How to claim the $3,600 child tax credit for a baby born in 2021

Parents of babies born in 2021 could see payments from the child tax credit before the year’s end.


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Expecting a baby in 2021? You might wonder if you’ll be eligible for the expanded child tax credit, which was part of the same stimulus package that also included a third round of checks. The short answer is yes: 2021 babies are qualified to receive up to $3,600 per child under the expanded credit, just like those born in 2020 or earlier. Even better news? You won’t necessarily have to wait a year to receive benefits.

Parents of 2020 babies had to wait until filing their 2020 tax returns (which now aren’t due until May 17) before receiving the first and second stimulus checks, but the same won’t be the case for the expanded child credit. Unlike stimulus money (or the 2020 $2,000 child tax credit), new payments are set to occur monthly instead of in one lump sum (well, it’s complicated). 

Read on to find out exactly what parents of 2021 babies have to do to claim your payment (calculate your total based on number of children, their ages and your income). Plus, learn what to do if you still haven’t received your third stimulus check, 5 ways the new stimulus bill could save you money on healthcare, how to know if your state owes you money (and what to do about it) and where the situation stands for student loan forgiveness.

How much is the expanded child tax credit worth for new parents?

The child tax credit in 2021 has changed since last year, most notably the increased payment amount. The new credit for 2021 newborns will cap at $3,600 per eligible child, going down from there as your income goes up. The IRS uses different AGI phaseout limits (when your income is too high to qualify for the full amount of the credit) for single filers, heads of household and married couples filing jointly. CNET built a calculator for determining your specific payment eligibility, which you should definitely try out, especially if you also have older children (kids 6 and up qualify for less), share custody or don’t hold U.S. citizenship.


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When will my child tax credit payments actually arrive?

Unlike stimulus checks, the expanded child tax credit will be paid out in two distinct phases. Half your child tax credit total will arrive in monthly checks, beginning in July and continuing through December. The other half will be paid out on your 2021 tax return when you file in 2022. Anyone who qualifies and files a 2020 return by the new May 17 tax deadline will begin receiving monthly checks automatically — no need to file, claim, request or otherwise hunt down your money, as long as the IRS knows how many dependents you have.

Okay, but how can parents of 2021 babies claim the child tax credit?

If your dependents haven’t been reported to the IRS by July (or haven’t even been born yet), you have two options for receiving your payment. First, you could always wait until you file your return next spring and receive the entire child tax credit in one lump sum, just like how the former version of the credit worked. But if you’d like to receive monthly payments before next year’s tax season rolls around, there’s another option. 

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The first chunk of child tax credit payments will arrive monthly, beginning in July and continuing through December, 2021.


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The IRS has promised to set up an online portal for taxpayers to report any change in status (dependents, income, etc.) throughout the year. We don’t have a lot of information yet about how the portal will work or whether it will be made available before July 1 (the IRS won’t have the resources to build this until after tax filing season ends), but when it is unveiled, new parents will be able to use it to claim any new dependents in time to receive the child tax credit checks they are owed. Even if you go this route, you may end up receiving more than half your payment next tax season, depending on timing.

What else could affect child tax credit payments and eligibility?

One important caveat is that both you and your child must be U.S. citizens and your child needs a social security number. And another: Your child’s age is based on their age on Dec. 31, 2021, so anyone aging into the next payment bracket at any point in 2021 will be considered a part of that group for the entirety of the year. (Got a five-year-old turning six this year? Unfortunately you may be out about $600.)

We’ll keep this story updated as new information emerges about the expanded child tax credit. Still have unanswered questions? Here’s every important detail to know about the child tax credit, 2021 income limits, how shared custody could impact your child tax credit payments, and a timeline for monthly payments. And here’s everything we know so far about a potential fourth stimulus check and 9 weird facts about stimulus checks that you should know about.


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