Help for families with kids: $3,000/$3,600 Child Tax Credit still available for families who don’t file taxes

October 27, 2021

If you have a child under age 18 you care for, but you haven’t received the monthly advance payments from the IRS, you might want to sign up using the new online portal Thousands of Illinois families are eligible. But recent surveys have suggested that many parents may not know they are eligible. Families that normally earn too little to file taxes may not realize that they can still sign up to get a large check in November and December. But you’ll have to hurry to get it this year. will close on November 15th this year.

Many families who have already received their monthly child tax credit payments have used them to help pay for child care, bills, or school supplies. At the beginning of the pandemic, Chicago resident Mykela Collins and her two kids found ways to connect and stay entertained. She introduced them to classic movies during their weekly family movie nights. After work, she helped her fourteen-year-old daughter with the shirt design business she had started through Instagram. But in March after 12 years as a food service director, she had to leave her job due to serious health concerns, including damaged lungs stemming from a fire she survived as a child. The Child Tax Credit came at just the right time for Mykela, who lives with her sister at her mom’s home. “With me not being able to work, it has helped me buy school uniforms and school supplies for my kids. It’s also helped me pay the phone bill.” 

Although Mykela received the checks automatically because she is a regular tax filer, other parents who don’t normally file taxes are eligible too. It’s not too late to claim the checks for these parents. Mykela advises parents who haven’t received their checks yet, “If you do get the money, use it for taking care of your kids. It’s really not free money. It’s money you worked hard for.”

Top 10 questions about the Child Tax Credit

1. Can I still get my Child Tax Credit this year?

Yes! It’s not too late to get your monthly advance payments this year. In fact, if you sign up now, you’ll receive a higher monthly payment through December if you haven’t received any payments yet. Visit to claim your payments if you earned very little to no money last year. Act now – will close on November 15, 2021.

However, if you have earned income, you may be eligible for thousands more through the Earned Income Tax Credit and can receive both credits by filing taxes even if you normally don’t need to. 

You can learn more about if you’re eligible and free resources on our Child Tax Credit page.

2. I file taxes with an ITIN – am I eligible to receive the Child Tax Credit?

Yes, as long as you have at least one child who has a Social Security Number and meets the other requirements to be a qualifying child for the 2021 Child Tax Credit. 

3. I don’t file taxes – am I eligible for the Child Tax Credit? 

Yes! If you are the primary caregiver for a child under the age of 18, you are eligible, even if you don’t normally need to file taxes. You will need to file a tax return or use so that the IRS will know you have eligible dependents. You will also need to file taxes in 2022 to claim the other half of your Child Tax Credit.

4. If I claim the credit, could it harm me financially?

Most eligible people should not have any problems. The advance monthly payments are part of the credit they would claim on their 2021 tax returns. If you earn over certain income limits, the IRS may ask for part or all of the money back when you file your 2021  tax return if you claim more money than you are eligible for.

Receiving the Child Tax Credit will NOT impact your public benefits, such as SSI, SNAP, and TANF.

5. My ex and I share custody of our child and my ex claimed our child on their 2020 tax return, but 2021 is my year to claim the child. Am I eligible for the Child Tax Credit? 

Yes, you are eligible to receive the Child Tax Credit. Even if your former partner receives the advance payments, that will not reduce how much of a credit you can claim when you file your 2021 tax return.

6. I had a baby or adopted a child in 2021. How can I claim my CTC?

The IRS has committed to updating the Child Tax Credit Update Portal webpage so people can update their information to include new children. However, that feature isn’t active yet. If the feature doesn’t end up being available later this year, file taxes in the new year to claim your new child and receive the full credit.

7. Are foster parents eligible to receive the CTC? 

Yes, a foster child can be a qualifying child for the 2021 Child Tax Credit if the child meets all of the eligibility criteria.

8. If I am receiving advance payments now, am I required to file a 2021 tax return, even if I usually don’t file a return?

Yes, you must file a 2021 tax return if you receive advance payments of the 2021 Child Tax Credit – that’s how you will claim the other half of the credit and how the IRS will reconcile your advance payments with the actual credit you are due.

9. My former partner and I are not on good terms and they claimed our child as their dependent when they shouldn’t have. Our child lives with me and I provide more than half of their support. Can I still claim the Child Tax Credit?

Yes, you can still claim the 2021 Child Tax Credit.

In order to protect your ability to claim your child as your dependent on your 2021 tax return, apply for an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) from the IRS for your child. An IP PIN is a 6-digit number issued by the IRS every tax season and once you have your child’s IP PIN, you will be the only person who can claim your child on a return. Your former partner’s return will be rejected by the IRS if they try to claim the child without including the child’s IP PIN.

You should also contact our help desk (; 888-553-9777) to talk through your situation to see if you are missing out on any benefits from 2020 because your former partner claimed your child when they shouldn’t have.

10. I have gotten some of the monthly payments but not all of them – what can I do?

Register for the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to take a closer look at the payment status of past payments. Here is a step-by-step guide to using the Update Portal, including how to register.

If the Update Portal shows you were issued a payment that you have never received, you should request a payment trace on the missing payment. Here is more information on how to fill out and submit Form 3911 to ask the IRS to initiate a payment trace on your missing monthly payment.

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Father and son at the Lucha Libre in the Park
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