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Stimulus check: Millions to get more payments starting today

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

The first round of advance child-tax credit payments is set to be distributed to American families today (July 15), meaning millions of people will soon see hundreds more dollars in their bank accounts or mailboxes. 

The Biden administration's American Rescue Plan, approved earlier this year, expanded the amount and eligibility of the existing child-tax credit and allowed for half of the credit to be paid out in advance. Those who opt for advance payments will receive monthly installments from July through December 2021.

Under the expansion, eligible families will receive up to $3,600 per child under age 6, and up to $3,000 per child from ages 6 through 17 — including those who turn 17 before the end of 2021. Advance payments will total up to $300 or $250 per month for each child, respectively. 

The expanded credit phases out by $50 for every $1,000 in income for taxpayers earning more than $75,000 (if single) or $150,000 (if married filing jointly). 

Families above those income limits are still eligible for the regular child-tax credit, which provides up to $2,000 per eligible child as a single credit at the end of the tax year, and does not include children who turn 17 this year.

How to get your child-tax credit

In general, eligible families who have filed tax returns in 2020 or 2019 (or who have used the IRS' non-filers tool) do not need to take any action to claim the expanded child-tax credit

However, you can head over to the Child Tax Credit Update Portal on IRS.gov to make sure your direct deposit information is on file and add or update it if needed. Any changes made now will apply beginning with the Aug. 13 payment.

Families that do not enroll in direct deposit will receive paper checks instead. 

The portal also gives you the option to unenroll from advance payments. Families who do so will receive the balance of their credit as a lump sum when filing their 2021 taxes in early 2022. The deadline for unenrolling is Aug. 2. 

If any of the following apply to you, you may consider skipping advance payments: 

  • You expect your 2021 income to be too high to qualify for the child-tax credit
  • Your children are claimed on someone else's tax returns
  • Your primary residence was outside the U.S. for more than half of 2021

Be aware that in order to create an online account with the IRS website and use the Child Tax Credit Portal, you'll have to submit images of various identity documents such as a driver's license or passport. You may even have to be interviewed remotely in order to verify your identity.

Finally, if you're wondering how much you qualify for, enter your information into this child-tax credit calculator.  

Emily Long
Emily Long is a Utah-based freelance writer who covers tech, security, and personal finance. She has strong opinions on what passes for good coffee and would rather be hiking right now.