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Monthly child tax credit checks end in 3 months, unless the benefit is extended. What to know

Monthly payments go through December and a payout comes during tax season next year. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

After families were issued their third child tax credit check this week, they’ll have three more payments in 2021 and one in 2022. Due to changes made in the American Rescue Plan to help struggling families, households receive 50% of the total credit in advance monthly installments, and the rest with a tax refund in 2022. That could mean a total of up to $3,000 annually for each child between ages 6 and 17, and up to $3,600 annually for each child under age 6. And the credit’s fully refundable — parents don’t need an income to qualify.

There’s a chance that the revamped benefit, which has been shown to reduce child poverty, could be extended to 2025. The latest piece of Democratic legislation in the House proposes that it become part of a massive $3.5 trillion spending plan, addressing the needs of low-income families. This week, more than 400 economists signed a letter to Congress calling on legislators to make the enhanced credit permanent

But until it becomes final legislation, there are still several deadlines for the remainder of this year’s credit that parents should be aware of. For example, families that are now choosing to opt out of the advance payment program need to do so before Oct. 4 — here’s why you might want to unenroll. It’s also a good idea for families to update their banking details or mailing address through the IRS Update Portal sooner rather than later. And here’s what to know if you received the wrong payment amount.

When are the remaining child tax credit payments?

After this week’s September payment, the IRS has three more rounds of advance partial payments to send to those who qualify. Here are the payment dates to keep track of October through December 2021 and in 2022:

  • Oct. 15
  • Nov. 15
  • Dec. 15 (last payment of 2021)
  • Tax season 2022 (remainder of money)

After you receive whatever monthly payments the IRS sends you this year, the remainder of your money will come with your tax refund in 2022, after you file your 2021 tax return next spring. While the IRS did extend the 2020 and 2021 tax filing dates due to the pandemic, you typically have from the end of January to April 15 to file.

When are the deadlines to opt out of advance checks?

If you decide to unenroll from the monthly payments this year, you still have time to have the remainder of your child tax credit money show up next tax season. You may decide to unenroll, for example, if you think you may need to pay back money when you file your taxes in 2022.

Note that the IRS opt-out deadlines are about two weeks ahead of the payment dates. If you miss one deadline for a round of checks, your changes will take effect with the next round. And these are the same deadlines you need to hit for making other changes to your account, such as adding your banking information or changing your mailing address. While the Update Portal doesn’t yet allow you to make changes to your income, marital status and number of dependents, you should be able to do so before the October deadline. 

The IRS said if you unenroll and later change your mind, you’ll be able to opt back in sometime in late September. Here are the remaining dates by which you would need to unenroll:

  • Oct. 4 (for October payment)
  • Nov. 1 (for November payment)
  • Nov. 29 (for December payment)

Will advance child tax credit payments be extended?

Given the popularity of the program with millions of families, there’s a chance the expanded credit could be extended at least a few years. House Democrats have recently come up with a proposal to keep the increased benefit going until 2025. It would also allow low-income families who don’t earn enough to owe taxes to get the benefit. In a recent CNN interview, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he’d prefer that parents be eligible to receive the credit only if they work and file taxes. 

Though congressional Democrats are divided over the benefit, some are looking to approve its extension in the spending bill through a process known as budget reconciliation, which requires a simple majority vote in the Senate. According to an Insider report, other Democrats are considering extending the current child tax credit payment program until 2024 instead, but the amount of money would be less than this year’s payments, that is, reverting to the lower amounts from prior years. 

Meanwhile, a Washington-based think tank called the Bipartisan Policy Center has put out its own proposal for permanently expanding the child tax credit. And on Sept. 15, more than 400 leading economists sent an open letter urging Congress to make the enhanced credit permanent. The letter noted that the benefit would help families with immediate necessities, like food and utilities, and could drastically improve children’s health and education.  

How can I calculate my credit ahead of tax season?

To help you file your taxes next year and either claim whatever amount the IRS still owes you or — much less likely — repay money you received but didn’t qualify for, the IRS will send you a letter in January 2022 with the total amount of child tax credit money you received in 2021. You’ll use information from this letter, which the IRS is calling Letter 6419, when you file your tax return.

For more, here’s everything you need to know about the 2021 child tax credit and what to do if you need to track down a missing payment. Here’s also what we know about what the spending bills making their way through Congress could mean for you.

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