Family Support & Well-being

Earned Income Tax Credits, Child Tax Credit, and Free Tax Help FAQs

In this chatathon, presenters gave an overview and updates on the Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC), and stimulus payments. They also responded to questions and shared resources related to these topics, as well as information on finding free help for filing taxes.

Earned Income Tax Credit

Q1: What must your income be to receive the EITC?

The amount of EITC a person receives depends on family make-up in addition to earnings. Find more information through the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Earned Income and the EITC Tables.

Q4: Is the EITC new this year for filing taxes? Last year, I didn't get a refund.

The EITC is not new or different. Some of its qualifications have changed. Learn more from the IRS at Who Qualifies for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Q5: Does claiming EITC affect state and federal tax returns?

The EITC is a federal credit and doesn't affect your state return. Some states have an additional state EITC, however, which can result in a state refund.

Child Tax Credit

Q6: If a parent has never filed taxes, does that parent qualify for a CTC for previous years?

It's possible to file taxes for previous years, and you risk losing your refund if you don't file. If you're due a refund for withholding or estimated taxes or for tax credits (e.g., the CTC), you must file your return to claim the refund within three years of the return due date.

Q7: Does claiming the CTC affect state and federal tax returns?

The CTC is a federal credit and doesn't affect your state return.

Q8: If families at first refused the CTC, can those families receive the entire credit when they file their taxes?

If they're eligible, families can claim the CTC on their 2021 tax returns.

Q9: What would you say to a family that has never filed taxes and doesn't think filing is necessary?

Tell the family that the American Rescue Plan (ARP) makes filing taxes different this year. The family can now receive the CTC without having earned income. Filing taxes — even if they don't owe taxes — will result in a refund for eligible families.

Q10: When would a child not qualify for CTC? For example, can a family with eight children claim them all?

There is no limit to the number of children who qualify. Every child who is age 17 or younger and didn't turn 18 in 2021 qualifies. 

Q11: When grandparents take in a mother and her children who would be homeless otherwise, and the grandparents pay the bills, do these grandparents qualify for the $500 credit for other dependents?

These grandparents may be eligible for the credit and may even be eligible for the CTC. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site and the IRS's An Overview of the Credits for Other Dependents explain the eligibility rules.

Q12: Will getting the 2021 monthly CTC payments lower a family's tax refund for a family of four earning less than $10,000 a year?

The CTC differs for every family, but the amount of the credit was greatly increased for 2021. Even though this family already received half its CTC, there's still a significant portion of the credit to get via tax refund.

Q13: Can the CTC affect the amount of federal taxes withheld from a family's income?

Any advance CTC you receive will not affect your net pay. Advance CTC payments are not income and will not be reported as income on your 2021 tax return.

Q14: What will families need to file taxes to receive their CTC if they did not receive a W2 form and did not work?

Families need valid IDs and Social Security Numbers (SSNs) for themselves and their children. The Tax-Time Checklist offers more details.

Q15: Many families receive government assistance (e.g., Supplemental Security Income [SSI], Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF], Housing Choice Vouchers [Section 8]). Many have never filed taxes. Are these families eligible for CTC?

They may be. Thanks to the ARP, the CTC for 2021 is now worth as much as $3,600 per child under 6 years of age, and $3,000 for each child between ages 6 and 17. This money is also fully refundable, which means that if you don't owe taxes (or your credit is more than the taxes you owe), you get the extra money back in your tax refund. Additionally, you don't have to have an income to receive the credit.

Q16: What was the CTC amount before the increase?

Before 2021, the CTC was $2,000 per child.

Q17: Was the CTC extended into 2022?

No. The advance payments of the CTC have not been extended into 2022.

Q18: Will parents get a form from the IRS if they received the advance CTC?

Yes. The IRS sends Letter 6419 to taxpayers who have received advance CTC. This letter helps them reconcile those advance credits with what they are still owed. Keep in mind IRS will send letters informing you of whatever they want you to be aware of, so check your mailbox and don't ignore IRS mail envelope.

Q19: Many families use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) number. How are the changes that were made going to affect their filing?

Parents with ITINs who have qualifying children with SSNs that are valid for employment in the United States can still get the CTC.


Q20: When will the government start reviewing the tax returns for those that received the EITC and the CTC?

Returns will be reviewed when they are processed. Refunds will be processed on March 1.

If you claimed the EITC or the advance CTC, you can expect to get your refund on March 1 if:

Some taxpayers, however, may see their refunds a few days earlier. Check Where's My Refund for your personal refund date.

Keep in mind that your financial institution may need time to accept a direct deposit or issue a debit card. Many institutions don't process payments on weekends or holidays. If you filed your taxes early, know also that federal and local holidays may affect how soon you get your refund.

CTC and Stimulus Payments/Economic Impact Payments

Q21: What is the difference between the stimulus payments and the CTC payments?

Stimulus payments are also known as Economic Impact Payments. The IRS has issued all first, second, and third Economic Impact Payments. Most eligible people have already received these payments. People who are missing stimulus payments, however, should review the information below to determine their eligibility to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit for tax year 2020 or 2021.

The CTC is a fully refundable tax credit for families with qualifying children. The ARP expanded the CTC for 2021 to give families more financial help. The credit, which was $2,000 per child in 2020, increased to $3,600 in 2021 for each child under age 6. Similarly, for each child ages 6 to 16, the credit increased from $2,000 to $3,000. The credit also gives $3,000 for 17-year-olds. Under the ARP, the IRS disbursed half of the 2021 CTC in monthly payments during the second half of 2021.

The advance CTC payments families received from July through December of 2021 were early payments from the IRS. These payments were only 50% of the total CTC amount the IRS estimated you may claim on your 2021 tax return during the 2022 tax filing season.

Q22: A family member needs to amend her 2019 taxes, but the information she needs was lost in a flood. As a result, she hasn't been able to receive the stimulus payment or CTC. Can she file this year?

Yes. If she is missing a stimulus payment, she may be eligible to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit on her 2021 federal tax return. If she is eligible for the CTC but didn't receive the advance CTC payments, she can claim the full credit amount when she files her 2021 tax return during the 2022 tax filing season.

She shouldn't claim any missing first or second payments on her 2021 tax return.

She should file a 2020 tax return if she hasn't yet filed one yet, or she should amend the 2020 tax return if the 2020 return has already been processed. The Recovery Rebate Credit on the 2020 tax return will reduce the amount of taxes she owes for 2020, or the credit will be included in her tax refund.

Q23: Some families have no intention of filing their taxes. What are the options for non-filers to receive stimulus payments or credits? And for which credits may non-filers be eligible?

Individuals who aren't required to file a tax return or who haven't filed should understand that the stimulus was issued based on tax return information that was filed 2019 or 2020. The IRS won't have in its system the information it needs to provide payments if an individual hasn't filed. These individuals must file a 2021 tax return to claim the stimulus that they are entitled to.

Stimulus Payments/Economic Income Payments

Q24: Will the IRS be sending letters for the Economic Impact Payment (EIP)?

The IRS began issuing Letter 6475, Economic Impact Payment (EIP) 3 End of Year, in January 2022. Letter 6475 applies only to the third round of EIP issued between March and December 2021. This letter shows what amount of stimulus payment you received.

Q25: What should a family do if it doesn't receive the Letter 6475?

Securely access Your Online Account with the IRS to view the total amount of your first, second, and third Economic Impact Payment amounts under the Tax Records page.

IRS mailed letters to the address IRS had on file. These letters contained three kinds of notices:

  • Notice 1444 shows the first Economic Impact Payment advanced for tax year 2020
  • Notice 1444-B shows the second Economic Impact Payment advanced for tax year 2020
  • Notice 1444-C shows the third Economic Impact Payment advanced for tax year 2021

Q26: Where can families check to see if they've received all three stimulus checks?

To find the amount of your Economic Impact Payments:

Securely access Your Online Account with the IRS to view the total amount of your first, second, and third Economic Impact Payment under the Tax Records page.

Through March 2022, IRS will send Letter 6475 confirming the total amount of the third Economic Impact Payment and any plus-up payments you received for tax year 2021.

Q27: Are families with babies born in 2021 eligible to receive the stimulus payments from 2021?

Yes. Children born in 2021 are eligible for the third stimulus payment. Parents can claim that payment on their tax return.

Filing Taxes

Q28: When does tax filing begin?

Tax filing season is open now. The filing deadline is April 18, 2022, for most taxpayers. You can receive a six-month extension by filing Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Q29: How can I get Publication 17 to share with families?

You can go online and download Publication 17. This document covers the general rules for filing a federal income tax return. It supplements the information contained in your tax form instruction booklet. The federal government no longer prints this publication.

Q30: Where can families get tax help if they aren't able to get a VITA appointment?

Free tax help is available virtually at Get Your Refund.

Q31: When are tax refunds sent out?

The IRS issues most refunds in fewer than 21 calendar days after it receives a tax return. Some tax returns may take longer to process if, for example, they contain EITC, or if the refund is sent by check rather than direct deposit.

Q32: Can you provide a link to a tax estimator?

The IRS has a Tax Withholding Estimator.

Q33: Have Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites opened?

Some sites are open. Others will open in the coming weeks. The IRS has a locator tool where you can find your local site and contact information.

Q34: One parent worked only one day at a job, so she earned very little from that job. Must she still claim those earnings on her taxes?

If those earnings are her only income, she is likely not required to file her taxes. She still may want to file, however, to receive any credits she is eligible for and any withholding she is owed. If she had other income, she needs to include it on her return.

Q35: If a family manages a multi-level marketing company on the side, what amount of income does the family need to file for tax purposes — in this case, they only earned $1,000 from that "job."

Everyone must file an income tax return if net earnings from self-employment for the filing year amount to $400 or more. If your net earnings from self-employment are less than $400, you still have to file an income tax return if you meet any of the other filing requirement listed in the Form 1040 and 1040-SR instructions.

Q36: Where can families get their W-2 if the form isn't available through their employer?

Individuals can contact the IRS, make an appointment to go into their local IRS office, and ask for a printout of the income source information that was reported to IRS. The toll-free phone number to call for an appointment is 844-545-5640. If your Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement isn't available to you by Jan. 31, 2022, or if your information is incorrect on these forms, contact your employer/payer. If you haven't received the missing or corrected form by the end of February, you can call the IRS at (toll-free) 800-829-1040 for assistance. When you call, have the following information available:

  • Your name, address (including ZIP code), phone number, taxpayer identification number (SSN), and dates of employment
  • Your employer/payer's name, address (including ZIP code), and phone number
  • Your employer/payer's identification number if known

The IRS will contact the employer/payer for you and request the missing or corrected form. The IRS will also send you a Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, along with a letter containing instructions for you.

If you can't file your tax return because you don't receive the missing or corrected form in time, you can still use Form 4852 to complete your return. Estimate your wages or the payments made to you and any taxes withheld and report them on that form.

If you receive the missing or corrected Form W-2 after you file your return and the information differs from your estimates, you must file Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. The IRS offers additional information on filing an amended return.

Q37: What should a family do if they haven't received their 2020 refund?

Families can track the status of a refund on by searching Where's My Refund?

Other Dependents

Q38: I'm claiming my granddaughter on my taxes. She's been living with me for more than a year. Do I need to do anything to claim her? I haven't received any of the CTC money that started in July.

You'll need to file a 2021 tax return to claim her. If eligible, you'll receive the full CTC even though you missed the advance payments.

Q39: Can I claim my 16-year-old daughter as a dependent if she has started working?

Yes, if she didn't make more than half of her own support for the year, which would make her ineligible to be claimed as a dependent. See Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information. The publication includes information on filing requirements for dependents. Your daughter may also want to file her own return to receive any withholding that she is owed.

Q40: Do tax credits exist for families with an adult dependent who has a disability?

Yes. Those families might be eligible for the Credit for Other Dependents or the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

Q41: Do people with no dependents receive refunds or credits on their tax returns?

They can, but their return depends on many factors.

Q42: I am a foster parent. Sometimes it's difficult for foster parents to get a child's SSN to list the child as a dependent on tax returns. What number can I use?

You will need either an SSN or ITIN to include a child on your tax return.

Q43: Can parents claim grandparents as dependents?


Child Care

Q44: Did the federal government end funding for child care?

No. Families who are eligible can claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit by reporting their child care expenses on their 2021 tax return, along with information about their child care provider. More information is available at the Child and Dependent Care Credit FAQs.

Unemployment Income

Q45: Does anything change for taxpayers who received extra income from unemployment insurance benefits?

All unemployment income is fully taxable for 2021. It needs to be reported on tax returns.