Millions Won’t Automatically Get New Child Tax Credit

Number of the Day: The most relevant or interesting figure in personal finance

2 million

That’s at least how many people might need to register to receive their monthly child tax credit payments, according to estimates from the government, which launched a national publicity campaign Monday to promote awareness of the newly revamped federal benefit.

For the vast majority of eligible parents and others with child dependents, the monthly payments—which start on July 15—will arrive in bank accounts automatically. But there are some who will need to register because they don’t make enough money to need a federal income tax return. (Or because they filed recent returns without claiming their children.) The White House has created a new website—childtaxcredit.gov—to make sure everyone who’s eligible gets the funds. And non-filers can now use the IRS’s new online sign-up tool, launched earlier this month, to register.

President Joe Biden, who designated Monday as Child Tax Credit Awareness Day, released a video on Twitter to promote the non-filer tool, calling on families to spread the word about the expanded benefit, particularly to low-income families who need it most. 

The estimate of 2 million is a Treasury Department estimate of people who claimed 2.27 million children on healthcare-related tax forms but not on 2019 or 2020 income tax forms. As authorized in the latest pandemic relief bill, U.S. residents in 2021 are eligible for a child tax credit of up to $3,600 per child (up from a maximum of $2,000 for 2020), depending on the child’s age and the income of the household. Half of the credit will be given to families in advance, through monthly payments, unless they opt to get the entire amount at tax time.

Note

The non-filers tool has drawn criticism because it only works on laptop or desktop computers, not mobile phones. This makes it less accessible to lower-income families who are less likely to have a computer, according to the People’s Policy Project, a progressive think tank that’s called for the child tax credit to be replaced by a simplified benefit delivered by the Social Security Administration. Only about 54% of households making less than $30,000 have computers, while 71% have smartphones, a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center found.