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7 FAQs About the Earned Income Tax Credit

Credits and Deductions Individual Taxes Parents
A young married couple claiming the Earned Income Credit as they file their taxes online.

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Updated for tax year 2023.

The Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, is a tax credit designed to help low- to moderate-income working families and individuals get ahead and put more money back in their pockets. It can provide a significant boost to your federal tax refund each year if you meet certain criteria.

For instance, if you are employed, but your earnings fall into what the IRS considers a lower income level based on the size of your family, you may be eligible for the credit.

The maximum EITC credit available for tax year 2023 is $7,430.

At a glance:

  • The Earned Income Tax Credit is available for low- and middle-income workers.
  • The credit is refundable, meaning you can claim it even if you had no income tax withheld (you’ll still need to file a tax return to claim it).
  • Your credit amount depends on your income level, filing status, and the number of children you have.

How to calculate Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)?

The easiest way to determine your EITC eligibility is to enter your information into TaxAct®, which will automatically calculate the credit based on the details included in your return.

Number of children Maximum credit amount (2023)
0 $600
1 $3,995
2 $6,604
3 or more $7,430

Below are a few common questions and answers taxpayers often have about the EITC.

1. Do I qualify for the EITC even if I didn’t have any income tax withheld and I’m not required to file a tax return?

Yes! Thanks to the EITC, you can get money back even if you didn’t have income tax withheld or pay estimated income tax. This type of tax benefit is called a refundable credit.

However, you must file a tax return to qualify for the credit, even if you otherwise would not need to file.

2. Do I have to earn a very low income to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit?

If you have no qualifying children, you must earn a relatively low income to be eligible for the EITC. For tax year 2023, for example, income limits mean you must have earned less than $17,640 to meet the requirements for the credit ($24,210 married filing jointly) if you have no qualifying children.

However, if you have just one qualifying child and make $46,560 or less ($53,120 if married filing jointly), you might be surprised to find you qualify for the EITC when tax filing.

3. Who qualifies for the Earned Income Tax Credit?

You must meet the following qualifications to claim the credit for 2023:

  • Your earned income and adjusted gross income fall under these limits:
Number of Children Living with You Maximum Adjusted Gross Income and Earned Income
0 $17,640 ($24,210 married filing jointly)
1 $46,560 ($53,120 married filing jointly)
2 $52,918 ($59,478 married filing jointly)
3 or more $56,838 ($63,698 married filing jointly)
  • You (plus your spouse if you are married) and your children have Social Security numbers.
  • You earn income either working for yourself or as an employee.
  • You are a U.S. citizen or resident alien all year, a nonresident alien married to a U.S. citizen, or a resident alien and filing a joint return.
  • Someone else cannot claim you as a qualifying child for the EITC.
  • You do not have foreign earned income for which you must file Form 2555 or Form 2555 EZ.
  • You do not have more than $11,000 in interest, dividends, or other investment income (up from $10,300 in 2022).

    If you do not have a qualifying child, you must:

    • Be between the ages of 25 and 65 at the end of the year
    • Have lived in the United States for more than half the year
    • Not be the qualifying child of another person

    If you use the married filing separately filing status to claim the EITC:

    • You cannot file a joint tax return
    • You must not have lived with your spouse for the last six months (or you have a separation agreement)
    • Your child must live with you for more than half the year

    4. Does military combat pay affect my credit?

    If you receive combat pay, you can choose whether or not to include it in your taxable income.

    Ordinarily, combat pay is not included in your taxable income. However, depending on your total earned income and family size, excluding combat income from your taxable income could reduce the amount of EITC for which you qualify. You may be better off counting the combat pay as taxable income in those cases.

    Filers need to remember that this decision is all-or-nothing. You must include all your combat pay or none of it in your taxable income.

    5. Can I have my Earned Income Tax Credit added to my paycheck throughout the year?

    In past years, the IRS allowed taxpayers to receive the Advance Earned Income Credit throughout the year. However, in 2010 it was repealed and is no longer available.

    6. Can I claim the Earned Income Tax Credit even if my child’s other parent claims him as a dependent?

    If your child lived with you for more than half the year, you generally take the EITC based on the child, regardless of which parent claims the child as a dependent. The number of children you claim as dependents is not always the same number of children who qualify you for the EITC.

    If you have joint custody of the child and split time equally between each parent, the parent with the higher adjusted gross income takes the credit.

    Only one person can claim the same child. Noncustodial parents can’t claim children for purposes of the EITC.

    Your qualifying child for the EITC must meet the following qualifications:

    • Age or disability. At the end of the filing year, the child was under age 19, or younger than 24 and a full-time student for at least 5 months of the year. The child must be younger than you (or your spouse if you file a joint return.) There is no age limit if the child is permanently and totally disabled.
    • Relationship to you. A child for the EITC can be your child, stepchild, brother, sister, half-sibling, stepsibling, foster child, adopted child, or a descendant of any of these.
    • Living arrangements. The child must have lived with you in the United States for more than half the year. If you file a joint return, you can include the time the child lived with your spouse.
    • No joint return. Your child must not have filed a joint return with his or her spouse unless it was only filed to claim a refund and they were not required to file a return.

    7. I should have claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit in prior years, but I didn’t. Can I go back and claim the credit now?

    If you filed your taxes from a previous year but didn’t claim the EITC, you can file an amended return and receive the associated credit.

    If you didn’t receive the credit because you didn’t file, you must file a separate return for each year in which you qualified.

    However, you can’t go back indefinitely. You can generally only file an amended return for the past three years. Use TaxAct to file Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

    8. Is the Earned Income Tax Credit the same as the Child Tax Credit?

    The EITC (also called the EIC) is not the same as the Child Tax Credit, though it is possible to qualify for both. Low-income families often find they are able to get both tax benefits, though childless workers won’t be able to utilize the Child Tax Credit.

    This article is for informational purposes only and not legal or financial advice.
    All TaxAct offers, products and services are subject to applicable terms and conditions.


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