The monthly payments begin this week for the Advance Child Tax Credit (ACTC) for eligible families. Our earlier post tells more about it. About ten days ago, the IRS launched the on-line portal through which families can manage their payments. Using the Tax Credit Update Portal is proving to be difficult for many customers. I don’t have a magic wand to fix that, but I have put together a few tips – hopefully they will prove somewhat helpful.
First, though, this question: Who needs to USE the ACTC portal? Currently, the portal can be used for three functions, although more will be added later in the summer. You can: 1) Check to be sure you are enrolled for the payments (please note that this step is not needed for most people who filed a tax return in 2020 or 2019); 2) Make changes to your bank account information for direct deposit; 3) Unenroll in the advance monthly payments, if you would rather wait and receive them after you file your tax return. Later this summer it will also allow you to change your mailing address and change the number of children in your household.
The portal is only accessible via the internet – using a computer, tablet or smart phone. If you do not have ready access to the internet, you will need to seek help from someone who does. There are two different ways to log into the portal – both have their challenges, but hopefully one or the other will work for most people.
- Option 1. Use the photo identification process through ID.me. The federal government, along with several state governments, uses this service to verify the identity of individuals accessing government services. I tried to help someone with this last week, and we had some struggles. Eventually I found a guide to the process, which is helpful. The first steps are fairly simple: provide an email address, create a password, then click on a link sent to you by email and enter a 6-digit code, also in that email. Next you take a photo of your driver’s license (or other photo ID) and upload it into their system. It was the step after that that caused us trouble – they ask you to take a “video selfie” (using either your cell phone or a web cam on your computer). I figure they must be looking at your face and comparing it to the face in the photo ID. The final steps look pretty easy – this is where you enter your social security number and other key information to finish creating your ID.me account.
Unfortunately, my friend and I could not get a “video selfie” that they would accept, so we got stymied at that point. Since then, I have found more information on how to take a video selfie for ID.me – using a webcam OR using a smart phone. Perhaps that will help others avoid getting stuck like we did.
A bit of good news: when we struck out with the video id, they provided an alternative option, which they call a “Trusted Referee Video Call.” This option doesn’t look simple either, but at least it is a back-up.
- Option 2. Log In to your IRS account. Most people do not have an IRS account; you don’t need an account to check “where’s my refund,” and we didn’t need an IRS account to use the non-filers tool or check on our stimulus payments over the course of the past year. The most likely people to already have an IRS account are people who have requested a transcript of a prior-year return or who are making payments to catch up on overdue taxes. Anyone can create an IRS account, however. Setting up the account takes a little time, and only works if you have all the needed ingredients, below. After the account is set up, however, you will simply log in with your user name and password.
- You will need basic personal information: Full Name, Email, Birthdate, Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), Tax filing status (on your most recent return), Current address (on your most recent return).
- You will also need to provide a portion of the account number for one of the following types of credit/loan accounts in your name: Visa, MasterCard, Discover card, student loan, mortgage or home equity loan, or auto loan.
- To verify your identity via cell phone or mailed letter. Receiving a text to your cell phone is easiest; however, it must be a US-based cell phone number with your name attached. If you don’t have that, they will mail you a letter with a code to verify your identity.
The option to create an IRS account is less visible in the portal; they seem to be sending people to ID.me unless they already have and IRS account. For some people, however, creating an IRS account may be the easier option.
Best wishes to those of you who need to access this portal. Please share your comments about the process!