The tool — created by nonprofit Code for America in collaboration with the White House and U.S. Treasury Department — is one of the many efforts by the government to help families take advantage of the enhanced credit that calls for advance monthly payments this year. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also launched two online tools in recent months: the Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant and the Child Tax Credit Update Portal.
The latest tool, GetCTC.org, stands out for its emphasis on accessibility.
It’s free, bilingual, mobile-friendly, and helps families who don’t traditionally file taxes register for monthly Child Tax Credit payments more easily. Many eligible families were automatically enrolled in advance payments based on 2019 or 2020 tax returns, or information they submitted through the IRS Non-Filer tool last year to receive stimulus checks. Those recipients began receiving their payments in July. But there are still many families whose income falls below the tax filing threshold, never received stimulus payments, and might be missing out — even if they qualify.
Two monthly payments have already gone out to qualifying families with kids, but there’s still time to sign up and receive monthly payments for the rest of the year. Here’s what you need to know about the 2021 Child Tax Credit, and how to use this new tool to sign up:
What You Need to Know About Child Tax Credit Payments
The American Rescue Plan that passed in March enhanced the Child Tax Credit for the 2021 tax year. It now allows advance monthly payments and increases the benefit from $2,000 per child under 17 to $3,000 per qualifying child between 6 and 17, and $3,600 for kids under the age of 6.
Unless you opt out, you’ll get half of the amount you’re eligible for in the monthly payments this year and the rest in 2022 when you file your next tax return. The remaining payment dates for this year are Sept. 15, Oct. 15, Nov. 15, and Dec. 15.
You have to meet some criteria to qualify for the credit, such as:
- Have a child under age 18 at the end of 2021
- Must claim the child as a dependent on your tax return
- Child must have lived with you for more than half of of 2021
- Filed a 2020 or 2019 tax return in which you claimed the Child Tax Credit or submitted your information to the IRS using the Non-Filer tool
- Live in the United States for at least half of 2021
- Meet income eligibility requirements
The IRS uses income reported in your most recent tax return to estimate whether you are eligible for the Child Tax Credit and the amount you’ll receive. You can take full advantage of the credit if your modified adjusted gross income is under $75,000 for single parents, under $112,500 for head of household filers, and under $150,000 for married couples filing jointly.
There’s a chance you could receive less than the full amount or not receive payments altogether because of your income. For more information on income limitations, check out the IRS website.
How to Use the New Child Tax Credit Online Tool
In just two months since payments started going out, evidence shows the Child Tax Credit is having a positive impact on families. Census data released in August shows the percentage of families in America struggling to pay their household expenses decreased from 31.5% to 29% after the first payments went out.
Families who have yet to sign up for their monthly Child Tax Credit payments aren’t losing money. Instead, the total payment will be spread over a shorter period, rather than six months, making each monthly payment larger.
If you have yet to receive advance Child Tax Credit payments or any of the three rounds of stimulus payments, you can sign up through the GetCTC.org tool if you meet any of the following criteria:
- Have a valid Social Security number
- Earned less than $12,400 for single filers ($24,800 for married couples)
- Have not filed a tax return this year
The tool is available in both English and Spanish. You’ll be asked a few important questions such as your name, mailing address, Social Security number, number of dependents, and other information. You can also provide your banking information and opt for direct deposit to receive payments faster. If you have any questions or get struck throughout the process, there’s a chat support feature, which is also bilingual.
Rather than submitting a full tax return, the tool files what the IRS calls a “simplified return,” including only the information needed to issue Child Tax Credit and stimulus payments. You can also file a full return through the site, which may help you access additional credits you qualify for, like the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Code for America says in a release the portal will “continue to be refined in the days and weeks following launch to make it even easier to use” and that families “could receive payments within weeks of submission.”