Money and Debt

Child Tax Credit

If you have children under 17 years old, you may be able to lower your taxes and increase your refund through the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Learn more about who qualifies and how to get the Child Tax Credit.

The final advance Child Tax Credit payments were made on Dec. 15, 2021. If you did not sign up to receive the advance payments, you can still claim the credit when you file your 2021 taxes. Check your eligibility and learn about your filing options at childtaxcredit.gov.

If you paid for child care so that you could work, you may qualify for a different tax credit called the Child and Dependent Care Credit. For 2021, the credit was expanded and could mean as much as $4,000 for 1 child or $8,000 for 2 or more. Learn more on the IRS website.

Be cautious with "fast tax refunds" which are really high-interest loans. Read more to learn how to get your tax refund quickly from the IRS. 

Last updated 3.4.2022

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Understanding the Basics

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The Child Tax Credit (CTC) can reduce the amount of taxes you owe depending on your income. Read more to learn who qualifies for the credit, how to reduce your taxes and increase your refund, and how this credit has changed for the 2020 and 2021 tax years.

Changes for tax year 2021

The American Rescue Plan Act, signed on March 11, 2021, temporarily increases the Child Tax Credit for the 2021 tax year.

  • In 2021, the credit is increased from $2,000 to $3,000 for each child 6 years and older, and to $3,600 for each child 5 years and younger.
  • Children up to 17 years old are eligible. The prior maximum age was 16. 
  • Half of this credit can be paid to you in advance through monthly payments starting in July and ending in December 2021. The payments will be made on the 15th of each month. You will be able to claim the other half on your 2021 tax return. 
  • If you did not receive advance payments, you can claim the entire credit amount on your 2021 tax return. Check your eligibility and learn about your filing options at childtaxcredit.gov.

For the 2021 tax year, the earned income minimum of $2,500 does not apply to the Child Tax Credit. Even if you did not have earned income, you should file your 2021 taxes to receive the Child Tax Credit.  

Check the IRS FAQs on the 2021 Child Tax Credit for more information, including what to do if you haven't received your payments.

Get all your benefits and tax credits in 2022

Follow these steps to make sure that you get or keep all the benefits and tax credits you are eligible for in 2022:

  • File your 2021 tax return. Even if you aren’t required to or don’t normally file your taxes. There are changes to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit that you can only get if you file 2021 taxes.
  • Update your household info with ODJFS. Many people have been displaced or experienced changes in their lives during the pandemic. Update your Medicaid and SNAP cases to make sure you keep your benefits and know when deadlines are coming up. Call (844) 640-6446 or go to "Government and Community Resources" on this page to find the contact information for your local JFS office. 
  • Update your household info with your child’s school. Schools need to keep your information up to date so your child(ren) receive available free or reduced-price school meals and Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) funds. If your child is out of school because of a COVID-19 related reason, make sure to report the reason for their absence to your child’s school so that they may receive P-EBT funds for qualifying absences. Even if your child is receiving free school meals during the COVID-19 pandemic, submit a new National School Meals Program application to your school so that they do not lose access if they are still eligible after the pandemic. Learn more at ohiopebt.org.

Some companies advertise “fast refunds” during tax season. These offers are actually expensive loans, called Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs). If you need your refund quickly, there are some steps you can take other than RALs:

  • Open a savings account. To receive your refund faster, schedule direct deposit of your refund into a savings account. Learn more about opening a bank account from the FDIC.
  • Request an expedited refund. If you experience an economic hardship or an IRS processing delay, the IRS may be able to send your refund faster. To request an expedited refund, call the IRS at (800) 829-1040. Explain your situation. Ask for an “expedited manual refund.”
  • Contact the Taxpayer Advocate. If you need your refund quickly due to economic hardship, call the Taxpayer Advocate Service at (877) 777-4778.
  • If you have urgent bills, you should ask the senders for more time.

What is the Child Tax Credit?

The Child Tax Credit provides up to a $2,000 reduction in your tax bill for each of your qualifying children under 17 years old.

Your Child Tax Credit amount will be lower than $2,000 per qualifying child if you:

  • Have high income. If you are a married taxpayer filing taxes jointly, your maximum Child Tax Credit is reduced if your adjusted gross income is higher than $400,000. All other taxpayers are eligible for reduced Child Tax Credits if their income is higher than $200,000.
  • Owe zero taxes. If you do not owe any taxes, you can get a refund through the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), but the maximum amount that can be refunded is $1,400 per qualifying child.
  • Owe an alternative minimum tax amount. The Child Tax Credit is limited by any alternative minimum tax (AMT) you owe. AMT is generally applicable to higher-income individuals.  

Qualifying for the Child Tax Credit

To be eligible for the Child Tax Credit, you must have a “qualifying child” under 17 years old. A “qualifying child” must meet all of these requirements:

  • Age. The child must be 16 years or younger at the end of last tax year.
  • Relationship. The child must be either your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister or a descendent of any of these people (like your grandchild, niece or nephew). An adopted child is always treated as your own child. An adopted child includes a child lawfully placed with you for legal adoption.
  • Support. The child must provide less than half of their own support.
  • Dependent. You must claim the child as a dependent on your federal tax return.
  • Citizenship. The child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or U.S. resident alien. The qualifying child must have a Social Security number issued by the Social Security Administration before the due date of their tax return (including extensions).
  • Residence. The child must live with you for more than half of the tax year. There are some exceptions to the residence requirement. For information about exceptions, read more from the IRS about Schedule 8812 (Form 1040).

If your dependent is over 16 years old or does not have a Social Security number, you may be eligible for another type of credit for dependents.

To determine your child’s eligibility for the Child Tax Credit or for other credits for dependents, use the IRS’ tool

Claiming the Additional Child Tax Credit refund

If your available Child Tax Credit is greater than the total amount of your tax bill, you can claim the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) to get up to $1,400 of your remaining Child Tax Credit as a refund.

To be eligible for the ACTC, your earned income must be at least $2,500. You can get the ACTC as a refund even if you owe no taxes. The maximum amount of ACTC that can be refunded is $1,400 per qualifying child. 

You have to file a tax return to get this refund. After the Child Tax Credit eliminates any taxes you owe, you can claim the ACTC as a refund by submitting Schedule 8812 with your tax return.  

If the IRS denies your Child Tax Credit claim

If you think you qualify for the Child Tax Credit and the IRS denies your claim, contact your local legal aid. They might be able to help you appeal your claim.

Free tax-filing resources

Most people with low or moderate income can do their taxes for free using FreeFile’s brand-name software or fillable forms.

To do your taxes for free:

  • Visit IRS.gov/freefileIt’s available 24/7.
  • Choose an option. Use the online lookup tool or browse all offers to find a good match.
  • Leave the IRS site. On an IRS partner’s website, begin your return safely and securely.

Also, you may qualify for free tax help from:

  • VITA. If you have low income, disability or limited English skills, you may qualify for free tax help from the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
  • TCE. If you are at least 60 years old, you can receive free tax help from Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE).

To find the nearest VITA site near you, use the VITA locator tool or call (800) 906-9887. VITA services may vary by location. Please check with your local VITA site to find out what options are available.

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