Stimulus Update: How to Easily Sign Up for the Child Tax Credit Payments Before It's Too Late

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The clock is ticking on the monthly Child Tax Credits. If you want to take advantage of these advance monthly payments, you'll need to move quickly -- and these tools can help.


Key points

  • Studies show that Child Tax credit payments have lifted 3.5 million kids out of poverty and reduced financial anxiety for 56% of families.
  • Qualifying families still have time to sign up for the monthly payments if they have not yet done so.
  • If you miss the Nov. 15 deadline for signing up, you will have to wait and file taxes in 2022 to receive a lump-sum payment for the Child Tax Credit.

As of mid-October, the IRS had mailed out or deposited into bank accounts a total of four Child Tax Credit payments to families who qualify. These advance tax credit payments, worth a maximum of $250 to $300 per qualifying child, were signed into law as part of President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan earlier this year, and are meant to help low- to moderate-income families make ends meet as the nation struggles to recover from the pandemic.

And thus far, the tax credit payments have proved to be extremely helpful to the households who qualify. According to a recent study, the first two checks helped lift about 3.5 million kids out of poverty. Data from another recent study showed that 56% of families who received the first payment had a reduction to their financial anxiety -- and that the majority of the money went toward food, utilities, rent, or childcare costs.

But while the early tax payments have had a positive impact on millions of households, not every family has been so lucky. There are families who qualify for these payments but have not yet taken advantage of them. Luckily, it's not too late to sign up for the monthly payments. But if you want to start receiving these monthly advances, you'll need to move quickly. An important deadline is looming, and if you miss it, you'll have to wait until 2022 to get your tax credit money. Here's what you should know.

The looming deadline you need to know about

Have you signed up for the Child Tax Credit payments yet? If not, be aware that the clock is ticking. Those who are eligible for the monthly payments but aren't yet receiving them will only have until Nov. 15 to sign up. Otherwise, you'll have to wait until next year to claim the full Child Tax Credit.

The good news is that most households don't need to do much -- if anything -- to receive the monthly tax credit payments. The IRS is using households' prior tax returns to determine who is eligible for the enhanced credit. Once the federal agency has determined you are eligible, the monthly payments are issued automatically unless you opt out.

That said, certain households, including those with non-filers, may have to take steps to register for the Child Tax Credits. Because the IRS uses your most recent tax return to determine whether you're eligible for the monthly payments, non-filers -- or those who are not required to file an annual tax return -- will need to take steps to ensure their information is on file with the IRS. Otherwise, the federal agency has no information to use to determine that your household qualifies.

Those who have experienced significant losses of income in 2021 -- or those who added a new dependent to their households after their last tax filings -- may also need to take steps to take advantage of the tax credits. The IRS is using 2019 or 2020 tax information to determine who is eligible, but a recent significant change in income or a new dependent may make it possible for you to receive the monthly payments -- even if you earned too high of an income in years past.

These households aren't the only ones who can still take advantage of the monthly payments, however. Any families who qualify but have not been receiving the monthly payments for any other reason can also sign up.

And, there's more good news. Not only do you still have time to take advantage of the payments, but the IRS recently made it easier to do that. Here's how you can easily sign up for the tax credit payments before the deadline.

How to easily sign up for the monthly tax credit payments

A tool created by Code for America in collaboration with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the White House makes it simple for households to sign up for the Child Tax Credit payments. If your information is not on file with the IRS, you can visit GetCTC.org and enter your information to claim your Child Tax Credit and any missing direct stimulus payments -- even if you don't have your tax documents on hand.

Or, if you're one of the families who has outdated information on file with the IRS, there's another easy way to update your information. Earlier this week, the federal tax agency rolled out a new tool that lets you make changes to your income details. This tool can be found in the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, according to an IRS news release.

If you're a non-filer who would rather use the IRS's system to claim your tax credit money, you can opt to use the IRS Child Tax Credit Non-filer Sign-up Tool to update your information. Before you do that, though, it's important to make sure you have the following information on hand:

  • Full name
  • Current mailing address
  • Email address
  • Date of birth
  • Valid Social Security numbers (or other taxpayer IDs) for you and your dependents
  • Bank account number, type and routing number, if you have one
  • Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) you received from the IRS earlier this year, if you have one

That said, you'll have to sign up before midnight on Nov. 15 to start receiving the payments -- no matter the circumstances. If you miss that deadline, you will have to wait until your 2021 tax return is processed to receive the money, which will be sent to you in one lump sum as part of your tax refund.

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