Don't File Taxes? IRS Unveils Child Credit Registration

Mother working on laptop, daughter on table.

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If you heard about the new child tax credit this year but don't make enough to file federal income tax returns, the IRS has created a way for you to claim the monthly payments of up to $300 per child.

The agency launched an online tool Monday that allows people who don’t normally file taxes to sign up to receive their advanced child tax credit payments. Eligible taxpayers who do file tax returns will automatically receive the monthly payments starting July 15 unless they opt to delay getting them with a different, yet-to-be-released online tool. 

The free tool, available on the IRS website, is aimed at households who don’t earn enough to require an income tax return, including homeless people. (Generally, people making less than the standard deduction—$12,550 for individuals and $25,100 for married couples in 2021—are not required to file.) If users of the tool missed any of the government stimulus checks authorized during the pandemic because they weren’t on the IRS’s radar, the tool will also help them get those payments, the agency said.

The federal child tax credit, formerly $2,000 per child per year, is for up to $3,600 in 2021, depending on the age of the child and the income of their household. Because it was expanded as part of the last pandemic relief bill, half is being delivered ahead of time, in the form of monthly payments rather than at tax time next year.

And of special relevance to those with low incomes, it’s fully “non-refundable” this year, meaning its entire value can be claimed even if someone doesn’t make enough to fully qualify for such a tax offset.