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Monday is child tax credit pay day: What to do if it doesn't show up

Relying on that child tax credit payment but it doesn't show up? Here's how to start a trace -- but you have to be patient.

Another $15 billion in monthly advance child tax credit payments is set to go out Monday, divided between tens of millions of Americans. That sheer volume means it may take a day or two for some payments to arrive, particularly to people receiving it in the mail rather than direct deposit.

But what happens if the government says the money has been issued and it still doesn't show up? The Internal Revenue Service has steps families can take. They can request a payment trace if the money doesn't arrive, but only after one of these time frames has elapsed.

  • 5 days since the direct deposit date and the bank says it hasn't received the payment.
  • 4 weeks since the payment was mailed by check to a standard address. 
  • 6 weeks since the payment was mailed, and you have a forwarding address on file with the local post office.
  • 9 weeks since the payment was mailed, and you have a foreign address.

To start a trace, complete Form 3911 and fax or mail it in. Instructions on where to send it are at the bottom of the form.

The credit is $3,600 annually for children under age 6 and $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17. Eligible families who did not opt out of the monthly payments are receiving $300 monthly for each child under 6 and $250 per older child. Half of the total money is going out via the monthly payments, which started in July. The rest will come at tax time next year.

The benefits begin to phase out at incomes of $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for heads of household and $150,000 for married couples. Families with incomes up to $200,000 for individuals and $400,000 for married couples can still receive $2,000. That's what the child tax credit was for all eligible families before the increase was passed under the American Rescue Plan in March.

The final payment for the year will arrive Dec. 15.