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Last Child Tax Credit Payment in 2021 Will Be Sent Today (Will There Be More?)

picture of a government check on an American flag
picture of a government check on an American flag Getty Images

The IRS is starting to send the sixth and final round of monthly child tax credit payments today (December 15). The first five payments were sent from July to November.

For parents who received their first child tax credit payment in July, the maximum monthly payment for each child 6 to 17 years old is $250 and $300 for each kid under age 6. That's the most you can get, but families with higher incomes won't receive that much or could be denied the credit altogether. (Use Kiplinger's 2021 Child Tax Credit Calculator for an estimate of your monthly payments if you got your first payment in July.)

If you get your first monthly payment after July, the maximum payment amount is higher. That's because you'll still receive the same amount of money in 2021 (i.e., 50% of your total child tax credit for the year), but it will be paid in fewer installments. For example, the maximum monthly payment for a family that receives its first payment in December is $1,500-per-child for kids ages 6 through 17 and $1,800-per-child for kids under age 6. (Again, wealthier families will get less or nothing at all.)

Direct Deposit Child Tax Credit Payments

In most cases, monthly child tax credit payments are being directly deposited into each family's bank account. That's how you'll get paid if the IRS has bank account information from:

  • Your 2019 or 2020 tax return;

  • The IRS's online tool used in 2020 by people who aren't required to file a tax return to get a first-round stimulus check; or

  • A federal agency that provides you benefits, such as the Social Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, or the Railroad Retirement Board.

If the IRS doesn't have your bank account information, it will send you a paper check or debit card by mail.

Unfortunately, it's too late to make bank information changes for the last child tax credit payment. That includes signing up for direct deposit if you're scheduled to receive a paper check or debit card. Those changes had to be submitted using the IRS's Child Tax Credit Update Portal by November 29.

The deadline has also passed for opting out of the last child tax credit payment. Some people didn't want the monthly payments because they preferred a higher tax refund when they file their tax return next year. Other parents opted-out because they knew they wouldn't qualify for the 2021 child tax credit (e.g., because their 2021 income is too high, someone else will claim their child as a dependent in 2021, or they lived outside the U.S. for more than half of 2021) and were worried about having to pay the money back.

Will Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments Continue in 2022?

The monthly child tax credit payments are currently set to expire at the end of the year. However, there's a chance that today's payment will not be the last one. The Build Back Better Act, which was passed in the House of Representatives and is awaiting action in the Senate, would extend the monthly payments (and other child tax credit enhancements enacted for 2021) for one more year.

There would be some differences between the 2021 child tax credit payments and 2022 payments if the current version of the Build Back Better Act is enacted into law. For instance, people with higher incomes wouldn't receive monthly payments next year and the IRS could use more information to determine the amount of your payment. However, for the most families, the monthly payments would be more or less the same as they were in 2021. (For more on potential changes, see Child Tax Credit 2022: How Next Year's Credit Could Be Different.)

Congressional Democrats want the Build Back Better Act signed into law before the end of the year so that monthly child tax credit payments can start up again in January without missing a beat. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is hoping the Senate can pass the Build Back Better Act before Christmas. However, it's widely believed that the Senate will make changes to the legislation, which would mean that the bill would have to go back to the House for another vote before it's sent to President Biden for his signature. Given this, and concerns by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and other moderate Democrats about the legislation's price tag and additional inflation, it's not clear yet if the Build Back Better Act will become law this year (or ever).

There's also the possibility that the Build Back Better Act could be enacted with modified child tax credit provisions. For instance, Manchin has suggested that a work requirement for monthly payment recipients should be added to the bill. This, or other changes, could be made to the current Build Back Better Act in order to gain Manchin's support, which is needed to pass the overall bill in the Senate.

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