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If you received advance monthly child tax credit (CTC) payments, the IRS will send you Letter 6419 to help you prepare your 2021 tax return and get the remainder of your child tax credit. The letter tells you how much money you already received in payments and the number of qualifying children that was used to calculate how much you were given.
What Is the Child Tax Credit?
The child tax credit was created to help parents offset the cost of raising a family. It's available to parents with qualifying children, which can include certain dependents who aren't your biological children. While the child tax credit was enacted in 1997, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 changed it for the 2021 tax year in several significant ways:
- The CTC amount increased from $2,000 to $3,600 for qualifying children who are under 6 years old and to $3,000 for qualifying children who are 6 to 17 years old.
- The maximum qualifying age increased from 16 to 17 years old.
- The credit became fully refundable, meaning the entire amount can increase your tax refund. Previously, only part of the credit was refundable, and the rest could only decrease how much you owed.
- It allowed for advance monthly payments between July 2021 and December 2021 worth up to one-half of a family's estimated full annual credit amount.
These changes are temporary, and the child tax credit may revert to its previous requirements and amounts in 2022.
What Is IRS Letter 6419?
The IRS sent Letter 6419 to taxpayers who received advance monthly CTC payments in 2021. It includes the amount of payments you received and the number of qualifying children that determined your advance CTC.
If you filed jointly with your spouse, you might each receive a letter with your portion of the advance CTC amount.
Review the letter to verify that the advance amount is correct and compare it to the total CTC you can claim for 2021. The advance payments were only intended to be for half of your entire CTC, and you can now claim the remainder when you file your 2021 tax return.
Keep in mind that the IRS estimated taxpayers' advance CTC payments based on 2019 or 2020 tax returns, so the numbers could be off. For example, your CTC could be lower than expected if a qualifying child moved out, your income increased, your filing status changed or you lived outside the U.S. for over half the year.
If your advance CTC payments were higher than what you qualified for, you may have to repay the excess amount when you file your tax return. However, depending on your modified adjusted gross income, you may qualify for "repayment protection" and only have to repay part (or none) of the excess amount.
What Happens if You Didn't Get Letter 6419 or Lost It?
The IRS sent Letter 6419 out from December 2021 through January 2022, so you should have received yours by now. But don't worry if you weren't sent a letter, didn't receive it or threw it out. You can also use the IRS' CTC Update Portal or create and check your IRS account for a record of your advance CTC payments.
You may also want to use one of these resources if you received the letter and think there's a mistake. For example, the IRS might have created and sent your Letter 6419 with a payment for December 2021, but you might not have received the payment if you moved or changed your bank account. Instead of relying on the letter, you can use the amount from your online account to prepare your tax return and claim the full amount.
You also might be eligible for the CTC and can claim the credit on your taxes even if you didn't receive a Letter 6419. This could happen if you opted out of advance payments or didn't previously qualify for the CTC: Perhaps you had a child in 2021, a qualifying child moved into your home or your income changed, for instance.
File Your Tax Return to Claim Tax Credits
The CTC won't impact your eligibility or amounts for federal benefits. And, unlike the earned income tax credit, you don't need to have earned income to qualify, though you do need to file a tax return to get your refund. You can also look into other child-related tax credits, such as the Child and Dependent Care Credit, which could help you if you paid for child or dependent care while working or looking for work.
To maximize your savings and refund, see if you qualify for free tax preparation and filing. Most taxpayers can use free software versions from popular tax prep software companies. Low- and moderate-income households can also receive free one-on-one assistance through several IRS-managed programs.