Got a child tax credit check today but not sure you’re eligible? Here’s how to check

You may have to pay the IRS back during tax time if you received advance payments, but don’t qualify. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The first child tax credit payment landed in millions of bank accounts this morning. Eligible parents received up to $300 this morning for the first installment of six monthly payments through December (the rest comes next year). But if you got a payment and don’t qualify, you may have to pay the IRS back next year. The advance monthly child tax credit payments don’t apply to everyone — it depends on the parent’s income and the child’s age. If your circumstances have changed during the pandemic — such as a promotion or where your child lives — you may need to check your eligibility and opt out of the program. 

To check your eligibility, you can answer two quick questions using the IRS Eligibility Assistant tool, which is also available in Spanish. Then, you can use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to see if you qualify based on your most recent tax return. You’ll need personal information, like your income, filing status and number of children, to determine if you qualify for advance payments. 

If you’re eligible and money wasn’t deposited into your bank account, you may be getting a mailed check instead. And even though you’re eligible you don’t have to claim the money now. Instead, you can opt out using the Child Tax Credit Update Portal by the next deadline, Aug. 2. If you don’t have an account with the IRS yet, you can set one up using If you got the money this morning — the vast majority of households should have — use CNET’s child tax credit calculator to see how much money you can expect throughout the year. It could be up to $3,600 per kid between 2021 and 2022. Also, here’s what you need to know about how the child tax credit will affect your taxes if you’re getting the extra money now. We will update this story as needed. 

What are the child tax credit eligibility requirements? 

Parents may qualify for early child tax credit payments if they meet one of the following rules outlined by the IRS. 

  • $150,000 in total earned income if married and filing jointly
  • $75,000 in earned income if filing single 

If parents meet these income requirements, each dependent under 6 may get up to $300 per month through December and the other half during the 2022 tax season – totaling $3,600. Children ages 6-17 may receive up to $250 per month and up to $3,000 total. 

If you make more than the income requirements, you may still get advance child tax credit payments, but less than the maximum amount. The IRS subtracts $50 from each advance check for every $1,000 after the income limit. So if you make $85,000 as a single-filer, you may be eligible for up to $200 per month — depending on your child’s age.

There are a few other eligibility requirements for dependents to keep in mind: 

  • Must be a US citizen 
  • Must be younger than 17 before the last day of the tax year
  • Must be claimed on the parent’s tax return 

If you’re unsure of whether or not you qualify based on the requirements, check the Eligibility Assistant tool and update your information using the Child Tax Credit Update Portal. To be on the safe side, you can also opt out and get one lump sum during tax time next year. 

What tax information do I need to check my eligibility? 

Before you begin, make sure you’ve got a copy of your 2020 tax return, or your 2019 tax return if you haven’t yet filed your taxes this year (for example, if you filed an extension). If you don’t have a tax return on hand, you can use your filing status and the number of children you claimed, along with an estimate of your total income for 2020. 

You can use the IRS’ Eligibility Assistant tool to answer a few quick questions. If you qualify, you’ll use your tax return and the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to see if you’re enrolled for payments. You can also unenroll — even if you don’t qualify, but got your first check. 

How do I use the Eligibility Assistant tool on the IRS website?

Once you’ve figured out what your income was for 2020 or 2019, you can check your eligibility. Here’s how.

1. Go to the Advance Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant tool page on the IRS website.

2. Tap or click Check Your Eligibility.

3. You’ll then need to answer a few questions about yourself and your taxes. For instance, the form will ask if you claimed the child tax credit on a previous tax return.

4. You may need to provide additional information, depending on how you answered the questions. Here’s where you fill in your filing status, adjusted gross income and the number of children you claimed on your tax return (along with their ages).

5. After you hit Next, the tool will let you know whether you qualify based on the answers you provided. It’ll tell you the amount each kid under 6 qualifies you for, and how much each kid 6 and older qualifies you for. It’ll also show you the income phaseout details.

6. From here, tap or click Manage your advance child tax credit payments, which will take you to the child tax credit portal that lets you unenroll from the monthly payments if you’d prefer to get one large check instead of several smaller ones, or submit your information if you’re a nonfiler.

Keep in mind that the Eligibility Assistant tool and Child Tax Credit Update Portal do not tell you how much you are eligible for. 

$300 cash with calculator

Advance child tax credit payments were deposited in millions of bank accounts Thursday morning.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What information does the Eligibility Assistant tool not tell me?

  • The personalized total you’ll get from the child tax credit payment. It leaves it up to you to do the math.
  • How much the payments will be reduced if your income exceeds the limit.
  • All of the payment dates for the child tax credit.
  • Only one parent can claim the money for any given child in a shared custody situation.

Do I get child tax credit payments if I have a baby this year?

If you have a baby you’ll need to update your information in the IRS Update Portal when that feature is made available in late summer. Once the agency has your updated details on file, you’ll be eligible to receive future payments. For instance, if your baby is born Aug. 20, you could start getting the advance payments in September. You’ll have to wait until 2022 to get the July and August payments retroactively. 

If your baby is born in December 2021, you can claim the money you didn’t get from July through December when you file your taxes next year. If you have a newborn in January 2022, you won’t be eligible for the larger sum of money that was approved in the American Rescue Plan, but you could be eligible for the original amount — unless the enhanced child tax credit is extended.

You can find an answer to some of those questions in our child tax credit FAQ

Got a child tax credit check today but not sure you're eligible? Here's how to check

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