A $5,000 baby bonus? Here’s what tax credits await parents with kids born this year

Parents who welcome a new child into their family this year could also find themselves expecting a different bundle of joy: a heftier 2021 tax refund.

That's because parents, if they meet the eligibility requirements, could qualify for up to $5,000 per child born in the 2021 calendar year, through two tax credits included or expanded in the $1.9 trillion aid package signed into law by President Biden in March.

According to Andy Phillips, director at the Tax Institute at H&R Block, parents could qualify for up to $5,000 between a newly enhanced child tax credit (up to $3,600) and a stimulus check for dependents (up to $1,400). For both the expanded child tax credit and the stimulus check, eligible parents would qualify so long as their newborn arrives before the end of the year. For most families the $1,400 stimulus checks have already been sent out, but because the checks are technically an advance of a 2021 tax credit, eligible parents can get the payment for their 2021 newborns when they file taxes next year. A Democratic aide confirmed these details to Fortune soon after the passage of the stimulus package.

For both credits, parents would have to claim the 2021 newborn as a dependent when it comes time to file their 2021 taxes next year. To better help parents understand the credits, Fortune created a guide to what may be in store for them come next tax season.

Who qualifies for the $3,600 child tax credit?

The $1.9 trillion aid package temporarily expands the existing child tax credit. For the 2021 tax year, the credit is upped to $3,000 per child age 17 or younger and $3,600 for children under the age of 6. The expanded credit is boosted from the original $2,000 child tax credit, which predates the pandemic.


Who gets it? Single filers making up to $75,000 per year in modified adjusted gross income, heads of households making $112,500 or less a year, and couples filing jointly making up to $150,000 per year can qualify for the entire enhanced credit. Taxpayers above those income levels could still qualify for the original $2,000-per-child tax credit, but that credit phases out for single filers making over $200,000 in modified adjusted gross income and couples filing jointly making more than $400,000.

As part of the expanded credit, the IRS will set up a portal that parents should be able to use to update important information like the number of dependents they have. Parents can also use it to opt out of receiving the advanced payments the IRS is planning to send (up to half of the total credit amount) in 2021. Read more about the expanded child tax credit here.

Without federal renewal, however, this $3,000 (or $3,600 for those under 6) child tax credit will revert back to $2,000 per year starting in the 2022 tax season.

Who qualifies for the $1,400 stimulus check this year?

Soon after the passage of the most recent stimulus package in March, the IRS sent out millions of $1,400 stimulus checks. But payments for dependents born in 2021 won't come until the 2021 tax season (in 2022).

As with the child tax credit, parents can qualify for the stimulus payment if they fall under certain income cutoffs. Single filers making up to $75,000 per year in adjusted gross income could qualify for the whole $1,400 check for their dependent, while couples filing together making up to $150,000 could also get the full amount. Above those levels, payments phase out, with cutoffs at $80,000 for single filers and $160,000 for couples. Parents can receive the check by claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2021 tax returns next year, says H&R Block's Phillips, just like they did on their 2020 tax returns if they were owed more than they received in stimulus payments last year. (That's because the stimulus checks are technically advances of a fully refundable tax credit.)

What other credits can parents qualify for?

Phillips points out two other credits that some parents may also qualify for, though eligibility is more limited for both.

In particular he points to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is designed for lower-income workers and families and could potentially grant parents a maximum of $3,618 for one child (it scales up for more) in 2021, in addition to the credits and stimulus passed this year. Phillips also says "don't sleep on" the Child and Dependent Tax Credit, which in certain circumstances could help parents offset care expenses while a parent and partner are working or looking for work.

Overall, "life changes equal tax changes, and it's always good to understand what it means as early as possible," Phillips tells Fortune. "Having a kid is generally a really positive thing for your tax return, and you may decide to make different financial decisions based on the potential for a larger tax refund."

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