Qualifying parents and guardians with qualifying children
2021 Child Tax Credit payments are made to eligible parents and guardians based on the number of qualifying children they have. Payment amounts for each qualifying child depend on the child’s age and the parent’s annual income.
The maximum Child Tax Credit that parents can receive based on their annual income
You should receive the full amount of the 2021 Child Tax Credit for each qualifying child if you meet all eligibility factors and your annual income is not more than:
- $150,000 for a person who is married and filing a joint return;
- $112,500 for a family with a single parent (also called Head of Household); and
- $75,000 for a single filer or a person who is married and filing a separate return.
Parents and guardians with higher incomes may still receive a partial payment. Eligible parents and guardians receive a maximum of $3,000 for each qualifying child who was between the ages of 6 and 17 at the end of 2021. Eligible parents and guardians of qualifying children younger than age 6 at the end of 2021 receive a maximum credit of $3,600 per child. Children who attend college are qualifying children for the Child Tax Credit if they meet the age and other requirements described in the next section.
Dependent children age 18 and older can qualify their parents for the $500 Credit for Other Dependents. For more information about the Credit for Other Dependents, see the Instructions for Schedule 8812 (Form 1040).
If you do not qualify to receive the maximum amount, use the Get your Child Tax Credit tool to estimate how much you should receive.
How to determine whether a child qualifies
Most children under the age of 18 are qualifying children for the 2021 Child Tax Credit. This means that a parent or guardian is eligible to claim them for purposes of the Child Tax Credit.
For your children to qualify you for a Child Tax Credit, they must:
- Not have turned 18 before January 1, 2022;
- Be your own child, adopted child, stepchild, or foster child. You can also claim a sibling, step-sibling, half-sibling, or a descendent of any of them (including a niece, nephew, or grandchild);
- Have lived with you for more than half of 2021;
- Not have paid more than half their own expenses; and
- Be a U.S. Citizen, U.S. national, or U.S. resident alien.
The IRS has provided detailed information on other, less common factors that may impact whether a child is a qualifying child for the Child Tax Credit.
Children born or newly added to your family in 2021
Last year’s monthly Child Tax Credit payments were based on your 2019 or 2020 tax returns, which did not include any children born or newly added to your family in 2021.
However, a child born or added to your family (such as through adoption) in 2021 can be a qualifying child for the full 2021 Child Tax Credit, even if you did not receive monthly Child Tax Credit payments in 2021. You will receive the full amount of the Child Tax Credit that you are eligible for when you file your 2021 tax return.
Annual income affects Child Tax Credit payments
The amount of your 2021 Child Tax Credit is based on your income, filing status, number of qualifying children, and the age of your qualifying children.
People who are eligible for the full credit amount
These people are eligible for the full 2021 Child Tax Credit for each qualifying child:
- Married couples filing a joint return with income of $150,000 or less.
- Families with a single parent (also called Head of Household) with income of $112,500 or less.
- Everyone else with income of $75,000 or less.
For the 2021 Child Tax Credit, the age of each qualifying child – whether they were older or younger than 6 years old at the end of 2021 – will determine the Child Tax Credit amount that their parents or guardians are eligible to receive.
People who are eligible for a partial amount of Child Tax Credit
These people qualify for a 2021 Child Tax Credit of at least $2,000 per qualifying child:
- Married couples filing a joint return with income of $400,000 or less.
- Families with a single parent (also called Head of Household) with income of $200,000 or less.
- Everyone else with income of $200,000 or less.
Families with even higher incomes may receive smaller amounts or no credit at all.
Why life changes affect Child Tax Credit payments
The monthly 2021 Child Tax Credit payments were based on what the IRS knew about you and your family from your 2019 or 2020 tax return. Changes in income, filing status, the birth or death of a child, or having a child move into or out of your household may have affected the amount that you are eligible to receive when you file your 2021 tax return.
This section will help you understand how certain life events will impact your Child Tax Credit eligibility.
If you experienced an income change since you last filed your tax return, this can impact how much you are eligible to receive for each qualifying child. For example, if you had a much higher income in 2021 as compared to 2020, then your Child Tax Credit amount could be reduced.
On the other hand, a loss of income in 2021 would not reduce the amount of your Child Tax Credit, and may actually entitle you to a higher amount. You’ll claim any additional credit amount when you file your 2021 income tax return.
Number of Qualifying Children
Because monthly Child Tax Credit payments were not made for qualifying children not listed on your most recent income tax return, a qualifying child added in 2021 generally entitles you to receive the full 2021 Child Tax Credit as a lump sum. If you had a new baby or adopted a new baby in 2021 you have a qualifying child. You should receive the full amount that you are eligible to receive when you file your 2021 tax return.
If your child died on or after January 1, 2021, you remain eligible to claim the 2021 Child Tax Credit for the full year, and no action is required. It does not matter when during the year you lost your child.
Tax Filing Status
If you filed jointly in the past, each spouse is considered to have received half of each 2021 monthly payment amount.
Child Tax Credit payments will not affect your immigration status
Under current law, receiving the Child Tax Credit will not affect your immigration status, ability to get a green card, or your future eligibility for immigration benefits. Use of Federal tax credits is not considered for purposes of a “public charge” determination by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
DACA and the Child Tax Credit
Receiving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) does not prevent you from claiming the 2021 Child Tax Credit for a qualifying child. Even if your child is a DACA recipient, that does not prevent you from claiming them as a qualifying child for the 2021 Child Tax Credit on your tax return.
Information you share with IRS
Signing up to receive Child Tax Credit payments, or filing a 2021 tax return, does not mean information about you or your family will be shared with immigration enforcement. Taxpayer confidentiality laws prevent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees, except in very limited circumstances, from legally sharing information with other federal agencies. It can be a crime for an IRS employee to improperly share taxpayer information with immigration enforcement.
Social Security Numbers and Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers
You – and your spouse, if married and filing a joint return – must have either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to be eligible to claim the Child Tax Credit.
In order for you to qualify for the Child Tax Credit, your child must have an SSN that is “valid for employment.” An SSN is “valid for employment” if your child is able to legally work in the United States, even if they are currently too young to work or do not work.
If your child’s Social Security card has the words “NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT” on it then you cannot claim the Child Tax Credit for them. If those words do not appear on your child’s Social Security card, and their immigration status hasn’t changed since it was issued, then your child’s SSN is valid for employment.
If your child is not a qualifying child for the Child Tax Credit, you may be able to claim the $500 Credit for Other Dependents for that child when you file 2021 your tax return. For more information about the Credit for Other Dependents, see the Instructions for Schedule 8812 (Form 1040).
Here’s how to get an ITIN if you do not currently have one.
Residents of Puerto Rico
Because of the American Rescue Plan signed by President Biden in March 2021, bona fide residents of Puerto Rico are eligible to receive the same expanded Child Tax Credit as residents of the 50 States or the District of Columbia—$3,600 per qualifying child under age 6 and $3,000 per qualifying child age 6 to 17. This change removed the previous requirement that a resident of Puerto Rico have at least three qualifying children to be eligible for the Child Tax Credit. Bona fide residents of Puerto Rico now need only one qualifying child to claim the Child Tax Credit.
Residents of Puerto Rico were not eligible to receive advance monthly payments of the Child Tax Credit in 2021. Instead, residents will be able to receive the full amount of Child Tax Credit they are eligible for by filing a 2021 U.S. federal income tax return during the 2022 tax filing season.
Residents of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands
Residents of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands may be eligible for advance Child Tax Credit payments and the Child Tax Credit. The credit is being administered by the tax agencies of each U.S. territory, not the IRS. Please contact your local U.S. territory tax agency regarding your eligibility, and for additional information about any other changes to the Child Tax Credit.
Parents who live outside the United States
If you – and your spouse, if you are married and filing a joint return – do not have your main home in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia for more than half the year, you can still qualify for up to $3,000 or $3,600 for each qualifying child, but the refundability of your Child Tax Credit will be limited.
Learn more about eligibility of parents who live out of the country.