Find out if you qualify
The easiest way to find out if you qualify is to use the IRS’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Assistant Tool. The tool is available in English and Spanish. It will ask you questions about yourself and other family members to see if you qualify for the credit, and if so, it will estimate the amount.
NOTE: When you look at the rules to qualify for EITC, be sure you have the information for the correct tax year — each tax year has different limits on your earned income.
You and any other family members claimed, such as your spouse or qualifying child must have a valid Social Security number SSN. Remember, singles and couples who have Social Security numbers can claim the credit, even if their children don’t have SSNs.
Married but Separated spouses can choose to be treated as not married for EITC purposes. To qualify, the spouse claiming the credit cannot file jointly with the other spouse, cannot have the same principal residence as the other spouse for the lastsix months out of the year and must have a qualifying child living with them for more than half the year or has an decree, document, or agreement (not a divorce agreement) and is not in the same household as the spouse by the end of the taxable year.
You must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien all year.
About YOUR MONEY
You must have earned income. This includes:
- Earned Income: Taxable wages, salaries, tips and other pay from your employer.
- Nontaxable employee pay, such as certain dependent care benefits and adoption benefits, isn’t earned income. However, if you’re in the military, there’s an exception for nontaxable combat pay, which you can include as earned income.
- Net earnings from self-employment.
- Gross income received as an independent contractor or statutory employee.
- Certain employees who receive income for work performed as independent contractors may see Box 13 of their IRS Form W-2 checked as “Statutory employee.”
- If you retire on disability, taxable benefits you receive under your employer’s disability retirement plan are earned income until you reach minimum retirement age.
- The ARPA expanded the limits for investment income, you can have up to $10,000 of disqualified income without losing out on the EITC for 2021. For 2022 and later years, the $10,000 limit will be adjusted for inflation.
You can’t claim the EITC if you need to file IRS Form 2555.
About YOUR FAMILY
Generally, if you aren’t claiming a qualifying child, you must meet these rules (please see below for temporary changes):
- You must be at least age 25, but under 65;
- You can’t be the dependent of another person;
- You can’t be a qualifying child of another person; and
- You must have lived in the United States more than half of the year.
If you have children but they don’t qualify for EITC purposes, you can still claim the EITC without children.
NOTE: The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 temporarily (for 2021 only) reduces the minimum age of eligibility from 25 to 19 for most workers with no upper age limit. For students who are attending school at least part-time, the age limit is temporarily reduced from 25 to 24. For the first time, former foster children and youth who are homeless, the minimum age is 18.
If you are claiming a qualifying child:
- You can’t be a qualifying child of another person;
- The child generally can’t be married;
- Your qualifying child can’t be used by more than one person to claim the EITC; and
- The child must pass relationship, age, residency, and joint return tests.
The child must be related to you.
Many different relationships qualify for EITC, including:
- Son or daughter (whether by blood or adoption), stepchild, qualified foster child, or their descendants (grandchild or great-grandchild), or
- Full, half and step siblings or their descendants (niece or nephew), or
- This means some relationships aren’t covered. For instance, you can’t claim the child of your boyfriend/girlfriend, a neighbor, or a cousin even if you provide care for that child.
The child must be:
- Younger than the taxpayer, or
- Under age 19 at the end of the tax year and younger than you (or your spouse, if filing jointly), or
- Under age 24 at the end of the tax year, a student, and younger than you (or your spouse, if filing jointly), or
- Permanently and totally disabled at any time during the year, regardless of age.
The child must have lived with you in the United States for more than half of the tax year. This doesn’t mean six months in a row. For example: If your child lives with you during the school year but spends summers elsewhere.
You may need to show the IRS that you’re entitled to the EITC.
The IRS may ask you to provide documents to show you’re entitled to claim the credit. The notice you get will tell you the documents you need to send to claim the credit (birth certificates, school records, etc.).
You may use these templates to get the requested information from the school, healthcare provider, or childcare provider to verify your qualifying child’s residency.
Sometimes you may not have the specific types of documents requested by the IRS. IRS Form 886-H-EIC, Documents You Need to Send to Claim the Earned Income Tax Credit on the Basis of a Qualifying Child or Children, lists many options, but remember that different combinations may also be acceptable. The IRS has developed a toolkit to help you identify what documents you might provide to the IRS to determine if your child is a qualifying child.
Let’s say the IRS wants medical records to show the child lived with you during the year in question, and you can’t get those, or your child didn’t go to the doctor. There may be other records that show your child lived with you, such as social service records, childcare provider records, or official mail addressed to the child. You may want to check to see if there’s an agency that has a record of your address and any additional information that shows the child lived with you. If so, it may be able to give you a signed letter on their official letterhead showing these details.
A certain document alone generally doesn’t show you are entitled to receive the credit, but in combination with other records, it can demonstrate what the IRS needs
There are special EITC rules for members of the military, ministers, members of the clergy, those receiving disability benefits, and those impacted by disasters. If you fall into any of these categories, please visit the IRS Special EITC Rules page.
The PATH Act prevents you from filing retroactive returns or amended returns claiming EITC, ACTC, or the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) if the reason you are filing is because you now have the type of valid Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) required for each credit but didn’t have such TIN before the due date of the return.
If for any reason you or one of your family members didn’t receive a valid “taxpayer identification number” by the due date of the tax return (including extensions), you cannot file a past due return or an amended return to claim any of these credits. A valid taxpayer identification number could be an SSN, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), or Adopted Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN) depending on the requirement for each credit.
You can’t file a past due return or an amended return to claim the EITC for anyone on the return without an SSN that’s valid for employment by the due date of the return including a valid extension.
To claim the credit, file your tax return
To claim the credit, if eligible, you must file a tax return – whether you normally need to file or not. You need to complete an IRS Form Schedule EIC, Earned Income Credit and file it with your return, if you’re claiming a qualifying child. If you don’t have a qualifying child, you claim the credit on your tax return.
If you need free help preparing your tax returns, type “Free Tax Prep” in the search box on www.IRS.gov and use the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) locator tool to find a volunteer site near you. You can also prepare and electronically file your own tax return with professional software using the IRS’s Free File program.
Note: If you get school records to verify one or more of the tests, remember a school “year” really is just part of the calendar year. You’d need to ask for two school years to cover one calendar year. You might have to get the school to write a letter, rather than provide just the transcripts, to show the child’s guardian during the calendar year and the address on record during that time.