for step-by-step instructions (with screenshots) on how to sign-up for and use CTC UP to make changes to your CTC information (marital status, number of children, bank account information, and mailing address) or opt-out of CTC advance payments.
  • ChildTaxCredit.com: This website features FAQs and a CTC eligibility calculator that can help you understand how much you can get from the credit.
  • LetsGetSet.co: This website offers tools and resources to help new parents making less than $40k access and save tax credits. New and expecting parents can sign up for texts by using this link via a web browser on their phone: letsgetset.link/getitback or by texting “CTC” to 844-921-5747 to stay informed about key updates in the portals (like when the feature to add a child born in 2021 goes live), get links to resources, and text-in questions.
  • 2021 Child Tax Credit Outreach Resources: Interested in spreading the word about the Child Tax Credit? This outreach hub features a CTC outreach toolkit, navigator training and resources to help people sign-up for advance payments, multilingual CTC outreach resources, research on CTC-eligible households, and more.

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