Child tax credit 2021 qualifications: Income limit and other details


Find out if your family is eligible for the 2021 child tax credit.

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Many eligible families will get the new 2021 child tax credit of up to $3,600 per child in a series of payments through the end of the year. That’s more than double the amount of the third stimulus check, which is up to $1,400 per person and has been sent out to 127 million people now. But like everything else in the new stimulus bill, the details can be confusing over who qualifies for the CTC and how much money they can expect to receive, once the benefit checks kick in later this year.

For this round of CTC payments, the amounts for each child are higher as a result of the pandemic’s impact on jobs, families and the economy. For a child 5 years old and younger, parents and caregivers can receive up to $3,600 per child this year. So if your family has two young kids, you could receive up to $7,200 in total. For every child between the ages of 6 and 17, parents and caregivers can receive up to $3,000 — that would amount to $6,000 for two children in this age range. 

There are other qualifications and details you’ll need to know and we’ll get into those below. Here’s some extra information on a potential fourth stimulus check, what to do if you haven’t received your third stimulus checkwhen it could comehow to track it and how to see what could be causing a delay in your stimulus payment. Here are six other tax credits to get you more money this year as well. This story was recently updated.

Parents of kids ages 6 and up qualify for $3,000 per child

If you have dependents who are ages six or older, you’ll qualify for up to $3,000 per kid, assuming you meet the income requirements (see below). This includes your dependents who are 17 years old — originally, parents could only claim up to $2,000 for each dependent age 16 and younger.

You can also get money for your older kids, although it’s not nearly as much. You can claim up to $500 for an 18-year-old, as well as for full-time college students between the ages of 19 and 24.

Child Tax Credit 2021 qualifications

Who qualifies What the law says
Single filer An AGI of $75,000 or less to qualify for the full amount
Head of household An AGI of $112,500 or less to qualify for the full amount
Couple filing jointly An AGI of $150,000 or less to qualify for the full amount
Child age 5 and younger Credit for $3,600 each if parent/guardian meets above requirements
Child age 6-17 Credit for $3,000 each if parent/guardian meets above requirements
Nonfiler Will need to file a 2020 tax return to get the payment

Parents of children ages 5 and younger could qualify for $3,600 per kid

If your dependents are below the age of six, you can claim up to $3,600 per child as long as you meet the income requirements below. That’s $1,600 more than the $2,000 that parents were able to claim on their 2020 tax returns. 

This includes newborn babies, even if they’re born later in 2021. The parent filer would likely be able to update the IRS portal with their new dependent information to begin receiving the advance payments this year, said Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst at Tax Foundation. Otherwise, parents can file a claim on their 2021 tax returns next year. However, anything can change from now until the IRS provides us with more information and gets the portal up and running — the IRS hasn’t set a specific timeline for that yet.

Single filers with an AGI of $75,000 or less can get the full amount

As long as your adjusted gross income (also known as AGI) is $75,000 or less, single taxpayer parents will qualify for the full child tax credit amount. After $75,000, the amount begins phasing out.

The credit phases out by $50 for every $1,000 of income over the threshold amounts for all filers, according to Joanna Powell, Managing Director at CBIZ.

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Heads of households who have a $112,500 AGI

As a head of household, your AGI will need to be $112,500 or less in order to qualify for the full CTC amount. The amount you could get begins phasing out if your income is over $112,500.

Married couples filing jointly can’t surpass this AGI

If you’re married and filing jointly with your spouse, your AGI needs to be $150,000 or less to qualify for the full CTC amount. 

If you don’t file a tax return, are you still eligible for the new child tax credit?

Even if you don’t usually file taxes — you’re considered a non-filer — you’ll need to file a return to qualify for the 2021 child tax credit. IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said that payments will be automatic for those who file their 2020 tax returns by May 17, so if you don’t have your tax return submitted by this time, the IRS won’t know to send you a payment.

It’s also important to file a return in case you’ve gained new dependents since you last filed. That way you can get the full CTC amount you’re due.

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Other CTC qualifications you have to meet

  • The child you’re claiming must live with you for at least six months out of the year.
  • You and your child must be US citizens, unlike the mixed-status households. 
  • For married couples filing jointly, at least one spouse needs to have a Social Security number or an ITIN, Powell said. The child must also have a Social Security number — a child with only an ATIN won’t qualify (this includes adopted children.)

Important: The results here are based on our current knowledge of the law, but should be treated as broad estimates only. Consult a financial planner for a more personalized estimate.

For more information, here’s everything you need to know about the 2021 child tax credit and when your payments could start arriving.

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