$250-$300 child tax payments begin: Who’s eligible, how to get them


Qualifying parents will start seeing up to $300 per child as a monthly federal child tax credit, starting July 15.

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If you have children, filed a tax return electronically for 2019 or 2020 and your income qualifies, you’ll see up to $250 to $300 per child in your bank account on July 15.

Then you’ll see the same amounts around the same time every month this year.

“If you filed taxes and are eligible you don’t need to do anything. The IRS will just send you your payments,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

But what if you didn’t file a tax return? Or don’t want the full tax break until next year? At what income level does a parent no longer qualify for the credit?

There are several ways to get these questions answered:

The Internal Revenue Service has different web pages aimed at explaining all the nuances. This one explains the child tax credit: https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/advance-child-tax-credit-payments-in-2021

To get answers to more precise questions: https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/2021-child-tax-credit-and-advance-child-tax-credit-payments-frequently-asked-questions

Check with a local tax preparation expert.

Call or email your local congressman or senator. To find your congressman, use this site: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

To find your senator, use this one: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm

How do I get a payment?

According to the IRS, the White House, Murray and Debi Linderholm, free tax prep manager at United Way, California Capital Region, these are some of the questions most often asked by parents around the country so far:

Q. What exactly is this tax break?

A. It’s the Child Tax Credit, approved in March as part of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan. It is available only for this tax year.

Q. Where will I get this?

A. If the IRS has your bank account number on file, the first monthly payment will be deposited July 15, and on or about that time every month through December. If you do not have an account on file, you should get the payment in the mail around the same time.

Q. How much of a monthly payment can I get this year?

A. Up to $250 per month per child age 6 to 17 and $300 for each younger child.

Q. Is there any other child tax credit available?

A. Those payments will constitute half the credit for 2021. You can claim the other amount — up to $1,500 per child 6 to 17 and $1,800 for younger children on your 2021 tax return next year.

Q. Suppose I got the credit last year but my child no longer lives with me? Or other things have changed since I filed my last tax return. What should I do?

A. Unenroll in the program. Go to https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/child-tax-credit-update-portal

Do I qualify for the child tax break?

Q. Do I earn too much to qualify?

A. The maximum benefit is available to taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of up to $75,000 for single filers, up to $112,500 for heads of households and up to $150,000 or less for married couples filing jointly or filing as a qualifying widow or widower. As incomes go up, the benefit phases out.

Q. What are the phaseout limits?

A. $150,000 to $400,000 if filing married filing jointly, $112,500 to $200,000 if filing head of household, and $75,000 to $200,000 if filing single or married filing separately

Q. How do I know if I qualify?

A. Go this site and follow the directions: https://apps.irs.gov/app/ctceligible/

Q. And how do I know how much I could receive?

A. There are several online calculators to help. One is from H & R Block: https://www.hrblock.com/child-tax-credit-calculator/

Q. Suppose I don’t want to take the credit this year, but claim it all on my tax return next year?

A. You have to “unenroll.” Deadlines for doing so are set for each month. It’s too late to stop the July payment. Go to https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/child-tax-credit-update-portal for more information.

Q. I didn’t file taxes this year. Can I still get the monthly payments?

A. Yes. You only needed to file taxes if as a married couple you earned $24,800, $18,650 as a head of household or $12,400 as a single filer. If you fall into this category, you need to file your 2020 tax return to get the monthly payments. If your total income in 2020 was below those levels and you choose not to file, you can sign up to receive monthly Child Tax Credit payments using the “non-filer sign up tool.”

Q. What if I receive the monthly payments this year, but then don’t qualify for a full credit. Do I have to repay the money?

A. If that happens, the IRS says, “You may need to repay to the IRS some or all of that excess payment.”

David Lightman is McClatchy’s chief congressional correspondent. He’s been writing, editing and teaching for nearly 50 years, with stops in Hagerstown, Riverside, Calif., Annapolis, Baltimore and since 1981, Washington.