Stimulus Update: 5 Reasons Your October Child Tax Credit Payment Hasn't Arrived Yet

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If you're still waiting for your October Child Tax Credit check to arrive, don't panic. There could be a simple reason for the delay.

Have you received your latest Child Tax Credit payment yet? The IRS began issuing the fourth batch of tax credit payments on Oct. 15, and millions of households have already received the money, either by direct deposit to their bank account or by mail. Once all of the payments are issued, about 36 million families across the nation will have received these funds -- which are worth a whopping $15 billion in total.

That said, not all households have gotten their payments this month. Over the last few months, system glitches and other issues have caused delays or missing payments for families who should have otherwise received the $250 to $300 max per-child payments. While many of these issues have been resolved, the IRS's system for issuing payments isn't completely seamless yet. If you're still waiting on your tax credit check to arrive, here are a few reasons your latest tax credit payment may be delayed.

1. You receive your check by mail, not direct deposit

If you are supposed to receive your Child Tax Credit payment by mail but it hasn't arrived yet, your payment may be delayed due to a snafu with USPS rather than the IRS. The fastest way to receive your monthly tax credit payment is to opt for direct deposit, as these payments are generally available within a day or two of the payment date each month.

On the other hand, households that are slated to receive paper checks by mail generally have a longer wait on their hands. Paper checks could take anywhere from a few extra days to a few extra weeks to arrive, as they have to make their way through the postal system. So, if you're typically on the receiving end of a paper check, you may want to give it a few more weeks to arrive before contacting the IRS for a payment trace.

2. Your spouse updated your information with the IRS -- but you didn't

If you file jointly with a partner or spouse and need to update your information with the IRS, both parties have to update their information in the system to avoid missing checks or delays. There have been a few issues with late or missing checks due to only one spouse updating their information in the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, so if you're missing your most recent check, it could be due to only one person in your household changing bank account or mailing information in the tax credit system.

When one party changes their information but the other does not, the payment is split in half, with one half of the Child Tax Credit money being sent to the updated address or bank account and the other being sent to the old bank account or address. This issue caused delays and missing payments for about 2% of households in September -- and it could be the reason your most recent check is smaller than normal or missing completely.

3. The IRS doesn't have your information on file

Did you file a tax return in 2019 or 2020? If not, the IRS may not know you qualify for the tax credit money -- and that could be why you haven't received your most recent payment. While non-filers can still qualify for the Child Tax Credit without income if they meet the restrictions for the tax credit, they have to sign up using the Child Tax Credit Non-filer Sign-up Tool to start receiving the money. Without a tax return on file, the IRS won't know you qualify, and will therefore not issue you the money each month.

If you think that could be an issue, the good news is that it's not too late to sign up. You can still file for the payments through the non-filer tool, but you'll need to do it before Nov. 15. Otherwise, you will have to wait until tax time next year to claim the Child Tax Credit money you're owed.

4. The information you have on file with the IRS is outdated

The IRS is using your latest tax filings to determine whether you are eligible for the payments. Once you're determined to be eligible, the payments are automatically issued to you each month unless you opt out. That makes it easier for millions of families to take advantage of the extra cash boost, but it also causes issues for anyone who has had a major change in circumstance over the last year or two.

For example, you may have earned too much last year to qualify for the payments, but if you had a significant change in income this year, you may now qualify for the payments. However, the IRS won't know about that change in income until you file your upcoming tax return.

This could also be an issue for parents who added a child to their family in 2020 or 2021, whether by adoption or birth. Your new child could make your family eligible for the tax payments -- or for an increase in tax payments -- but you may be missing out right now because you have old information on file with the tax agency.

In these cases, you can either wait until the IRS portal allows you to update this information in the system or claim the money you are owed on your 2020 tax return. Either way, you won't miss out on the payments -- you may just have to wait a while to take advantage of it.

5. You unenrolled from the payments at some point

If you unenrolled from the payments at some point earlier this year, that could be why you are missing your most current Child Tax Credit payment. The IRS made it simple to unenroll from the monthly payments in the IRS Update Portal, but it's not as easy to re-enroll in the payments.

If you think that's why your October Child Tax Credit payment is missing, you have two options. One is to wait until you file your 2021 taxes next April and collect the payments you missed out on in one lump sum. The other is to re-enroll in the Child Tax Credit payments, but you'll need to wait until that feature is made available in the update portal later this fall.

Eligible families with children can expect two more Child Tax Credit payments before the year closes out. The next one should hit bank accounts in mid-November and the final payment is due to arrive in mid-December. Meanwhile, we continue to wait and see if Democrats are successful in getting monthly Child Tax Credit payments extended under new legislation for at least one more year.

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