2021 Child Tax Credit Timeline: Understanding When Payments Will Begin

Mar 22, 2024 By Susan Kelly

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 brought significant improvements to the Child Tax Credit, with the goal of easing financial burdens for families nationwide. This update included monthly payments, broader eligibility requirements, and increased credit amounts. In this detailed guide, we explore the intricacies of the 2021 Child Tax Credit timeline, offering a comprehensive overview of payment schedules and what families can expect.

Legislative Framework: The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021. This $1.9 trillion economic relief package aimed to provide financial assistance to individuals and families. One of its key provisions was the significant enhancements made to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for the 2021 tax year.

Enactment and Objectives:

The Child Tax Credit was first introduced in 1997 and has undergone multiple changes over the years. However, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 brought the most significant modifications to the credit so far. The main objectives behind this legislation were to:

  • Provide financial assistance to families with children who have been significantly affected by the pandemic, helping them cope with challenges such as educational disruptions, healthcare needs, and basic living expenses.
  • Elevate countless children out of poverty by implementing a comprehensive strategy that involves increasing the credit amount available and expanding the eligibility criteria to ensure more families can benefit from the support.

Key Changes to the Child Tax Credit:

  1. Increased credit amount: Under the new law, the maximum credit amount for the 2021 tax year has been raised from $2,000 to $3,600 per child under the age of six and $3,000 per child between ages six and seventeen.
  2. Advanced monthly payments: For the first time ever, families can receive advance monthly payments of up to $300 per child starting from July 15, 2021. These payments will continue until the end of the year, with a possibility of extending into 2022.
  3. Expanded eligibility criteria: The American Rescue Plan Act extended the credit to low-income families who were previously excluded due to not meeting the minimum income threshold. This means that more families will be able to benefit from the credit.

Financial Parameters and Allocation of Payments:

The advanced monthly payments will be calculated based on the following financial parameters:

  • Phase-out threshold: The phase-out threshold for the 2021 Child Tax Credit has been increased to $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for head-of-household filers, and $150,000 for married filing jointly.
  • Allocation of payments: The monthly payments will be distributed based on the information provided on the most recently filed tax return. If there are any changes in a family's circumstances (such as a new child or change in income), they will have the option to update their information through an online portal provided by the IRS.

Impact on American Families:

The enhancements made to the Child Tax Credit are estimated to lift more than 4 million children out of poverty. Additionally, an extra 1.6 million children will become eligible for the credit, offering critical financial aid to families facing hardship during the pandemic. This support not only benefits families directly but also contributes to the broader economic recovery efforts by boosting consumer spending and stability.

Procedural Steps for Implementation:

The IRS is currently working on implementing the advanced monthly payments for the Child Tax Credit. Here's a quick rundown of what to expect in the coming months:

  • Mid-June: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is set to commence the distribution of informative letters to eligible families, providing details about their eligibility for upcoming payments and estimating the payment amounts. This initiative aims to ensure that families are well-informed about the financial support available to them.
  • July 15, 2021: The initial round of advance monthly payments, part of the new child tax credit program, will be disbursed to eligible families starting this month.
  • August 13, 2021: The second round of payments will be distributed to eligible recipients starting next week. Stay tuned for further updates on the payment distribution process.
  • September-November 2021: Monthly payments will continue until the end of the year as per the agreed schedule outlined in the contract signed on [date].

Eligibility Determinants:

  • Income Parameters: The expanded Child Tax Credit starts phasing out for individuals with incomes exceeding $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for heads of household, and $150,000 for married couples filing jointly. This change aims to provide targeted financial support to families with varying income levels, ensuring that those most in need receive the assistance they require.
  • Age Specifications: To qualify for the program, children must be under 18 years old as of December 31, 2021, ensuring access for the young participants within the specified age group.
  • Relationship and Residency Criteria: Children must meet the criteria of being U.S. citizens, nationals, or resident aliens to qualify, and they should have lived with the taxpayer for over half of the tax year to be eligible for certain benefits or deductions according to tax regulations.

Child Tax Credit Timeline Overview:

  1. Commencement: On July 15, 2021, the IRS began the distribution of monthly advance payments for the Child Tax Credit, providing eligible families with financial support to help cover the costs of raising children. This initiative aimed to assist families in meeting their children's needs and reducing financial strain.
  2. Monthly Disbursements: These payments, which make up fifty percent of the total credit allocated per child, were disbursed on the 15th day of every month. This system aimed to provide consistent financial support to families throughout the year.
  3. Automatic Enrollment: Eligible families who successfully filed a tax return for the year 2020 were automatically enrolled in the advance payment program, which aimed to provide financial assistance to those in need.
  4. Non-Filers Portal: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has set up a Non-Filers portal aimed at assisting individuals who, for the tax year 2020, did not submit a tax return. This portal allows them to easily register and ensure they receive the payments they are entitled to.

Modifications for 2021 Tax Filing:

Recovery Rebate Credit:

Families who did not receive the full amount of the Child Tax Credit through advance payments can claim the remaining portion as a Recovery Rebate Credit when filing their 2021 tax return. This credit provides additional financial support to eligible families with children, helping them offset expenses and improve their financial well-being.

Reporting Changes:

Taxpayers are required to promptly notify the IRS about any changes in their circumstances. This includes fluctuations in income, changes in marital status, or adjustments in the number of qualifying children. Keeping the IRS informed ensures accurate tax reporting and compliance with regulations.


The expanded Child Tax Credit emerged as a lifeline for countless families grappling with economic uncertainty, offering vital financial support to mitigate the costs associated with child-rearing. Understanding the intricacies of the payment timeline empowers eligible families to make informed decisions, ensuring they harness this assistance optimally. By staying abreast of eligibility prerequisites, payment schedules, and procedural nuances for the 2021 tax filing, families can navigate the process seamlessly, securing the resources essential for nurturing their children's well-being and fostering financial stability.

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