TaxWatch: If you didn’t file a tax return, this is a critical tool for getting your child-tax-credit cash


As the Internal Revenue Service gets ready to push millions of child-tax-credit payments out the door, the tax-collection agency on Monday announced an important new tool to get those checks to the people who need the money most.

The newly unveiled web portal allows people who typically make too little money to file income-tax returns to register for monthly payment of child tax credits starting in July. It can also hook up users with missed-out-on 2020 stimulus checks from 2020 because it is technically generating a 2020 tax return.

Beginning July 15, the enhanced credit — a product of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed in March — will pay $300 per month per child under age 6 and $250 for kids between the ages of 6 and 17. The payments run through December.

Eligibility is based on 2020 tax returns, and, if those aren’t available, the IRS will rely on 2019 returns. The portal is trying to reach the households that didn’t file either.

The portal is similar to the one established last year, which enabled people to sign up for stimulus checks even if they didn’t make enough money to file an income-tax return.

When people filled out the information there, they technically created a simple 2019 tax return, according to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The same thing is happening here: Filling out the portal information technically results in a 2020 tax return filed to the IRS. In addition to sending along the enhanced child-tax-credit payments, that enables the IRS to send along stimulus-check money that had been missed out on, known as “recovery rebate credits.”

The first stimulus check paid $1,200 for eligible adults and $500 for children. The second paid $600 for adults and children.

If someone filed a 2019 or 2020 return, or if they used the nonfiler portal last year for stimulus checks, they don’t need to do anything further to secure the upcoming child tax credit, the Treasury Department said.

The portal isn’t open to people who made more than $12,400 or married couples who made more than $24,800, according to the IRS. (That’s the minimum income for filers of a 2020 federal tax return.)

The IRS is planning a second online portal that, among other things, will allow people to opt out of the monthly payments and instead get the cash in a lump sum at tax time.

Earlier this month, the IRS started sending out millions of letters to notify households they might be eligible for the child-tax-credit cash. A second wave of letters will inform families how much money they will actually receive per month.

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