Having problems with your federal child tax credit? Here’s how to get help with the IRS

·5 min read

As new federal child tax credits go out to parents in monthly payments — with another round due out next week — some recipients are reporting delays, incorrect amounts, wrong addresses and money that just isn’t wanted.

The biggest issue so far involves people who don’t want the monthly credit, which is an advance on a credit taxpayers can claim on their earnings this year.

They’re concerned they won’t qualify for the break at the end of the year and could owe more money when they file taxes next year. Or they would rather have the credit as a big refund in 2022.

“It’s horrible. Nearly all of my clients with young children will be negatively impacted by getting this advance. Opting out can be very difficult,” said Claudia Stanley, a certified public accountant in Fresno.

People who have been airing their gripes on social media have found other glitches.

To get help, Internal Revenue Service spokesman David Tucker advises checking with IRS.gov first, notably the special page that answers questions about the tax credit: Advance Child Tax Credit Payments in 2021 | Internal Revenue Service (irs.gov)

If that doesn’t help, he urges calling or scheduling an appointment with an IRS representative. The phone number is 800-829-1040 or people can make an appointment at their local Tax Assistance Centers.

To find that center, and its hours, go to Contact Your Local IRS Office | Internal Revenue Service.

Qualifying parents can receive monthly payments for the rest of this year of up to $250 per child aged 6 to 17 and up to $300 for each younger child.

The payments will eventually be half of the 2021 child tax credit. Parents can claim the other half on the 2021 tax return they file next year. The next payment is due to go out August 13.

The maximum benefit is available to taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of up to $75,000 for single filers, up to $112,500 for heads of households and up to $150,000 or less for married couples filing jointly or filing as a qualifying widow or widower.

The benefit is phased out for incomes of $150,000 to $400,000 if married filing jointly, $112,500 to $200,000 if filing as head of household, and $75,000 to $200,000 if filing single or married filing separately. The IRS considers income from 2020 tax returns; if they have not processed that return yet, it uses the 2019 filing.

How to get help

Here are some of more frequently asked questions, with answers from the IRS and local tax experts:

Q. I can’t get through to the IRS. Is there any other way to get answers?

A. Reach out to your tax adviser. Or take a look at a site from the nonprofit Children’s Health Watch and the Shah Foundation: https://www.findyourfunds.org/. Another helpful site: https://www.getctc.org/en. If all that still proves confusing, call your local congressman or senator.

Q. How do I reach them?

A. To find your House member, go to https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative. Plug in your zip code and you should see how to contact them. For a senator, try https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm.

Q. If I don’t want to receive these monthly payments, how do I opt out?

A. Follow the instructions on this page: https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/2021-child-tax-credit-and-advance-child-tax-credit-payments-topic-j-unenrolling-from-advance-payments

Q. What is the deadline to unenroll?

A. Each month has its own deadline. The September deadline, for payments due September 15, is August 30. For the complete list of dates, check Question J2 on this website: https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/2021-child-tax-credit-and-advance-child-tax-credit-payments-topic-j-unenrolling-from-advance-payments

Delaying the credit

Q. How can I make other changes?

A. The IRS says that this month you’ll be able to make changes to your address, and sometime in later summer you can make changes to your dependents, marital status and income. And you can re-enroll if you were previously unenrolled.

Q. The credit is based on the income I reported on my 2020 return. But I should earn more in 2021, and could wind up above the income limits needed to qualify for a full credit. Should I unenroll?

A. Check with your tax preparation adviser. This is the source of many complaints and questions so far. If you wind up not qualifying for the credit, but receive it this year, you could wind up having to repay some of the money next year. Stanley advises paying close attention to whether you qualify. “I am afraid there will be much gnashing of teeth next spring when taxpayers face the unexpected end result on their tax returns,” she said.

Q. Suppose the IRS gave me an incorrect amount of credit?

A. Contact your local IRS ofice or make an appointment with the IRS. Check first, though, to make sure you are getting the correct amount.

Q. My payments are based on my 2019 tax return. But I’ve now filed my 2020 return. Do I need to contact the IRS?

A. The IRS advises: “Once we have processed your 2020 return, we will recalculate your advance child tax credit payments and adjust any remaining monthly payments.”

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