Stimulus Update: Time's Running Out to Get Child Tax Credit Money This Year

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If you still haven't signed up for the Child Tax Credit, it pays to get moving.

The Child Tax Credit has long been helping families with children stay afloat. But this year, the credit is worth a lot more money.

Prior to 2021, the Child Tax Credit maxed out at $2,000 per child and was only payable in a single lump sum that came in the form of a tax refund. Plus, only $1,400 of the credit was refundable.

This year, the credit is worth up to $3,600 per child under the age of 6 and up to $3,000 for children aged 6 to 17. The credit is also fully refundable, so families that owe no tax can still collect it in full. And, 50% of the credit is being paid out in monthly installments that began in July and are set to continue through December.

All of these changes came as part of the American Rescue Plan, the massive relief bill that was passed in March. Another big change is that families didn't have to file a tax return this year to get the Child Tax Credit -- there was a portal they could use to register for it instead.

At this point, it's still possible to sign up for the Child Tax Credit if you haven't done so already and also haven't been getting your money (people who filed tax returns for 2020 didn't have to register separately for the credit because the IRS had their information on file). But if you want to get any money out of the credit this year, you'll need to really move quickly.

Don't wait to get your money

If you don't sign up for the Child Tax Credit this year, you'll still have an opportunity to claim it on your 2021 tax return, which is filed in 2022. But if you want your money sooner, you'll need to register ASAP.

If you go to, you can sign up for the credit through Nov. 15. And if you do, you may be able to register in time to get your money in the form of installment payments.

Now as mentioned, those installment payments began in July. And so families that register for the Child Tax Credit now will see larger installment payments, since they'll serve as a catch-up for the payments that weren't previously received.

If you register right away, you may be able to get a payment in November and December. But if you wait until November to sign up, you'll probably get one large payment in December.

Given that inflation is making just about everything cost more money these days, many families can no doubt benefit from getting their cash sooner rather than later. Plus, with the holidays approaching, having earlier access to that money could be key.

Of course, for some families, those extra payments could spell the difference between paying the bills or falling behind. And so in that case, it pays to register for the credit as quickly as possible.

Will the current version of the Child Tax Credit stay in place beyond 2021?

As of now, the expanded Child Tax Credit is only valid for the current tax year. Lawmakers had initially been fighting to make the boosted version permanent, but at this point, they're trying to keep the credit around for just another year. But whether that even happens is yet to be determined, and so families getting the credit right now should do their best to put that money to good use.

If the boosted Child Tax Credit goes away at the end of 2021, families will still be eligible for the previous version of the credit. And while it's not as generous, it could put a lot of money in some people's bank accounts.

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