Missing or Late Child Tax Credit? How to File a Trace for Upcoming Payment

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began disbursements for the first expanded Child Tax Credit payments on Thursday.

If you are among the eligible parents for the payments but did not receive one yet, the IRS has set up a system to allow you to track the money.

The Child Tax Credit is part of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed earlier this year. Families can receive as much as $3,600 for each child under age 6, and the advance tax credit payments will be $3,000 annually per child between 6 and 17.

Eligible parents were given the option of requesting to receive the payments in one large check. Anyone who did not request a lump sum will receive monthly payments on or around the 15th of each month, beginning with Thursday's installment.

People who have registered direct deposit information with the IRS may have already seen the money appear in their accounts. Those without direct deposit set up will have to wait for the physical check to come by mail.

Even some people with IRS-linked bank accounts may not see the funds by Thursday night, though. The IRS was created as a collection agency, and it experienced logistical delays before when disbursing stimulus payments. Simply put, the IRS was not set up to mail out millions of payments on such a tight deadline in addition to carrying out its normal tax-related work.

Thirty-nine million American families are anticipating Child Tax Credit payments. If the check your household is expecting is late, there are steps you can take to monitor the money coming.

The first step is to check the IRS child tax credit portal and verify your information. There, you will also see the method of how you are being paid. If the site shows your payment should have already been received into your bank account, but your account does not show the funds, then you can file a trace on it.

A "trace" is the term used by the IRS for an inquiry into the location of your funds. You can request a trace by mailing or faxing Form 3911 to the agency.

Anyone filing a trace should be warned in advance that the IRS states a trace can take about six weeks before finding a result. The IRS also says it will not start a trace unless the person requesting it has waited at least five days from the anticipated direct deposit date.

Anyone opening a trace for a physical check can expect a longer wait. The IRS has asked check recipients to wait four weeks from the payment date before filing a trace.

For additional information, the IRS recommends checking its frequently asked questions page for answers to common questions about the Child Tax Credit payments, including about what may be causing delays.

A statement from the U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS released on Thursday indicates that many people should not have to worry about traces, though. The statement reports that around $15 billion has already been sent out to 35.2 million families for the first of the six advance Child Tax Credit payments.

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The IRS allows you to trace your Child Tax Credit payments if you didn't receive your installment. Peter Dazeley/Getty Images