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2021 Child Tax Credit, Dependent Care, and EITC

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2021 Advanced Payments of the Child Tax Credit

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 made important changes to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for tax year 2021 only. Basic changes include:

  • The credit amounts will increase for many taxpayers. The maximum Child Tax Credit increased to $3,600 for children under the age of 6 and to $3,000 per child for children between ages 6 and 17.
  • The credit for qualifying children is fully refundable, which means that taxpayers can benefit from the credit even if they don’t have earned income or don’t owe any income taxes.
  • The credit will include children who turn age 17 in 2021.
  • Certain taxpayers may receive part of their credit in 2021 before filing their 2021 tax return during the 2022 tax filing season.
  • The easiest way to find out if you qualify to claim this credit is to use the you can use the Advance Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant. It will ask you questions about yourself and other family members to see if you qualify for the credit, and if so, it will estimate the amount.

See Topic A: General Information, Topic C: Calculation of the 2021 Child Tax Credit and Topic D: Calculation of Advance Child Tax Credit Payments for more details.

Important: Taxpayers do not need to take any action other than to file their 2020 tax return as soon as possible (preferably electronically) if they have not done so to ensure the IRS has the information needed in time to determine potential eligibility for the advanced payment program.

  • The IRS has created a special tool, called the Child Tax Credit Non-filer Sign-up Tool that allows certain taxpayers to register to be eligible for advanced CTC payments. Generally, the tool is for those taxpayers not normally required to file a tax return. Carefully read the ‘Who Should Use This Tool” and the ‘What You Need’ information on that page before using the tool.

Advanced payments of the 2021 CTC will be made monthly from July through December to eligible taxpayers, starting July 15. The advanced payments will be up to 50 percent of the total estimated credit, which is based on information included in eligible taxpayers’ 2020 tax returns (or their 2019 returns if the 2020 returns are not filed and processed yet). See Topic D: Calculation of Advance Child Tax Credit Payments and Topic G: Receiving Advance Child Tax Credit Payments for more details.

  • Eligible taxpayers who do not want to receive advanced payments of the 2021 CTC will have the opportunity to opt out (unenroll) from receiving advanced payments. The full credit can still be claimed on a 2021 individual tax return, during the 2022 tax filing season.
  • A Child Tax Credit Update (CTC Up) tool is available to unenroll, report changes in circumstances that affect the total credit, and update banking and address information. See Topic F: Updating Your Child Tax Credit Information During 2021 for more information.
  • IRS will has started sending Letters 6416 and 6416-A (both named Advance Child Tax Credit Outreach letter) to eligible taxpayers with more information about the advance payments. These letters estimate CTC amounts for tax year 2021 and inform taxpayers that they may be eligible to receive advance CTC payments. So, watch for your letter and follow any instructions provided.

Taxpayers will be required to report all advanced payments received and reconcile them against the total credit. See Topic H: Reconciling Your Advance Child Tax Credit Payments on Your 2021 Tax Return for more information.

For the latest IRS guidance, see the new IRS.gov Advance Child Tax Credit Payments in 2021 and Questions and Answers About the Advance Child Tax Credit Payments pages and continue to watch it for more official updates over the coming months.

Related information:

Note: do not confuse these advanced CTC payments with the additional Child Tax Credit.

2021 Child and Dependent Care Credit

For tax year 2021, the ARPA temporarily increased the maximum amount of work-related expenses for qualifying care that may be taken into account in calculating the child and dependent care credit, increased the maximum percentage of those expenses for which the credit may be taken, modified how the credit is reduced for higher earners, and made it refundable.

Credit amounts

For 2021, eligible taxpayers can claim qualifying work-related expenses up to:

  • $8,000 for one qualifying person, up from $3,000 in prior years, or
  • $16,000 for two or more qualifying persons, up from $6,000 in prior years.

Combined with the increase to 50 percent in the maximum credit rate, taxpayers with the maximum amount of qualifying work-related expenses would receive a maximum credit of $4,000 for one qualifying person, or $8,000 for two or more qualifying persons. When calculating the credit, a taxpayer must subtract employer-provided dependent care benefits, such as those provided through a flexible spending account, from total work-related expenses.

Qualifying information

  • Taxpayers are required to have earnings; the amount of qualifying work-related expenses claimed cannot exceed a taxpayer’s earnings. For more information, see Work-related expenses.
  • A taxpayer (or the taxpayer’s spouse if filing a joint return) must reside in the United States for more than half of the year. However, special rules apply to military personnel stationed outside of the United States, see Q15, for more information.
  • A qualifying person generally is a dependent under the age of 13, or a dependent of any age or spouse who is incapable of self-care and who lives with the taxpayer for more than half of the year.
  • A valid taxpayer identification number (TIN) for each qualifying person.

Families with incomes up to $125,000 are eligible for the full credit, after which the percentage of expenses that taxpayers can claim gradually decreases until it phases out at $438,000 in adjusted gross income.

The credit is fully refundable for the first time in 2021. This means an eligible taxpayer can receive it, even if they owe no federal income tax.

Claiming the credit

  • To claim the credit for 2021, taxpayers will need to complete Form 2441, Child and Dependent Care Expenses, and attach it to Form 1040, U.S Individual Income Tax Return, Form 1040-SR, U.S. Tax Return for Seniors or Form 1040-NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return during the 2022 tax filing season.
  • The name, address and taxpayer identification number of the care provider must be included on the return.

For more information about completing the form and claiming the credit, see the instructions to Form 2441.

For more Child and dependent care credit information, see:

2021 Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

Section 9621 of the ARPA temporarily expands EITC eligibility and increases the amount of the credit for taxpayers with no qualifying children. For the 2021 taxable year only, in the case of the credit for a taxpayer with no qualifying children, the minimum age is reduced from 25 to 19. However, if the individual is a specified student, the minimum age is reduced from 25 to 24. The provision further reduces the minimum age to 18 for any qualified former foster youth or qualified homeless youth. The upper age limit on the credit for taxpayers with no qualifying children is temporarily removed for the 2021 taxable year only.

The provision increases for 2021 the amount of the credit for taxpayers with no qualifying children. The credit percentage and phaseout percentage are increased from 7.65 percent to 15.3 percent. In addition, the earned income amount is increased to $9,820, and the beginning of the phaseout range for non-joint filers is increased to $11,610 ($17,550 if married filing jointly).

Other provisions of Section 9621 apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2020.

  • Section 9622 repeals the rule that an eligible taxpayer with at least one qualifying child who does not claim the EITC with respect to one or more qualifying children due to failure to meet the identification requirements—including the valid SSN requirement—with respect to such children may not claim the EITC for taxpayers with no qualifying children.
  • Section 9623 provides that an otherwise married individual separated from the individual’s spouse is treated as not married for purposes of the EITC if a joint return is not filed. The provision applies only if the taxpayer lives with a qualifying child of the taxpayer for more than one-half of the taxable year and either:
  • (1) Does not have the same principal place of abode as the individual’s spouse during the last six months of the taxable year, or
    (2) Both
        • Has a decree, instrument, or agreement (other than a decree of divorce) described in Code section 121(d)(3)(C)145 with respect to the individual’s spouse, and
        • Is not a member of the same household with the individual’s spouse by the end of the taxable year.
  • Section 9624 raises the disqualified income maximum amount to $10,000 for taxable years beginning in 2021.
  • Section 9625 provides that the Secretary of the Treasury or her delegate shall make payments to the territories that relate to the cost to each territory of its EITC.
  • Section 9626 permits a taxpayer to elect to calculate the taxpayer’s EITC for taxable years beginning in 2021 using 2019 rather than 2020 earned income, if the taxpayer’s earned income in 2021 is less than in 2019.

For more information about EITC, see: