There's Less Than a Week to Sign Up for Child Tax Credit Installment Payments

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Don't miss out on this key financial lifeline.

The enhanced Child Tax Credit has been working wonders for U.S. families since getting a boost under March's American Rescue Plan. Right now, the credit is worth up to $3,600 for children under 6 and up to $3,000 for those aged 6 to 17. That's an improvement over the previous $2,000 per child maximum.

Just as importantly, the Child Tax Credit is now refundable in full. Those who don't owe the IRS any tax can still collect all of the money they're entitled.

Plus, half of the Child Tax Credit is being paid this year in monthly installments. So far, three of those payments have hit Americans' bank accounts, and three more are scheduled for the remainder of the year. The final half of the credit will be paid out in 2022 as a lump sum.

Normally, the only way to get the Child Tax Credit is to file a tax return and claim it there. But this year, the IRS opened a non-filer portal so that those who don't file taxes could still sign up to receive the credit.

That's a big deal, because low-income households are often exempt from filing taxes due to having limited earnings that fall below the standard deduction. But those households routinely miss out on potentially lucrative credits by virtue of not filing taxes.

The introduction of the IRS's non-filer portal may have already helped many families get their hands on the expanded Child Tax Credit. But for those who haven't yet signed up for the credit, time is running out.

The IRS non-filer portal is scheduled to close on Oct. 15, which is also when the next Child Tax Credit installment payment is due. So families that have yet to register should move quickly to get their money.

Don't miss out on those payments

Parents who filed returns for the 2019 or 2020 tax year didn't have to take any action to get the boosted Child Tax Credit. But those who didn't file taxes need to sign up. Otherwise, the IRS won't know they're eligible for that money.

So far, the expanded credit has done a tremendous job of helping families secure their finances and address their essential needs. Millions of households, for example, experienced a decline in food insecurity thanks to the boosted credit.

Failing to sign up for the Child Tax Credit by Oct. 15 won't necessarily mean missing out on it completely. Once that deadline passes, it's still possible to sign up via through mid-November. But those who want to make sure they're eligible for installment payments this year should register through the IRS portal.

Potential recipients should also have an opportunity to claim the credit on their 2021 taxes, which are filed in 2022. But again, that will mean missing out on installment payments. Getting those monthly payments is helping more families better manage their bills. And for those who live paycheck to paycheck, the monthly checks could spell the difference between being able to cover upcoming holiday expenses and landing in debt.

A temporary provision that could be here to stay

As of now, the expanded version of the Child Tax Credit applies to the current tax year only. But lawmakers are fighting to keep the boosted version in place beyond 2021. If they're successful, that would no doubt help millions of households make ends meet more easily for many years to come.

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