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Millions received a child tax credit payment last Friday. Still waiting? Track your money online

eddygates1 | August 20, 2021


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The next deadline to opt out of advance child tax credit checks is Aug. 30. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

The advance  child tax credit payments are rolling in for many parents without problems. Millions are getting checks up to $300 per child through December. By now, parents may be able to better predict how their checks will be sent and how much to expect. But some parents are still waiting on last Friday’s advance payment. And many more are still missing July’s payment, with no clue of where the money is. 

The extra cash could be a big help to cover rising day care costs and back-to-school supplies. But a few glitches from the IRS may mean that some parents have to wait a bit longer. Some checks are delayed because of an issue with the IRS sending your family a paper check in August instead of direct deposit, which takes considerably more time to arrive. That’s the case for some 4 million households, according to the tax agency’s most recent statement. Other reasons for delay include direct deposit errors, the wrong mailing address or other common reasons for the holdup

The good news is that if you didn’t receive last month’s check, you can expect to get half of your total amount in five payments, instead of six. And regardless of the reason for your check being delayed, there’s still a way to track your check online using the online Update Portal for a clue of where your money is. We’ll also share reasons why you may want to opt out of the advance monthly checks. And what happens if you continue to receive the money? We’ve updated this story recently. 

How can I check the status of child tax credit payments online?

You can generally expect recurring monthly payments to hit your bank account on the 15th of every month except for this month’s (it was scheduled for the 13th). (See the chart below for more.) According to the IRS, you can use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to see your processed monthly payment history. It’ll be a good way to watch for pending payments that haven’t gone through your bank account yet. 

If you still haven’t received the money you’re owed, see if the Processed Payments section of the Update Portal has any information. If the payment was delivered, make sure your address and banking information are correct — especially if you’ve moved or changed banks.

To check on your payments online, you’ll need to register with your IRS username and ID.me account information. First-time users will need to have a photo ID (it’s one of the ways the IRS is trying to protect your information from identity theft). We don’t know yet if the portal will display other payment details, such as banking information, amount, the check’s processing date or what could be causing a delay in the payment. 

If you’re checking your bank account, look for the deposit labeled “CHILDCTC.” If your bank has not received the deposit from the IRS, it won’t have any processing information for you if you’re trying to locate your check. If you think there’s an error, start by using the Update Portal to double-check the bank details the IRS has on file, including your account information and routing numbers. 

Child tax credit payment schedule

Monthly  Maximum payment per child 5 and younger  Maximum payment per child age 6 to 17
July 15 $300 $250
Aug. 13 $300 $250
Sept. 15 $300 $250
Oct. 15 $300 $250
Nov. 15 $300 $250
Dec. 15 $300 $250
April 2022: Second half of payment  $1,800 $1,500

What can I do if I’m still waiting for a child tax credit payment? 

The first child tax credit check was sent on July 15 and the second was issued on Aug. 13, but some parents are still waiting. Even though child tax credit payments are scheduled to arrive on certain dates, you may not get the money when expected for a few reasons. The IRS may not have an up-to-date mailing address or banking information to send your check. The mailed check may be held up by the US Postal Service or the direct deposit payment may still be being processed. 

It’s also important to note that if you’re a victim of tax-related identity theft, you won’t receive child tax credit payments until those issues have been resolved with the IRS. If the issues aren’t cleared up this year while early payments are disbursed, you’ll get the full amount when you file taxes in 2022. And keep in mind that even if you have unpaid state or federal debt, you should still receive child tax credit payments if you’re eligible. 

Problems with missing payments have also been reported among “mixed-status” families, where one parent is a US citizen and the other is an immigrant. It appears to have been an IRS glitch that the tax agency has corrected for the August payment. Parents who file their taxes and whose children have Social Security numbers qualify for the payments as long as they meet all the other income and age requirements.

Another possible reason your check may be delayed is that your 2020 return is still processing. The IRS is currently working through a backlog of returns. If your information has changed or you had a baby recently, the IRS may not know that they owe you the credit, especially if the tax agency is basing the credit on your 2019 tax return while the latest one is processing. 


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What if I received less child tax credit money than I expected?

Your first child tax credit check may have been less or more than you expected last month. If you meet all of the child tax credit requirements and find that you’re receiving less or more money than expected, there are a few steps you can take. Start by checking your eligibility based on your most recent tax return using the IRS Eligibility Assistant

Note that the IRS said that it could be using your 2019 tax return to determine your eligibility. Once the IRS processes your 2020 tax return, it will automatically adjust your advance monthly payments by increasing or decreasing how much you get. If you didn’t file your taxes, use the Child Tax Credit Non-filer Sign-up Tool to add your information and determine eligibility. It’s unclear if the IRS will make up any differences in remaining payments or if the difference will be included in next year’s tax refund. 

One reason parents may get less money is if they fall out of the income bracket for the maximum amount for monthly payments. Married couples filing jointly earning up to $150,000 and single filers earning up to $75,000 can qualify for the full amount. If you make more, the monthly check is reduced by $50 for every $1,000 over the income bracket. So, if you earn $80,000 as a single filer, you may only be eligible for up to $200 per month — depending on other eligibility factors. 

If you didn’t get your July check, you may still get the first monthly payment this month and still get their total advance payment for the year. Parents with delayed payments can expect their payments to be spread out over five months, instead of six.

Is there still time to update my banking info for the September check? 

If the IRS doesn’t have your account information, you can submit it using the Child Tax Credit Update Portal for the September payment, which you have to do by Monday, Aug. 30. The IRS recommends using direct deposit to get future payments quicker. Eligible parents that have banking information on file from stimulus checks or tax refunds with the IRS should have received money via direct deposit for the July payment. 

If you didn’t add your banking information in time for July’s payment, or if you’re one of the families that is receiving a paper check just for the month of August, look out for a mailed check to the address that the IRS has on file for you — just like a mailed tax refund. If you need to update your mailing address for your check, you won’t be able to do that through the Update Portal quite yet. The IRS plans to continue expanding the functionality of that portal so you’ll be able to update your address, income and number of kids in the near future. 

A commenter in a recent Reddit thread says they were told the IRS is having a few issues with the child tax credit checks but is working to resolve them. If you’re waiting on your payment and the portal says it’s “Pending,” keep holding on. A check should be coming your way soon via direct deposit or mail. After a week, you can try to contact the IRS, or eventually do a payment trace.

How can I file a payment trace for my missing child tax credit payment?

The IRS also offers a payment trace as a way to find your funds, including from missing stimulus checks. You can request a trace — which means filing an inquiry into the location of your IRS money — by mailing or faxing Form 3911 (PDF) to the tax agency. Even if the IRS says you’re ineligible for advance payments, it’s best to submit a payment trace in case there’s a portal error. 

Your payment will be traceable if it has been at least five days since the deposit date and the bank hasn’t received the money, four weeks since the check was mailed or six weeks if it was mailed to a forwarded address listed by USPS. If the check was mailed to a foreign address, you can ask for a payment trace after nine weeks.

When to request a payment trace

Method of payment Time passed since IRS sent your payment
Direct deposit 5 days
Check mailed to standard address 4 weeks
Check mailed to a forwarded address 6 weeks
Check mailed to a foreign address 9 weeks

At a first glance, the steps to request a payment trace can look daunting. You’ll need to print and mail the completed Form 3911 from the IRS (PDF) to start tracing your child tax credit payment. If you need help completing the form, reach out to your local tax consultant. Before you do, there are a few pointers to keep in mind. 

  • An IRS representative told CNET that there’s not an abbreviation or code to include in the “Inquiry” field. You’ll need to be as specific as possible about what payment you’d like to track. Make sure you specify that you’re looking to trace a child tax credit check and the month the payment was disbursed. 
  • If you filed taxes jointly, both parents will need to sign the form to start the payment trace process. 
  • Be sure to check whether or not your money was sent via direct deposit or check. If your banking information is listed on the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, we recommend choosing the direct deposit box. 
  • You’ll need to mail the form where you would usually send a paper tax return in your area. The IRS has a list of addresses and fax numbers to help. 
  • You should not request a payment trace to determine your eligibility or to confirm your child tax credit amount. 
  • It could take up to 60 days to receive a response.
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Some parents haven’t received the August child tax credit check yet. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Can I still opt out of advance payments to avoid repaying?

The child tax credit requirements are different from previous years. If you ultimately receive more money than you’re eligible for, you may have to pay the IRS back. That’s why it’ll be important to use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to inform the IRS of changes to your household circumstances so adjustments can be made. 

You may choose to opt out of advance monthly child tax credit payments to get one lump sum during tax time in 2022. It also may be the safest option to avoid repaying the IRS if you’re ineligible for the monthly payments, especially if your income changes this year. You can use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to opt out of the program anytime. You’ll only need to unenroll once, and you’ll be able to reenroll in late September if you need to. 

If you or your spouse unenrolled from the child tax credit program but still got the money, it’s possible you didn’t opt out in time. You need to do so at least three days before the first Thursday of the month because it takes up to seven calendar days to process the request. The next opt-out deadline is Aug. 30. Note that if you file taxes jointly, each parent needs to unenroll. Otherwise, the spouse who doesn’t opt out will receive half of the joint payment. 

Here are the deadlines for unenrolling:

Child tax credit opt-out deadline

Payment date Unenrollment deadline 
July 15 June 28 
Aug. 13 Aug. 2
Sept. 15 Aug. 30 
Oct. 15 Oct. 4 
Nov. 15 Nov. 1
Dec. 15 Nov. 29

The IRS will send a notice (Letter 6419) closer to tax time in 2022 with the adjusted credit amount based on the advance payments already disbursed to you. Hold on to this letter because you’ll need it when you file your 2021 income tax return if you need to return part of your payment. If you received the first and second child tax credit payments but are ineligible, it’s best to opt out before September’s payment. 

Can I call the IRS for child tax credit questions I have?

You may have questions about your child tax credit eligibility, missing check or changes to your information. The first thought is to contact the IRS, but there’s limited live assistance due to a tax return backlog, delayed stimulus checks and unemployment tax refunds. On top of all of the delays, the IRS doesn’t have a separate phone number for child tax credit questions. Instead of calling, it may be faster to check the IRS website for answers to your questions. And remember that the Update Portal can help with eligibility, payment history and updating your personal information online. 

We’ll continue to update this story with new information about tool updates, the child tax credit program and tracking your payments. Take a look at how joint child custody affects the child tax credit as well.

Written by eddygates1

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