Starting in December, the IRS began sending families who received the child tax credit letters to reconcile the benefit on their 2021 tax returns.
For some, those forms, called a Letter 6419, contained incorrect information.
That could be an issue for families when they file their 2021 taxes. That's because they need to report how much of the credit they already got in advance monthly payments to get the second half back, either applied to any tax they owe or in the form of a refund.
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"The letters may not reflect what the taxpayer actually received," said Ken Corbin, the IRS chief taxpayer experience officer, on a Jan. 24 call with reporters.
Here's what families need to know before they fill out and file their form 1040s this tax season.
Why letters may be incorrect
The change to this year's tax filing is because the American Rescue Plan enhanced the existing child tax credit, increasing the benefit to $3,000 from $2,000, with an additional $600 for children under the age of 6. It also made the first half of the credit available in advance monthly payments, which were sent to roughly 35 million families from July to December last year.
It isn't clear why some families got letters with incorrect amounts of the advance child tax credit payments, according to the IRS, but the agency said it doesn't think it is a widespread issue.
"There is no indication to support speculation that this could involve hundreds of thousands of taxpayers," the agency said in a Jan. 27 statement. "Those in this small affected group could include people who moved or changed bank accounts in December, and their checks were returned as undeliverable or their direct deposits were rejected."
The agency also noted that married couples who are filing jointly will each receive a Letter 6419 and that the information on each needs to be combined for their joint return.
What to do
If you got a Letter 6419 from the IRS with an amount that doesn't match what you've received through the advance child tax credit, there are other ways to reconcile your payments to claim the correct amount on your tax return.
You should check the IRS Child Tax Credit Update Portal at www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/child-tax-credit-update-portal, which should show a record of all payments sent to you. If the information you see online matches the payments you received, you can use it to correctly fill out your tax forms.
If the portal shows that the IRS sent a payment that you didn't receive, however, you'll have to go through a few extra steps to get the correct information. You should request that the IRS trace the missing payment, which can help the agency determine if it was delivered to you or returned.
If the payment wasn't delivered, the IRS record should be updated, and you can exclude the missing check in your total when you file and claim it to get it back.
Taxpayers who need to claim a 2021 economic impact payment, or stimulus check, that wasn't delivered should also check their individual online IRS account for information they need to file their returns.
Other tax tips for the season
To be sure, most families who got the child tax credit in 2021 should be able to easily reconcile their payments to claim the second half of the benefit. And even those that didn't get advance payments of the child tax credit still have time to claim it by filing a 2021 tax return this year.
Still, the IRS is gearing up for a complicated tax filing season as the agency combats a backlog of returns from last year and recommends that filers be extra careful in checking their forms before sending them in this year.
In addition, the agency said that Americans should file online and use direct deposit to ensure they have their returns processed and refunds issued as quickly as possible.
"If they avoid errors when they file, we still anticipate that most people will not experience delays, they will receive their refund in 21 days when they file electronically," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Retting.
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