Stimulus checks, child tax credit: Millions face Nov. 17 deadline for easy filing tool

Some families may be leaving up to $3,600 per child unclaimed, in addition to other payments owed to them.

WASHINGTON — Nov. 17 is an important deadline for millions of Americans who may still need to claim stimulus checks and advance child tax credit payments from 2021. 

Last month, the IRS began mailing letters to alert around 9 million people who haven’t claimed benefits including COVID-19 stimulus payments, the expanded child tax credit and the earned income tax credit. 

In many of those cases, all you need to do is file a 2021 federal income tax return, even if you haven’t been required to file one in recent years. 

But you’ll want to act fast. 

The IRS Free File tool is open this year through Thursday, Nov. 17 until midnight Eastern. After Thursday, you can still claim the missing payments by filing a federal tax return.

In cases where a federal income tax return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window to claim a tax refund. So Thursday’s deadline is just for using the simplified free filing tool.

About 165 million Americans were eligible for the three rounds of stimulus payments authorized by Congress since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. But IRS and Treasury data suggests between 9-10 million of those haven’t received the payments, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said this week.  

The federal government struggled in particular to get the stimulus checks and advance child tax credit checks to those with lower incomes, limited internet access or those experiencing homelessness, the G.A.O. said. 

The expanded child tax credit was originally offered through President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. The government says some families may be leaving up to $3,600 per child unclaimed, as well as other payments owed to them.

The expanded program helped tens of millions of kids and their families amid the COVID pandemic, and contributed to a 46% decline in child poverty since 2020, according to a September report from the Census Bureau.

Since that program has ended, there are already indications that child poverty is increasing. Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy estimates 3.7 million more children were living in poverty by January — a 41% increase from December, when families received their last check.

There are efforts in Congress to make the credit permanently available to all families with children.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.