How nonfilers can get child tax credit payments: What those who don’t file taxes need to know


The IRS has ways to handle your child tax credit payment if you don’t usually file taxes.

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If you aren’t required to file an income tax return — what’s known as a nonfiler — you can still get your child tax credit payment for up to $3,600 per eligible kid. If you filed a one-time tax return with the IRS by the May 17 filing deadline (even if you don’t usually file), you shouldn’t need to do anything else to receive your first payment in July. But as a nonfiler, if you didn’t file this year, you have a few extra steps to take to make sure you get your payments.

The first child tax credit check is scheduled to arrive July 15 for eligible families with qualifying children. The amount you receive is based on your income, how many kids you have and their ages — you can calculate your total before the payments are sent.

We’ll explain everything you need to know if you don’t typically file your taxes. Also, here’s how to opt out of the monthly payments if you just want one large check. We’ve also got some ideas for how to spend your child tax credit money when it arrives.

Use the IRS portal to update your information

The IRS will make a portal available in July to help people who don’t normally file taxes. The portal is expected to let tax nonfilers submit a simplified electronic form to let the IRS know how many kids they have and their ages — including babies born in 2020 and 2021 — so they can get the correct payment amount. This would also help people who don’t have bank accounts, as well as people who experience homelessness.

A second portal will also be available to help families who need to inform the IRS of any life changes, such as an income change. It’ll also let families opt out of receiving the monthly payments.

Since the IRS is basing payments off 2020 tax returns or 2019 tax returns, you will need to file a simple one-time tax return to get your money, even if you’re not usually required to file. In fact, the IRS is urging people with children to file their taxes as soon as possible to make sure they get the right amount of money (more below).

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Child tax credit: Everything we know


Check your information on the stimulus payment portal

While you wait for the IRS portals to open, you can check to see if your information is updated on the stimulus payment portal, said Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst at Tax Foundation. 

If you received a stimulus payment and you’re a nonfiler, your information should be on file with the IRS already. However, if you notice some details are off — maybe you just had a new baby in 2021 or gained a new dependent — you’ll need to make sure the IRS has that information by using the portals when they open.


The tax deadline has passed but you can still file your taxes.

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It’s not too late to file your taxes, but…

It’s not too late to file your taxes if you haven’t yet. The deadline was May 17, but as a nonfiler, you should be in the clear since you don’t owe taxes. But do note the IRS typically doesn’t accept direct deposit information if the filer doesn’t have a refund when submitting a tax return, Watson said.

If your adjusted gross income is $0, the IRS says “individuals generally are not able to file federal income tax returns electronically (PDF) due to tax return preparation software and return processing parameters that do not accept $0 AGI entries.”

You should also know you’re eligible for child tax credit payments even if you don’t pay taxes. That means taxpayers can get the credit even if they don’t have earned income or don’t owe any income taxes.

For more information about the child tax credit, here’s what you need to know if you share custody of a child. Also, here’s when to expect your monthly child tax credit payments and what you need to know about the two IRS portals.