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TaxWatch: How to claim the child tax credit if you don’t file taxes — payments start July 15


Weeks ahead of the first monthly payment to millions of families under the expanded Child Tax Credit, federal officials are trying to make sure as many people as possible know about the upcoming payments.

To that end, the Biden administration dubbed Monday “Child Tax Credit Awareness Day.”

“We want every family who qualifies for the Child Tax Credit to receive it, because you deserve it,” Vice President Kamala Harris said on Twitter

“This simple credit will make a big difference to help families with children in meeting their basic needs,” the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, said Monday.

As officials tried to spread the word about the credit, they noted the Internal Revenue Service has an important new tool to get checks to the people who need the money most.

The newly unveiled web portal allows people who typically make too little money to file income-tax returns to register for monthly payment of child tax credits starting in July. It can also hook up users with missed-out-on stimulus checks from 2020, because the tool generates a 2020 tax return.

Beginning July 15, the enhanced child tax credit — a product of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed in March — will send families $300 per month per child under age 6 and $250 for kids between the ages of 6 and 17. The payments run through December.

Eligibility is based on the income listed in 2020 tax returns, and, if those aren’t available, the IRS will rely on 2019 returns. The new IRS portal is a way to reach households that didn’t file taxes either of those years.

The portal is similar to the one established last year that enabled people to sign up for stimulus checks even if they didn’t make enough money to file an income-tax return. When people filled out the information there, they technically created a simple 2019 tax return, according to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The same thing is happening here: Filling out the portal information technically results in a 2020 tax return filed to the IRS. In addition to sending along the enhanced child-tax-credit payments, that enables the IRS to send along stimulus-check money that had been missed out on, known as “recovery rebate credits.”

Completing the portal information also enables a person to register for the $1,400 third round of stimulus checks.

The first stimulus check paid $1,200 for eligible adults and $500 for children. The second paid $600 for adults and children. The third round paid $1,400 for adults and children.

The portal will ask for information including date of birth, mailing address, Social Security numbers or other taxpayer identification numbers. It will also ask for bank account and routing numbers if the applicant has a bank account.

If someone filed a 2019 or 2020 yax return, or if they used the non-filer portal last year for stimulus checks, they don’t need to do anything further to secure the upcoming child tax credit, the Treasury Department said.

The portal isn’t open to people who made more than $12,400 or married couples who made more than $24,800, according to the IRS. (That’s the minimum income for filers of a 2020 federal tax return.)

Starting later this week and continuing into early July, the IRS plans to host outreach events in 12 major cities across the country where people from IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers and other organizations will help eligible families file their 2020 taxes in order to receive the Child Tax Credit payments.

The list of events and locations is here.

The IRS unveiled another online portal on Tuesday. This one will, among other things, allow people to opt out of the monthly child tax credit payments and instead get the cash in a lump sum at tax time. In the months to come, people can use this portal to supply the IRS with crucial developments, like changes to the number of dependents or marital status. It will also allow people to give new bank account information and new mailing address information.

The IRS on Tuesday also posted an online tool to help people determine if they are eligible for the credit.

Earlier this month, the IRS started sending out millions of letters to notify households they might be eligible for the child-tax-credit cash. A second wave of letters will inform families how much money they will actually receive per month.

This story was updated on June 22, 2021.

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