The online pleas of parents searching for answers to why they haven’t received advance child tax credit payments — or why the amount wasn’t what they expected — are a reminder of how many millions of families are living on the financial edge.

Under the American Rescue Plan, eligible families are entitled to monthly payments of up to $300 for each child 5 and under and up to $250 for each child 6 to 17.

One parent posting on Twitter wrote, “My wife and I made just [$50,000] last year and the IRS page said we are not eligible for tax credit of our kids,” adding that “they are 5 and 4 years old.”

Understandably, there is a lot of confusion around the child tax credit payments. The rules are complicated. Hopefully, the following answers will clear up some of the concerns you may have.

What to know

  • We have five children — 17, 11, 9, 7 and 5. We received a $1,000 child tax credit payment. Shouldn’t we have received $1,300? We make under $150,000 a year.
  • My husband won’t cash our kids’ child tax credit check, because he says we might have to pay the IRS back. Will we have to pay this money back?
  • Is there any protection for lower-income parents against having to pay back overpaid credits if their financial or family circumstances change during 2021?
  • We have a toddler, and I got into the portal and opted out. However, I saw a message that I had opted out of only half of the payment. Does my spouse have to opt out too?
  • Will these payments count against me for federal benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
  • We haven’t filed any return with our child on it yet. When can I use the online portal to add a child?