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Monthly advance child tax credit payments start this week

As the first monthly advance payment is set to start going out on July 15, here are some things you should know.

Monthly child tax credit advance payments are set to start going out to eligible parents this week, on Thursday, July 15. The payment installments are part of the American Rescue Plan COVID relief bill signed back in March.

The child tax credit is not new. Eligible parents have already been receiving $2,000 from the government for each qualifying child when they receive an annual tax refund. The difference now is that the amount has increased, and there will also be the ability to receive up to half of the money, in advance, in the form of monthly payments this year. 

These upcoming monthly payments are considered to be an advance on eligible parents' 2022 tax returns. Eligible taxpayers will be allowed to opt-out of the advance payments and take the money all during tax season.

Here are some commonly asked questions regarding the child tax credit.

Who is eligible for the child tax credit?

About 39 million households will be eligible for the monthly child tax credit. According to the IRS about 88% of children in the U.S. are covered by it.

Married taxpayers who made less than $150,000 in 2020 and who filed jointly will receive the full amount. So will qualifying widows and widowers. The full amount will also go to heads of households who made up to $112,500 and individuals who made up to $75,000. The amount will be phased out after that.

How much is the child tax credit?

For each child under age 6 it is $3,600. That breaks down to $300 per month. For children ages 6-17, it is $3,000, or a breakdown of $250 per month. Children who turn 17 in 2021 are among those who qualify.

The payments will go to those with these adjustable gross incomes:

  • $75,000 or less for singles
  • $112,500 or less for heads of household
  • $150,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return and qualified widows and widowers

When do child tax credit payments start?

Thursday, July 15 is when the monthly payments begin

Because this is starting in the middle of the year, only half the money will come via monthly payments. The rest will come after taxes are filed, as part of refunds next spring, or funds will be deducted by the IRS if a taxpayer owes money.

When will the monthly child tax credit payment arrive?

Payments will continue through December on the following dates:

  • Friday, August 13
  • Wednesday, September 15
  • Friday, October 15
  • Monday, November 15
  • Wednesday, December 15

Do I have to take the monthly child tax credit payment?

If eligible taxpayers still want to opt out of the July 15 payment, they might be cutting it close this week. You may be able to still try and unenroll from the remaining monthly payments and just take all that money at tax time next year.

The IRS has launched the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to allow families to check if they are enrolled to get the payments. Tax payers can also unenroll there, to stop getting the payments and provide or update bank account information for direct deposit.

Families have until August 2 to change their status and choose not to get the monthly payments for the remainder of 2021.

"To access the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, a person must first verify their identity," the IRS said. "If a person has an existing IRS username or an ID.me account with a verified identity, they can use those accounts to easily sign in. People without an existing account will be asked to verify their identity with a form of photo identification using ID.me, a trusted third party for the IRS."

Is it better to take the monthly child tax credit or the lump sum?

It depends on your financial situation. One reason there was a push for the monthly payment was to help cut childhood poverty. Parents who have a lower income and are struggling could use the money immediately on food, diapers, clothing, child care or whatever is needed.

For those who do not need the money immediately, or who anticipate possibly having to pay taxes to the IRS in the spring, they are able to opt-out and know that the full amount will be available at tax time.

Another reason to consider opting out is if your income increases this year to a level where you no longer qualify for the credit. If that happens, but you have taken the advance payment, you may then be required to pay it back after filing a tax return.

There is also the unknown. It is not certain whether Congress will pass new tax laws that could affect how much tax payers can expect to get next year when filing taxes. The last time around, it happened right in the middle of tax season this year when $10,200 in unemployment benefits from 2020 were made tax-free by the American Rescue Plan -- a month after tax filings started pouring in to the IRS.

Can I get the child tax credit if I don't normally file income taxes?

Yes. The IRS has updated the Non-filer Sign-up tool used for the COVID-19 stimulus payments so that eligible Americans who normally don't have to file a tax return – mainly those with lower incomes, those who are homeless or other underserved groups – can sign up.

Is anyone apart from the IRS offering the child tax credit?

No, and the IRS is clear -- any other option other than what the Internal Revenue Service is distributing is a scam. The only way to get the monthly child tax credit payment is by filing a tax return or using the Non-filer tool.

"Watch out for scams using email, phone calls or texts related to the payments," the IRS said. "Be careful and cautious: The IRS never sends unsolicited electronic communications asking anyone to open attachments or visit a non-governmental website."

Will the monthly child tax credit continue in 2022?

The increased and monthly child tax credit from the American Rescue Plan is only good for 2021 and is not set to continue in 2022. But in President Joe Biden's American Families Plan, he is proposing extending it to 2025. Some members of Congress have called to make it permanent.

TEGNA's Douglas Jones contributed to this report.