November 28, 2021

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Child tax credit calculator: See how much money your family will get

Parents can get as much as $3,600 per kid for 2021-2022 whether in monthly installments or as one big payout. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Do you know how much child tax credit money your family will get when the advance monthly payments begin July 15? The amount you’ll get depends on your yearly income and some other important factors. The details are a bit complicated for the child tax credit and how payments work, but we can help estimate your household’s total.

The IRS is in the process of sending out letters to parents to let them know they qualify for the newly enhanced credit. This financial boost you could get is significantly larger than the $1,400 stimulus checks. Even nonfilers could be eligible to get some extra cash for their children this year. 

If you’re concerned the IRS has incorrect information about you or your dependents, you’ll be able to use the child tax credit portals (one is already available). Aside from the child tax credit money, you should check to see if you’re eligible to claim up to $16,000 for child care expenses. If you’re curious, we’ve got the scoop on a possible fourth stimulus check. This story was updated recently. 


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Payment calculation for your child tax credit total

Enter your adjusted gross income and number of dependents below to calculate your payment. (Our calculator will not store or use your data.) The results you get are based on our current knowledge of the law and should be treated as broad estimates only; the IRS will determine the final amount. We suggest consulting a financial professional for a more personalized estimate.

Child tax credit calculator for 2021

Use details from your 2020 tax return.

1. Choose your filing status below.

The child tax credit math is complicated, but we’ll explain: For parents of eligible children up to age 5, the IRS will pay a total of $3,600, half as six monthly payments and half as a 2021 tax credit. For each child ages 6 through 17, that total changes to $3,000. The IRS will make a one-time payment of $500 for dependents age 18 or full-time college students up through age 24.

If your AGI is $75,000 or less as a single filer, $112,500 as a head of household or $150,000 filing jointly, you’ll get the full amount. If your income is higher than the limit for your filing status, your child tax credit payments will begin to phase out by $50 for every $1,000 of income over the threshold.

Monthly payment schedule for 2021 and 2022

Here’s how the advance child tax credit payments will arrive, starting July 15 through 2022. The chart shows the maximum payment amount, but you may qualify for less. 

For an 18-year-old dependent, as well as for full-time college students ages 19 to 24, you will not receive monthly payments but rather one payment when you file your tax return in 2022.

Timeline for child tax credit payments

Monthly Maximum payment (newborn to 5) Maximum payment (6 to 17) Maximum payment (18 to 24)
July 15, 2021: First payment of the year $300 $250
Aug. 13, 2021 $300 $250
Sept. 15, 2021 $300 $250
Oct. 15, 2021 $300 $250
Nov. 15, 2021 $300 $250
Dec. 15, 2021: Last payment of the year $300 $250
April 2022: Second half of payment $1,800 $1,500 $500

Opting out of partial monthly checks and collecting one large sum

If you’d rather get your 2021 child tax credit money as one large payment, you’ll be able to opt out of monthly payments once the IRS opens its online portals by July 1. 

One portal will allow families to tell the IRS they want to receive the benefit in full at tax time rather than on a monthly basis. Opting out would mean that instead of receiving $300 per month for your 3-year-old (and the remainder of your money in 2022, for example), you wait until you file your taxes in 2022 to claim the full $3,600.

Another portal will let you input other information, such as a change in your AGI or marital status. 

Details for people who aren’t typically required to file a tax return

The IRS will automatically make the payments for those who filed taxes by the May 17 tax deadline, according to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. So if you didn’t submit your tax return, the IRS won’t know to send you a payment (and also won’t know if you’ve gained dependents since the last tax filing).

If you are a nonfiler and didn’t file a tax return this year, the IRS will make a portal available before July to help you. The portal is expected to let tax nonfilers submit a simplified electronic form to let the IRS know how many kids they have and their ages — including babies born in 2020 and 2021 — so they can get the correct payment amount. You can also submit a tax return now if you don’t want to wait for the portal.

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Babies born this year can be eligible for the full $3,600.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Good news for parents of newborns this year

Children born in 2021 make you eligible for the 2021 tax credit of $3,600 per child. (That’s up to $7,200 for twins.) This is on top of payments for any other qualified child dependents you claim. Here’s our guide for parents of 2021 babies, including what parents of adopted infants should know.

Child tax credit rules for dependents

There are some specific rules regarding qualifications not just for parents and caregivers, but for the children, too. Here’s what to know about dependent qualifications for the child tax credit. You should also see if you’re eligible for a child care tax credit if you paid for daycare, an after-school program or a babysitter. 

What to do if a child ages out of a payment bracket by the end of the year

If you have a 5-year-old turning 6 by the end of the year, the total payment amount you could get for that child is $3,000. If you have a 17-year-old who turns 18 before the end of the year, you would receive $500 total for that dependent instead of $3,000. If you have a dependent who is a full-time college student and turns 25 this year, you won’t receive any payment for that dependent.

What to do if the IRS sends more money than it should

Your family’s eligibility is determined in large part by your adjusted gross income. So what happens if you get a new job or start making more money in 2021? What happens if the payments have already gone out and you spent the money?

The IRS has a plan for this: The agency will make the child tax credit portal available by July 1 so you can update your information. If you need to make an adjustment, the IRS will lower the payment amounts you’d receive if your new income reaches the phaseout level, according to Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst at Tax Foundation.

If you wait until 2022 to update your information when you file your taxes and you continue to receive the full amount based on your lower income, you would have to return the excess money on your 2021 tax return next spring, or else accept a smaller 2021 refund or owe more in taxes.