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Didn't get your December child tax credit payment? Here's what to do.

If the IRS says the child tax credit payment has been made, but the money doesn't show up, there is a way to trace it. But patience is required.

Wednesday will be the final day of 2021 that the monthly advance child tax credit payments are set to go out, divided between tens of millions of Americans. That 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.

Additionally, it could be the biggest total payout yet as some eligible parents may be getting their first payment -- a lump sum of all six months. That could be up to $1,800 per child for some.

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 Build Back Better bill, which includes a one-year extension of the credit, has passed the House. It faces and uncertain future in the Senate with Sen. Joe Manchin expressing concerns. Unless the measure is approved by Dec. 28, the IRS won’t have time to prepare checks due Jan. 15 to millions of families that receive the child tax credit, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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