By Sue Hamlett, Maine Equal Justice
Congress has passed a new law that gives families up to $3,600 per year for each child in their household, called the Child Tax Credit. Here are some questions and answers about how the Child Tax Credit works for immigrants. More details are at the Maine Equal Justice website in English, Portuguese, and French.
Can Immigrant families qualify for the Child Tax Credit of 2021?
The Child Tax Credit of 2021 is available to many immigrant families. Any child with a social security number can be a qualifying dependent, including citizen children and most non-citizen children who have been given a Social Security Number (SSN). If the Social Security Card just has the number or says “Valid for Work Only with DHS Authorization” the child will qualify; if it says “Not Valid for Employment” the child will not qualify.
Does my child qualify for the Child Tax Credit of 2021?
You can claim the Child Tax Credit for your child if you can answer yes to these questions:
- On December 31, 2021 my child will be age 17 or younger.
- My child has a Social Security Number.
- My child is related to me in one of these ways: my son or daughter, stepchild, foster child, sibling or half-sibling, niece or nephew OR the child of any of these, including grandchildren.
- The IRS considers my child to be my dependent. To claim a child as a dependent all these statements must be true:
- The child lived with you for more than half the year AND
- The child does not provide more than half of their own financial support AND
- The child does not file a joint tax return with someone else.
How do I get the Child Tax Credit of 2021?
File your 2020 federal tax return with the IRS to claim the advanced payments of the 2021 Child Tax Credit. If you have already filed a 2020 federal tax return you do not need to take any more steps right now.
The IRS will pay your advance payments of the 2021 Child Tax Credits based on your 2020 tax return. The deadline to file taxes is May 17, 2021. If you missed that deadline but you do not owe any taxes you can file your 2020 taxes until October 15, 2021.
How much is the Child Tax Credit of 2021 worth to me?
The Child Tax Credit provides:
- $3,600 for each dependent child under 6,
- $3,000 for each dependent child ages 6 through 17, including 17-year-olds.
When can I get the money?
Half of this amount can be paid to you in advance, in regular payments between July 2021 and December 2021. The other half will be paid to you when you file taxes for 2021 (which you will do in 2022, before April 15, 2022).
If you miss out on getting the advance payments, you will be paid the full amount when you file taxes for 2021.
I don’t have a bank account. How will I get the money?
The IRS recommends opening a low or no-cost bank account. Find more information at https://www.fdic.gov/getbanked/index.html.
My child was born (or will be born) in 2021. I cannot claim them as a dependent for 2020. What can I do?
The IRS is setting up an online website for you to report changes in your family since 2020. Because the law is so new, the website has not been set up yet, but we expect that it will be in July 2021. File your 2020 taxes so that the IRS has your information on file and then report changes when the online website is available.
My child has a Social Security number, but I do not. Is that a problem?
You can still file your taxes and get the Child Tax Credit even if you do not have a Social Security Number. You will need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
If you do not have an ITIN you can request one by completing a Form W-7, which you can file with your taxes. You only have to do this one time. In future years you can use the same ITIN.
You must provide your original identification and immigration documents to file for an ITIN. You can mail these to the IRS and they will return them to you but this will take months and you will probably need these documents. We recommend making an appointment to go into an IRS office to submit your taxes, your W-7 form, and bring your identification and immigration documents with you and have them verified by the IRS and returned to you right away.
Unfortunately, there are only two IRS offices in Maine, in Augusta and Bangor. You can also go to the IRS office in Portsmouth, NH. You can search for the closest IRS office at https://apps.irs.gov/app/officeLocator/index.jsp and you can make an appointment online.
See https://www.irs.gov/individuals/how-do-i-apply-for-an-itin for more information.
Search for “IRS Fillable W-7” for a fillable form.