Personal finance

Deadline looms to use easy filing tools to sign up for missing $1,400 stimulus checks, child tax credit payments

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If you haven’t filed a 2021 federal tax return, there may be a chance you could be missing out on some generous tax credits.

A simplified filing tool — GetCTC.org — will let you submit your information in order to receive any money due to you.

But you have to act fast. The deadline to use GetCTC.org to claim the 2021 tax credits is Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time.

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The advantage of using GetCTC.org is that it offers a simplified filing process, according to Roxy Caines, earned income tax credit campaign director at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

For those who miss today’s deadline, there are other opportunities to claim the money, including next through the IRS Free File program that is open through Thursday, Nov. 17 until midnight Eastern time. Beyond that date, they will still be able to claim by filing a federal tax return.

“This is not the very last deadline,” Caines said. “People will be able to claim tax credits that they’re eligible for through Tax Day 2025.”

How much the 2021 tax credits are worth

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The American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in 2021 temporarily made enhanced tax credits available to millions of Americans.

That included a Recovery Rebate Credit that provided third stimulus checks of $1,400 per person.

It also made existing tax credits — the child tax and earned income tax credits — more generous.

The child tax credit included up to $3,600 for children under age 6 and $3,000 per child ages 6 through 17. Up to half of those amounts were paid in advance through monthly child tax credit payments. However, to claim the remaining sums — or the total amount if a family did not receive advance payments — they need to file a federal 2021 income tax return.

The earned income tax credit, which applies to low- and middle-income workers, was also enhanced for that tax year. Workers with no children may qualify for up to $1,502, which increases to as much as $6,728 for filers with three or more children. Because eligibility was expanded for workers without children and younger and older age thresholds, more workers qualify for the credit in the 2021 tax year.

Who may have yet to file

In October, the IRS sent letters to more than 9 million families who still have not filed federal tax returns to alert them they may still qualify for these credits.

While Republican congressional leadership questioned the timing of the notices so close to the midterm elections, Caines said she did not see it as unusual.

“We have seen that it takes the IRS a long time to coordinate these type of outreach efforts,” Caines said.

The letters were similar to notices the agency sent in September 2020 that also alerted 9 million non-filers they could be missing the stimulus checks that were sent that year.

Many of the non-filers are not required to file tax returns due to low incomes.

That population tends to include people who are harder to reach, who may not speak English or who live in households with mixed tax-filing statuses, Caines said.

For people in this population, it is important to know they may be eligible for these tax credits, even if they have not qualified in the past, she said.

Still, some may hesitate to file for the credits in the first place.

At a recent panel hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center former IRS commissioner John Koskinen said administrative barriers, including long waits for customer service from the tax agency, may contribute to the problem.

Misperceptions about the consequences people may face after filing may also contribute to the problem.

People may hesitate to file a tax return if they fear they owe money, Caines said. But if they qualify for the more generous 2021 tax credits, it could reduce their tax debts and enable them to claim refunds in the future, she said.

Another reason people may hesitate to claim is due to immigration concerns: that, by filing tax returns, they could put themselves or a family member at risk of deportation.

“The IRS is prohibited from sharing tax information with anyone, including ICE, except in cases of investigating criminal cases,” Caines said.

Ways to claim the money

GetCTC.org, which is available in English and Spanish, provides a simplified filing process with questions to prompt users to input their information. The tool allows for people to claim the $1,400 stimulus checks, child tax credit and earned income tax credit for the 2021 tax year.

“Taxes can be intimidating; GetCTC has prompts built into it,” Caines said.

Notably, if you want to claim the earned income tax credit using GetCTC.org, you will have to have a W-2 demonstrating your income handy.

For people who have earned income they can show through 1099 forms or self-employment income, other filing tools may let them claim the 2021 enhanced earned income tax credit, Caines said.

IRS Free File, which will stay open until Nov. 17 for the 2021 tax year, lets people whose incomes are $73,000 or less file online. Free fillable forms are available for any income level.

Individuals and families who miss both the GetCTC.org and IRS Free File deadlines still have up to three years to file their tax returns and claim the 2021 tax credits for which they may be eligible.

People who miss this week’s deadlines may want to try to find a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site near them that will handle prior year returns, Caines said.

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