Stimulus check: IRS launches new tools to help you get more money

Small change lying on top of a government check.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The IRS has opened two new online portals to help parents and families navigate their advance child-tax credit payments, which are set to begin on July 15. 

One tool, the Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant, allows taxpayers to determine whether they qualify for advance tax-credit checks. Up to half of the expanded child-tax credit provided by the Biden administration's American Rescue Plan will be paid out in monthly installments through the end of 2021.

The portal walks users through a series of questions about U.S. residency and whether the child-tax credit was claimed on a previous tax return. You may also have to provide information about your income and filing status as well as your qualifying dependents to determine your eligibility.  

To receive advance payments, families must have filed a tax return in 2019 or 2020 or have used one of the non-filer tools to submit their information to the IRS. Payment amounts will be based on the most recent income-tax return available. 

However, families do not have to accept advance payments and can instead opt to receive a credit against their taxes owed when filing their 2021 tax returns in early 2022. 

The Child Tax Credit Update Portal allows you to unenroll from the advance-payment program. To use the unenrollment tool, you'll need an existing account or an account, which you can create from the portal. 

Another reason to use the unenrollment portal: you believe you may not be eligible for the child-tax credit at all, based on a higher 2021 income. If you take the advance payments and then make more money this year than you expect to, you may end up paying back the checks  on your 2021 tax bill. 

The expanded child-tax credit provides up to $3,600 per child under age 6 and up to $3,000 per child age 6 through 17. That's $300 per month and $250 per month, respectively. 

However, those amounts phase out by $50 for every $1,000 in income for single filers earning more than $75,000 per year and married filers making more than $150,000 per year. 

Families with incomes above the phase-out range are still eligible for the regular pre-2021 credit of $2,000 per child under age 17, but they won't get any of it as an advance payment. (Children who turn 17 in 2021 are not eligible for the regular child tax credit.)

Find an IRS tax-help event

Families in 12 major metropolitan areas across the country can get in-person assistance registering for the child-tax credit over the next few weeks. The IRS is partnering with community organizations to host tax-help events on June 25–26 and July 9–10. 

These events are happening in Atlanta; Detroit; Houston; Los Angeles; Las Vegas; Miami; Milwaukee; New York; Philadelphia; Phoenix; St. Louis; and Washington, D.C. Here's a PDF showing the dates, times and locations.

Emily Long

Emily Long is a Utah-based freelance writer who covers consumer technology, privacy and personal finance for Tom's Guide. She has been reporting and writing for nearly 10 years, and her work has appeared in Wirecutter, Lifehacker, NBC BETTER and CN Traveler, among others. When she's not working, you can find her trail running, teaching and practicing yoga, or studying for grad school — all fueled by coffee, obviously.