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3 ways to know if you qualify for the $3,600 child tax credit

Circle the date: July 15 is close, if you are expecting a child tax credit payment.

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Not sure if you qualify for the advance child tax credit payments starting in July? It’s hardly straightforward figuring out who is and isn’t eligible. You need to take into account the different ages of your children, how much you earn and — if you share custody of a child — where the kid lives the majority of the time. 

Thankfully, you have several ways to quickly get an idea if you qualify and how much money you could receive each month. With dependents ranging from newborns to college kids possibly qualifying for the advance child tax credit this year, it’s worth figuring out which members of your family meet the requirements.

We’ll tell you all the ways you can find out about the ins and outs of eligibility below. But if you’re looking for more information about the child tax credit, read this primer on payments. Here are tips for how to use the child tax credit money wisely. (Here are more details on stimulus check plus-up payments, and what could be holding up your income tax refund.)

The IRS is sending two child tax credit letters

If a letter arrives in your mailbox from the IRS, don’t fret. Chances are, it’s the tax agency letting you know you’re one of 36 million families who may qualify for a payment. The IRS will send the letter if it’s determined you could qualify for child tax credit money, based on your 2019 or 2020 federal income tax return. If you don’t typically file taxes, the IRS can use any information you submitted online using what’s called the non-filers tool, to flag you for eligibility if you have kids. 

That’s just the first letter giving you a heads up that you might qualify. The IRS is also planning to send a second letter to confirm that you’re eligible, and to estimate how much child tax credit money you could get. (Payments start July 15.) You don’t need to do anything if you receive this letter, except hold on to it in case you need to reference it later on.

Nonfilers and other people who don’t get the letter, don’t worry quite yet. Here’s more to know about the IRS letter, and read on for more qualification tips.

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IRS information portals coming online soon 

By the end of June, the IRS intends to open two web portals to help you get your child tax credit money. They’re a little complicated, but the biggest takeaway to know is that they’ll do two main things for you: Tell you if you qualify for the child tax credit, and help you monitor your payments.

The online portals will also let you add new information, correct or update outdated details — like the number of kids you have — and let you make a few other decisions about opting out of several smaller payments. That’s in addition to eventually tracking your payment status. (Again, here’s even more detail for people who don’t normally file taxes.)

$300 cash with calculator

We can help calculate your payment.

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Learn the requirements, and use our child tax credit calculator

Instead of sitting around waiting for the IRS to send you a letter, you can make an educated guess about your qualification status fairly easily. We think the fastest way is to use our child tax credit calculator. Just enter your yearly income and number of kids. Don’t worry — the calculator is private and anonymous and won’t store or use any of your personal information.

For the most part, the calculator tool will tell you what you need to know. However, there are some outlier qualifications that could crop up for some. For example, in some cases it’s possible your income will disqualify you

And while parents of new babies will generally qualify for the full amount, that could change if you share custody of a child. US citizenship also plays a role, so if any of your kids are adopted from another country, you’ll want to make sure you know all the rules that apply just for kids

For more, here how to see if your state owes you money, how you could get money back for your child-care costs and what if you could expect a refund for the unemployment tax break.

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