Everything You Need to Know About the New Child Tax Credit

Tax materials including books and a calculator


In addition to the new $1,400 stimulus payments that we posted about last week, the new COVID relief law increases the child tax credit and extends it to people who don’t normally file taxes to get refunds. 

In the past, only those who earned money through working could get a refund of the Child Tax Credit.  But the new COVID relief law gives all people this right, even if they don’t have income from working. However, you need to file to get this credit! It is not automatic. 

The Child Tax Credit has been expanded to $3,600 for children up to 5 years of age, and $3,000 for children up to 17 years of age.  If you claimed children in these age groups on your 2019 or 2020 tax return, you should automatically receive half of that benefit from the IRS later this year, and you will be able to claim the other half on your 2021 tax return.

If you live with your children (or other relatives in this age range that count as “qualifying children”) but didn’t file a 2019 or 2020 tax return, you should file a 2020 tax return.  The IRS recently extended the tax return due date from April 15th to May 17th, but you don’t need to wait until then to file! 


The Campaign for Working Families helps people file tax returns for free if you didn’t make more than $56,000 last year, and you can make an appointment on their website:  https://cwfphilly.org/. Some private tax preparers are charging almost $500 to do people’s taxes this year, so why give that money to them when Campaign for Working Families can do your taxes for free?! And remember, you can file a tax return even if you didn’t work or have any income. 


In addition to filing a tax return to claim the Child Tax Credit for your children, you should file a 2020 tax return if you didn’t receive one or more of the three stimulus payments (the 1st from last year was $1,200 per person and $500 per child; the 2nd from earlier this year was $600 per person and $600 per child; and the 3rd that is going out right now is $1,400 per person and $1,400 per child or adult dependent).