The third wave of monthly payments for the enhanced child tax credit is hitting bank accounts starting Wednesday, Sept. 15, but if you haven’t received the money yet, it’s not too late to get in on the cash.
From here on out, there are three more payment rounds and each is scheduled for the 15th of the month.
Last month’s round of payments totaled more than $15 billion and went to families that are raising approximately 61 million kids, according to Treasury Department figures. That’s money going to households covering 1.6 million more kids than the first round of payments on July 15, officials said last month.
It’s not too late to receive child tax credit payments
The first step is to file your taxes (even though the official tax deadline passed). For people who have already done that, there’s what’s called a “payment trace.”
First a refresher on child tax credit basics: Families who are eligible for this year’s enhanced credit are receiving advance payments of up to $300 per child under age 6 and up to $250 per child between age 6 and 17.
Lawmakers increased the credit for this year to a maximum total of $3,600 for children under age 6 and $3,000 for kids between the age of 6 and 17. Half of the money is being paid in advance in six monthly installments that roll out through the end of the year. Families can spend the money on whatever they wish.
For now, the boosted child tax credit payments apply only for 2021, but Democratic lawmakers are pressing to extend the enhanced credit beyond this year.
The IRS is distributing the money via direct deposits and paper checks. The payment day is the day the direct deposit cash actually becomes available for use. For those receiving paper checks, it may take one to three business days for paper checks to arrive, Treasury Department and U.S. Postal Service representatives said.
What to do if you haven’t received your child tax credit payments
Step one: If you didn’t already do it, file your taxes or sign up for the CTC payments with the IRS’ non-filer portal. The IRS non-filer portal is meant for people who would otherwise make too little income to file taxes.
There’s also a new website, GetCTC.org, where people can register for payments.
The website has an English-language and Spanish-language format. The site is a “massive step” toward reaching all families to make sure they are getting advance payments they are entitled to, Amanda Renteria, the CEO of Code for America, said previously. The organization worked with federal government officials to build the portal.
How to ask for a ‘payment trace’ on your child tax credit
Step two: If you already filed your taxes, but you are still waiting for your CTC money, you can ask for what’s called a “payment trace.”
To ask the IRS the initiate a trace, people will need to mail or fax Form 3911.
The IRS says it will only start the process if it’s been five days since the deposit date and your bank still hasn’t received the money. For paper checks, you’ll first have to wait four weeks if the payment was mailed to a standard address, six weeks for a forwarding address and nine weeks for a foreign address.
Who is eligible for the child tax credit
Like stimulus checks, the advance payments are going to households under a certain income limit. Full payments go to individuals making under $75,000, married couples filing jointly who earn $150,000 and people filing as head of household who make $112,500.
The IRS determines whether a household is eligible by looking at its tax return. If the agency only has the 2019 tax return but not the 2020 return, it will work off the income information on that return.
When people sign up using the non-filer tool, what they’re technically doing is completing a 2020 tax return that essentially puts them on the IRS’ radar screen. The portal is only for people making less than $12,400, or $24,800 for a married couple. (The IRS has a free file program for households making less than $72,000.)
The IRS has a separate portal to update bank information and in the coming months, families will also be able to update dependent information, such as a new baby in the family, the agency said.
How to opt out of the child tax credit
Keep in mind that if your 2021 income exceeds the payment thresholds, you’ll have to pay back the advance payments at tax time (either in the form of a smaller refund or a tax bill). To avoid that situation, taxpayers near the income limits can opt out.
Oct. 4 is the deadline to opt out of payments or update bank information, starting with the Oct. 15 payment.
The IRS sent out millions of letters earlier this year to families, flagging their potential eligibility for the expanded tax credit.
U.S. Census Bureau data suggests the tax credit money is already making a difference for cash-strapped families. Some 11% of households with kids reported not having enough food to eat immediately before the July 15 payment, according to an ongoing Census survey. In the period right after the first CTC checks went out, the share of households with kids that said they had problems consistently getting food shrank to 8.4%
For adults in households without children, the rate was essentially unchanged, going from 6.1% to 6.2%, the Census numbers said.
This story was updated on Sept. 15.