Child tax credit: How to opt for one big payout instead of monthly payments

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The IRS says 88% of U.S. families with children will be automatically enrolled to receive the new monthly child tax credit payments starting next month.

But as with many tax breaks, many parents may prefer one big payout at filing time to the gradual increase through the year. The Internal Revenue Service said that will be an option with the beefed-up child tax credit, but it’s up to taxpayers to delay the payment.

The American Rescue Plan passed earlier this year, increasing the existing maximum child tax credit to $3,600 for children under 6 and $3,000 per kid for children between 6 and 17. It also set up a framework to prepay a portion of those funds over the final six months of 2021 through the IRS. According to the feds, roughly 39 million households will begin receiving checks on or after July 15th, “without any further action required.”

“Households covering more than 65 million children will receive the monthly CTC payments through direct deposit, paper check, or debit cards,” the IRS wrote in a press release last month.

The increased payments will phase out for higher income earners, including parents filing jointly who earn over $150,000.

The advance payments run from July through December, and cover up to 50% of the available credit, meaning that taxpayers who do take the monthly checks will still see half of their benefit at tax-filing time.

Opt out of monthly payments

If you’d like to keep taking the full credit on your taxes next spring, as you may have with the smaller payout in previous years, you now have a small window of time to take action.

On Tuesday, the IRS unveiled a Child Tax Credit Update Portal where you can verify that your family qualifies for the credit and opt out of receiving any payments this year, getting it all with your taxes next year instead.

The first monthly payment is set to go out on July 15, according to the IRS, so families only have a few days to make their decision.

Married couples filing jointly must both unenroll, the agency says. If you or your spouse doesn’t unenroll, you will get half of the joint payment you were supposed to receive with your spouse.

The deadline for the July payment is June 28. See more enrollment dates below:

child tax credit un-enrollment dates

The IRS said currently if you unenroll, you can’t re-enroll. In late September, families will be able to opt back in, however.

So why unenroll? CNET reports a few reasons: Your family would rather have one large payment in 2022 instead of seven smaller payments over several months; your household circumstances or tax situation will change, and you don’t want to update the IRS portal.

The IRS also offers one: You may avoid owing tax to the IRS in 2022 if you unenroll and claim the entire credit when you file your 2021 tax return.

Remember: If you want to receive monthly payments and filed your taxes for 2020 earlier this year, you don’t need to do anything. The IRS will send payments via direct deposit, paper check or debit cards, starting next month, based on information provided in your taxes.

Help for non-filers

The IRS has also made a second portal available — the Child Tax Credit Non-filer Sign-up Tool. It’s for low-income families that don’t typically file taxes, allowing them to make the government aware of their dependents.

These families will have to give the IRS some basic information to receive their Child Tax Credit payments.

The first round of check distribution is now just a few weeks out, leaving the IRS a small window of time to absorb the crush of delayed 2020 taxes, launch these new portals and begin distributing millions of new monthly checks.

Child Tax Credit Payment Calculator

Use the calculator below to estimate how much you might receive in child tax credit periodic payments beginning in July, 2021

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