Time is running out for families to sign up to receive the enhanced child tax credit and get money through the benefit this year.
The site, developed by Code for America and the Treasury Department, is for families that have children eligible for the credit who didn't get it automatically this year, generally because they don't make enough money to file a tax return.
"If parents haven't already gotten the payment and they're eligible for it, it's not too late to sign up," said Ashley Burnside, a policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy.
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One large December check
Families enrolling for the credit now will get the entire first half of the credit in December, meaning they'll see one large check this year.
That's because the monthly money is an advance on a 2021 tax credit, half to be delivered this year and the rest to come when families file their taxes next year.
The American Rescue Plan passed in March expanded the existing child tax credit, adding advance monthly payments and increasing the benefit to $3,000 from $2,000 with a $600 bonus for kids under the age of 6 for the 2021 tax year.
For a family with two children aged 5 and 7 eligible for the full credit, the amount they'd receive is $6,600 ($3,000 for the 7-year-old plus $3,600 for the 5-year-old.)
If they filed a tax return in 2019 or 2020 and had direct deposit, the family started receiving the first $3,300 of the credit in six monthly payments of $550 from July to December.
But if the same family doesn't traditionally file taxes because they don't earn enough, they would need to sign up to get the monthly payments. If the family missed the July payment but signed up in August — as about 1 million families did — they'd still get $3,300 before the end of the year.
Why it makes sense to sign up now
To be sure, if a family fails to sign up for the new child tax credit this year they will miss out on advance payments but can still get the money in a lump sum next year by filing a tax return.
Still, that means they'll get the money months after it was intended to be delivered and may have to deal with IRS delays.
Experts say that everyone with an eligible child should sign up as soon as they are able, unless they are part of a family who know they want to opt out and receive the benefit in a lump sum next year.
"We would hate for money to be left on the table when people are hungry, when people have housing insecurities, food insecurities," said Otis Rolley, senior vice president of the U.S. equity and economic opportunity initiative at the Rockefeller Foundation.
It may also be important for families to claim the money now as the enhanced child tax credit may not be continued for much longer. Democrats are fighting to keep the credit for one more year, but that may change as lawmakers continue to negotiate President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan.
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