One of the larger relief programs included within the American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021, was a temporary expansion of the Child Tax Credit. The expanded credit provides $3000 to $3600 per child per year to the parent or parents, conditional on a number of other factors. While not every family in the United States qualifies, the Biden administration has estimated that roughly 36 million families will be eligible for the credit. Here’s how to tell if your family is one of them.
Fortunately, the criteria are fairly simple. Do you have a child younger than the age of seventeen? If the answer is yes, are you and your spouse together making less than $150,000 per year, or you make $75,000 or less as a single parent, you are most likely eligible for the full payment. In both cases, the payment decreases by $50 per month for each $1000 you exceed the total.
There are a few other conditions. You and your child must be U.S. citizens; your child must live with you at least six months per year; for families filing jointly, at least one parent must have a Social Security number; and parents who share custody of a child cannot both claim the tax credit.
The payments are $300 per month for children between the ages of zero and six, and $250 per month for children between the ages of six and seventeen. The IRS has decided that, as a recovery measure from the pandemic, the IRS will proactively send the Child Tax Credit payments out as tax-free checks during the year. The first of these payments is slated for July 15, 2021; the payments will continue thereafter for six months, until December 15. This means that a family can collect either $1500 or $1800 per child in direct aid, depending on the child’s age. Then, in April 2022, families can claim the other half of the payment as a tax rebate.
This system, however, is not required. If you would like to receive the payment all at once in April, the IRS allows you to change your registration status via a portal on the agency’s website. You can also use the portal to update information in other ways – for instance, if your address has changed, or if you have had another child and qualify for a further check. A second portal has been created for families which do not typically file tax returns, ensuring that all Americans are able to collect it.
Right now, the checks are scheduled to end at the end of the year, so the recurring monthly checks are temporary. However, Biden has made it the centerpiece of another relief bill – the American Families Plan – to extend the increased credit for another four years, until 2025.
Trevor Filseth is a news reporter and writer for the National Interest.