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Stimulus check: Here's how to make sure you get the child tax credit

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you have dependent children and don't typically file a tax return, the IRS is collecting information to ensure you receive the expanded-child-tax-credit monthly advance payments that are set to start in July. 

The new non-filer sign-up tool allows lower-income families to provide their personal data to determine eligibility for the child-tax credit and to submit bank account numbers to receive direct deposits, as half of the credit will be distributed as advance monthly payments from July through December. 

The non-filer tool is only for those parents or legal guardians who are not required to file a 2020 tax return, such as those who have little to no income or who lack a permanent address, and who did not and do not plan to do so. 

Families that filed taxes in 2020 or 2019 and claimed all their existing dependents should not use the tool and do not need to take any additional action to claim the credit, as the IRS will determine eligibility as it processes returns. 

There are several other groups that are excluded from using the new, non-filer tool: 

  • Those who were married at the end of 2020, unless entering their spouse's information. 
  • Residents of U.S. territories, such as Guam or Puerto Rico. 
  • Those who do not have a primary residence in the US for at least half of the year. 
  • Those whose children were born in 2021 and who did not have a Social Security number issued before May 17, 2021. 
  • Those who made more than $12,400 in 2020 ($24,800 for married couples). 

The expanded child-tax credit, which was part of the Biden administration's American Rescue Plan, increases the amount of the credit through the end of 2021 and allows for half of the credit to be claimed as advance monthly payments. 

Eligible families will receive up to $3,600 per child under age 6 and up to $3,000 per child ages 6-17, with expanded amounts phasing out with incomes over $75,000 for single taxpayers and $150,000 for married taxpayers. Higher-income families will still receive up to $2,000 per qualifying dependent. 

How to use the non-filer tool to claim your child-tax credit

If you are among those who are eligible to use the new, non-filer sign-up tool, go to the form online. You'll need the following information to complete the process:

  • A current mailing address
  • An email address
  • Your date of birth
  • Valid Social Security numbers or tax IDs for you and all your dependents
  • Bank account information, if available
  • Your Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN), if you received one

If your income exceeded $12,400 in 2020, the IRS will direct you to e-filing options for submitting a tax return instead of continuing with the sign-up tool. 

According to CBS News, another tool will launch in the coming weeks for families to determine eligibility for advanced payments. There will also be a third tool to let taxpayers opt out of the advance-payment program; those who opt out will be able to use the full credit to offset their 2021 income taxes.  

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.