April 18, 2021

Child tax credit checks for how much? How to calculate your family’s monthly payment

Calculate how much money you could get from the 2021 child tax credit. Sarah Tew/CNET…

Calculate how much money you could get from the 2021 child tax credit.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The IRS is on track to send the newly enhanced 2021 child tax credit through monthly payments, a task it will begin organizing after sending more stimulus check “plus-up payments” and processing more 2020 tax returns. Luckily, you don’t have to wait until the checks start to arrive in July to estimate how much money you could get monthly with the new child tax credit. And since the stimulus law governing the qualifications for families and eligible children is so complex, trust us when we say you don’t want to do the math yourself. 

Before you jump to the CNET 2021 child tax calculator below, there are a few things you’ll want to know. First, you’ll get half your money this year and the other half in 2022. There’s an income limit that hinges on your adjusted gross income, and kids of different ages count toward different amounts. If you child has a birthday somewhere in between, you may get less money. The situation is different for parents who share custody, and there are details to know if you have a baby in 2021. You also won’t need to file an amended tax form to qualify.

After calculating how much money you should expect, keep reading for other important details, including money for older kids and how you’ll claim the second half of your payment in 2022. For more money matters, see if your state owes you extra money now and new rules to save on COBRA, FSA and insurance costs. Here’s what we know about a fourth stimulus check and the situation with student loan forgiveness. This story was recently updated.

Child tax credit calculator: How much money will you get for 2021?

The new child tax credit raises the 2020 limits from up to $2,000 per child to a maximum of $3,600 — but the situation gets complicated, fast. Qualified children aged 5 and under count for $3,600. Kids between 6 and 17 years old count for $3,000 maximum per child, and both 18-year-olds and full-time college students 24 and under can bring parents a $500 one-time payment. 

Enter your details below, including your adjusted gross income, or AGI, to see your payment breakdown. This calculator does not store or use your data. The results are based on our current knowledge of the law and should be treated as broad estimates only (the IRS will determine the final amount). We suggest consulting a financial professional for a more personalized estimate.

Child tax credit calculator for 2021

Use details from your 2019 or 2020 tax return.

1. Choose your filing status below.

Note: If your AGI is equal to or less than $75,000 as a single filer, $112,500 as a head of household or $150,000 filing jointly, you’ll receive the full amount. If your income is higher, your child tax credit payments will begin to phase out by $50 for every $1,000 of income over the threshold.

The child tax credit for babies born in 2021

Children born in 2021 make you eligible to receive the 2021 tax credit for $3,600 per child (that’s up to $7,200 for twins). That’s on top of payments for any other qualified child dependents you claim. Here’s more information for parents of 2021 babies.


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What if your kid reaches the cutoff age by the end of 2021?

If you have a 5-year-old child turning 6 by the end of the year, the total payment amount you could get for that child is $3,000. If you have a 17-year-old who turns 18 before the end of the year, you would receive $500 total for that dependent instead of $3,000. 

Here’s more information about qualifications your child must meet for you to get advance payments. Also, if you have a dependent who is a full-time college student and turns 25 this year, you won’t receive any payment for them.

What to know if your income changes after child tax credit checks start going out

If you start receiving advance payments this year for your 2020 taxes, but you get a new job making more money, you’ll likely be able to use an IRS child tax portal portal the agency will make available to update your information, according to Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst at Tax Foundation. Doing so would lower the payment amounts you’d receive if your new income reaches the phaseout level (see above).

If you wait until 2022 to update your information when you file your taxes and you continue to receive the full amount based on your lower income, you would either have to return the excess credit on your 2021 tax return next spring, Watson says, or you’ll get a smaller amount on your 2021 refund.

IRS commissioner Chuck Rettig said the portal will launch by July 1, and families can use it to make adjustments as needed.


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How do your taxes affect your credit total?

You need to file your 2020 taxes to get the credit if you’re a nonfiler. The IRS will automatically make the payments for those who have their taxes filed by the May 17 tax due date, the IRS’ Rettig said. So if you don’t have your tax return submitted by this time, the IRS won’t know to send you a payment. Also, if you plan to file a tax extension, you’ll likely be able to use the IRS portal, where you can update your information in case you’ve gained dependents since the last tax filing.

Other child tax credit qualifications to know about

There are some specific rules regarding qualifications not just for parents and caregivers, but for the children, too. Here’s what to know about dependent qualifications for the child tax credit.

For more information, here are more child tax credit payment details, who qualifies for the child tax credit and what we know about shared custody so far.