Child Tax Credit for $3,600: When will payments come and how often?

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Child Tax Credit payments could start arriving in July.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The new stimulus bill was approved at lightning speed, sending out the third stimulus checks to tens of millions of eligible Americans in less than a week. However, if you already received your $1,400 payment, your new focus may now be on the expanded 2021 Child Tax Credit, also known as CTC.

The expansion of the CTC will provide families with more money this year. Originally, parents could claim up to $2,000 for each dependent aged 17 or younger on their tax returns. Now, parents can claim up to $3,600 for each child dependent — see more below for the exact amounts and qualifications.

There are two pressing questions about payments that aren’t yet final: When you could start receiving your Child Tax Credit checks and how often you would get them. We’ll explain that and more below. Also, if you’re waiting on your new stimulus payment to arrive, here’s when you could get it by direct deposit or by mail (here’s how you can track the payment).

When will the Child Tax Credit payments start arriving?

While the American Rescue Plan specifies that the CTC payments will begin arriving in July, a date hasn’t been released yet. The IRS will make additional information about the expanded Child Tax Credit available “as soon as possible,” the agency said in a statement March 12. 

In the same statement, the IRS urged taxpayers not to file an amended return related to the new legislation and not to take any other “unnecessary steps.” 

2021 Child Tax Credit Amount

Age Amount you could get per child
Age 5 and under Up to $3,600, or $300 a month if monthly payouts occur
Ages 6-17 Up to $3,000, or $250 a month if monthly payouts occur

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said that payments will be automatic for those who file their 2020 tax returns by May 17, the new tax deadline.

However, nonfilers will need to file a tax return to get the credit, even if they don’t usually submit tax returns. 


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How often will I get a payment?

The idea is for the Child Tax Credit to be paid out “periodically,” according to the text of the stimulus bill, from July through December. However, the IRS is still working to determine how often it will be able to get the checks out — and if that could even hit a monthly distribution. 

When asked if the agency would be able to start making payments in July, Rettig said that “that time frame might change in some manner” but that the agency is committed to hitting the goal. “I think it might be a challenge to get into the monthly, right out of the box,” he said.

The amount you’d receive would be half of what you’re owed for the year, under the new stimulus bill, and you’ll receive the other half of the payment with your 2021 tax refund.

If paid out monthly, the payments would break down to up to $300 per month for each qualifying child age 5 and under, and up to $250 per month for each child between the ages of 6 and 17. Note that this amount phases out for those with higher incomes — for single people earning more than $75,000 per year, heads of household earning more than $112,500 per year and married couples earning more than $150,000 a year.

2021 Child Tax Credit Amount

Age Amount you could get per child
Age 5 and under Up to $3,600, or $300 a month if monthly payouts occur
Ages 6-17 Up to $3,000, or $250 a month if monthly payouts occur

How would the Child Tax Credit payments arrive?

When the payments do start arriving, the Treasury and IRS could very well send out the payments the same way they do the stimulus checks, Joanna Powell, managing director of CFP at CBIZ, told CNET. 

It hasn’t been confirmed by the IRS yet, but if the agency does use the same method as stimulus checks, here’s how it would work: If you have direct deposit on file with the IRS, that’s how you’ll get your payment. If not, you’ll receive your money as a paper check.

There will be an online portal to fix any errors

The IRS is working on creating an online portal for the advanced credit, Powell said. The goal is to have the portal launched by July 1, Rettig said during the subcommittee meeting, but the IRS won’t have the resources until after tax filing season ends.

Once the CTC portal is available, recipients can log in to update their information if their circumstances have changed. For example, if you have a child in 2021, the IRS wouldn’t have that information on file yet, so updating those details could help you get a higher payment.

What happens when the payments end?

The final payment of the Child Tax Credit is scheduled to end by Dec. 31, 2021. However, President Joe Biden wants to make the higher payments permanent, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday: “We’re having those discussions with Congress.”

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It’s unclear if the payments will become permanent.


Sarah Tew/CNET

What happens if I get more money than I should?

The CTC isn’t as flexible as the stimulus check rules. If you receive more money than you should have, you will have to pay it back. Powell explained that when you file your 2021 tax return (in 2022), if your tax situation isn’t what the IRS has in its system, and you weren’t entitled to as much as you received, you’ll have to give the overpayment back. 

To avoid this tax inconvenience, make sure all of your information is updated before the payments start arriving. Powell estimates the portal will be open ahead of time so you can make any necessary adjustments.

Can I just get all my money at once instead of as separate checks?

Absolutely, but not this year. If you thought you could cash in on all the CTC money in July, that’s not the case. Instead, you can opt out of getting the periodic advance payments and receive a lump sum in spring 2022 as a credit when you file your taxes. You’ll be able to use the online portal to opt out. Again, you wouldn’t receive any money until 2022.

For more information, here are five things you should know about the $3,600 Child Tax Credit for 2021. Plus, here’s how to track your tax refund and your $1,400 stimulus check


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