Parents who don’t file taxes might not get their child tax credit payments. Here’s what to do

The majority of US households, covering 60 million children, have already received the first enhanced child tax credit payment, which was issued by the IRS on July 15. But according to a report published Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, some 4 million children in low-income households might miss out on the child tax credit this year because IRS has no information or details to issue checks to those families. The next monthly advance payment is scheduled to go out Aug. 13.

In previous years, low-income families or parents without earnings may have received only a portion of the credit, if any at all. With the expanded 2021 payment program, even if you earn too little to have filed a tax return in 2019 or 2020, you could still qualify. To register for this year’s advance monthly payments as a nonfiler, you can file a tax return or use the IRS nonfilers tool, one of the online tools created by the IRS to assist with the child tax credit rollout. We’ll explain how below.

Millions of families are relying on the credit to cover basic expenses like child care, school supplies and clothing. Each monthly payment is an advance on part of the total credit, which is up to $3,000 or $3,600 per child, depending on age. Families that don’t receive monthly payments this year will get the full amount when they file a tax return in 2022. We recommend calculating your total here using CNET’s own tool, and reading up on income rules and age requirements. This story has been updated.

How nonfilers can register for payments with the IRS tool

The IRS launched its online tool back in June to help families that don’t normally file income tax returns to enroll in this year’s child tax credit program. The tool isn’t for families who already filed — or plan to file — their 2019 or 2020 income tax return. The IRS will use those tax returns to determine eligibility and disburse the coming payments to qualifying families.

The free “Non-filer Sign-up tool” is designed to allow the poorest families and those experiencing homelessness to register with their name, address and Social Security numbers. Individuals will be able to notify the IRS about any of their qualifying dependents and can provide their bank information for direct deposit of the payments once they start.

The IRS has guidance on how to fill out the form. The first step is to create an account with an email address. The next few steps require entering your information, including an address or bank account to receive payments. You’ll also need to provide your adjusted gross income, or AGI, and sign the form electronically.

1. To get started, create an account if you don’t yet have one. You’ll need a phone number, a password and an email address to confirm your information. Note that it can take up to 48 hours for the IRS to confirm your email address — and another 48 hours after submitting your information for the IRS to accept it.

2. On the next page — “Fill Out Your Tax Forms” — enter your information, including your filing status and details about dependents. Those fields are required, but you can skip the optional fields if they do not apply to you. For example, you can also add information about your”Recovery Rebate Credit” on the form, or your banking information to receive your payments electronically instead of in the mail. Tap Continue to Step 2 when ready.

3. On this page — “E-File Your Tax Forms” — you’ll provide your adjusted gross income, or AGI, and sign the form electronically by creating a new pin. If you did not file taxes last year, enter “0” in the box for AGI and skip the part about last year’s self-selected signature PIN. When you’re done, tap the Continue to E-File button to submit your information.

Problems with the nonfiler tool

The tool has come under fire by some advocacy groups for not being easy to use. The IRS recommends using the portal on a laptop or desktop computer, not on a phone (the platform on mobile devices is not as easy to read). Users will also need an email address, a solid internet connection, filing status and other tax-related information, which isn’t typically available for nonfilers. For now, it’s only accessible in English, though the instructions are available in multiple languages.

Who shouldn’t use the nonfiler tool

The IRS says you shouldn’t use the new nonfiler online tool if you already filed a 2020 income tax return or if your adjusted gross income, or AGI, exceeded $12,400 ($24,800 for a married couple). It also says you can’t use the tool if your main home is outside the US, if you or your spouse can be claimed as dependents or if you are requesting an advance child tax credit for a child born in 2021. (However, you can use the tool if you need to claim a recovery rebate credit.)…Read more>>


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