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How to qualify for an $8,000 stimulus payment you didn’t even know about

Published Jun 11th, 2021 1:53PM EDT
New stimulus check
Image: Pamela Au/Adobe

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The IRS days ago just sent out a new stimulus check to more than 2.3 million recipients, and while everyone is also waiting for the first of what will be a new monthly series of stimulus checks starting July 15 — thanks to an expansion of the federal child tax credit — there’s another stimulus benefit accessible to families that’s actually more lucrative than all of that. And it’s hiding in plain sight, as it were, with many families likely not even aware of its existence.

It’s a huge tax credit that comes on top of myriad other benefits packed into the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion legislation that President Biden signed back in March which included funding for a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks, plus the federal child tax credit expansion that will give families as much as $3,600 for each eligible child. What we’re referring to is an expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Credit, and here’s what you need to know about it.

Here’s how the personal finance news site Nerdwallet explain it: For the 2021 tax year only, ”the Child and Dependent Care Credit can get you up to 50% of up to $8,000 of child care and similar costs for a child under 13, a spouse or parent who cannot care for themselves, or another dependent so that you can work (and up to $16,000 of expenses for two or more dependents).” Said another way, if you have two or more eligible dependents, a working family that meets the income requirements could get up to an $8,000 tax credit — again, for this year only.

Another important change made for, again, 2021 only is that this tax credit is potentially refundable for people. What that means is, say you prepare your federal tax filing next year for 2021, and you end up owing $0 in federal taxes, while you calculate that this Child and Dependent Care Credit gives you a $1,000 credit. Congratulations — that money will be paid out to you, compared to a non-refundable tax credit. In the latter scenario, a non-refundable tax credit can only be used to reduce your tax liability or wipe it away, so if you owe $0 in taxes after preparing your federal tax return, a non-refundable tax credit would give you nothing at that point.

Kiplinger’s goes on to note that, as the name of this tax credit suggests, it’s not exclusively focused on expenses stemming from child care. In addition to expenses for the care of a child under the age of 13, the financial news site notes that the credit is also available for expenses to care for:

  • “A spouse who was physically or mentally incapable of self-care and lived with you for more than half of the year; or
  • Someone who was physically or mentally incapable of self-care, lived with you for more than half of the year, and either (1) was your dependent, or (2) could have been your dependent except that he or she received gross income of $4,300 or more, he or she filed a joint return, or you (or your spouse, if filing jointly) could have been claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return.”
Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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