Don’t Miss Out on the Earned Income Tax Credit

Tax Deductions and Credits

National Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day is January 25th and we want to help bring awareness to EITC and remind you that this tax credit can be worth up to $5,800, but you have to file your taxes to get it.  Ginita Wall gives us more details on one of the most commonly overlooked tax credits

Are you expecting a tax refund this year? If you are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, one might be coming your way. Though the refunds are greater if you have children, even those without children can qualify, as long as you or your spouse (if married filing jointly) are between the ages of 25 and 65.


The problem for most people trying to claim the credit is that the rules seem complicated, but using TurboTax makes it simple. In addition to TurboTax software making it easy to claim the credit,  Intuit, maker of TurboTax also has the EITC Finder, which is a free smartphone app that makes determining eligibility easy.

Here are the rules for claiming the tax credit:

Your wages and self-employment earnings are the basis for the credit. You also can have interest, dividends and other investment earnings, but not more than $3,200 in 2012. For most of us, with interest rates at rock bottom, that isn’t a problem.

How much you can earn and qualify for the tax credit may depend on how many dependent children you have.

For 2012 if you have:

  • Three or more children, you can earn up to $45,060 and qualify
  • Two children, that drops to $41,952
  • Only one child, your earnings and adjusted gross income can’t top $36,920
  • No children? No problem, as long as your income is less than $13,980.

The refundable tax credit can give you tax credits ranging from a maximum of $5,891 if you have three children, to $475 if you have no children.

Here’s the best part: Most tax credits only apply against taxes you owe. If your tax is zero, you get no benefit. But if the earned income credit is greater than the tax you owe, the IRS will send you the difference. For example, if your credit is $1,200 and you owe $800 in taxes, you’ll get a check from the IRS for $400. How sweet is that?

Now for the fine print: If you are married but file separate returns as “married filing separately” you don’t qualify for the earned income credit. And if you share custody and your child has lived in your household for more than half the year, that child can qualify you for the credit even if the other parent is entitled to claim the exemption for the child on their tax return.

If you are eligible for the federal tax credit and you live in one of the 25 states that also has the credit, your benefits may be multiplied. And even if you normally make too much to qualify for the credit, if you lost your job and were out of work in 2012, you may still qualify for that year.

Remember if you have any questions about this tax law, you can call and ask our CPAs, tax attorneys, or IRS enrolled agents your question for free.

Comments (58) Leave your comment

  1. I qualify for the eic but want to get married in august, will I lose it if my spouses income definitely puts us over, or is there some kind of rule that’s still makes me eligible?

    1. Hi Casandra,
      If you are married without any children, the income limit is $20,330 in order to be eligible for 2015. Once you are married you have to file as a married couple and you have to file married filing jointly in order to qualify for EIC.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  2. I am certain Turbo Tax is incorrect on my return. My earned income was only $17,961, but unearned was a total of $11,807 (401(k) and unemployment. But, they have combined both to calculate my EIC for my son who was in college last year. Am I wrong? Is there a phone number to reach them?

  3. I have a friend who just found out about the EIC because up until this year he had been doing his taxes himself. This year he took it to a tax service preparer and they told him about the EIC and he realizes he has let 15 years (daughter is 16) worth of it go for lack of knowledge about it. Can he file a request for back pay on it and if they will pay how far back. What form would he use?

    1. Hi Gayla,
      Yes he can amend for a tax refund. He can go back 3 years from when his tax returns were filed so he will be able to amend 2011, 2012, and 2013. He will have to file an amended From 1040-X
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  4. My ex-partner (never married) and I share 50/50 custody of our child and alternate claiming her on our tax returns. This year it was my partner’s turn but he earned too much can he amend and I claim on my return instead?

    1. Hi Joe,
      Yes, your partner could amend if his tax return is accepted already. When you file you most likely will not be able to e-file, because the IRS will reject an e-file with a duplicate social security number which will be your daughter’s. You will have to paper file and make sure the IRS has recorded the amendment removing your daughter from your partner’s tax return.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  5. Can we take the 2014 child tax credit for our daughter that turned 18 in January 2015? She was 17 at the end of 2014. Turbo tax said “no” but I think it was the wording that made my husband answer “yes, she’s 18”.

  6. I’ve been divorced from my ex husband for 10 years and we have an agreement in place that he claims 1 child on his taxes and I claim the other but I added both to my taxes in order to claim the EIC credit and I’ve already filed, he however is now wanting to take the EIC credit, can I file an amendment and remove the child so that he can claim all credits for her?

  7. I made 22,400 last year I’m only getting back 3,443.Last year I got back 5,667 .I made the same why is it less this year.Is it because my son turned 16

  8. I am legally seperated with 2 children. Can my ex claim 1 as a dependent and me still be able to use that child for eic? The kids live with us equally and I plan to file hoh, but my ex thinks he should also be able to be hog and thus wants to claim our oldest but makes too muc h for eic.

  9. I turned 25 yesterday and Turbotax is stating that I do not qualify for EIC because I am not at least 25 years old.

    1. You are filing taxes for the tax year 2014. If you turned 25 in 2015 then for tax purposes, it is the your age on December 31, 2014. Next year, you should be able to claim it.

  10. Dear Lisa,
    I worked for 3 months last year ( as I had been volunteering out of the country for the rest of the year. I earned under $3000 am I still eligible for an earned income child credit, and what can I expect to receive seeing that my wages were so low for the 2014 year? I am single, and head of household.


  11. I am a single parent any only made 4000.00 this year… I got 1000.00 for earned income credit, but I only got 23 dollars for my 2 year old son?? I know people who make same amount of money as me and get back 2000.00 dollars…what is p with that…and I do not owe any money to the government so that is not the case!! please help!!

  12. I am a single parent and my son is 22 and a full time college student. Are there any income guidelines for EIC? If there are would I qualify for anything else for the college expenses?

  13. hello, i only worked for 2 months and i have two young children when i file will i still get an earned income credit for them?

  14. My daughter turned 17 june of 2014. She is still in high school. Why do I not get the child tax credit for her? We pay all of her expenses.

  15. My ex-husband plans to claim our 3 kids this next tax season. They have not lived with him, as I am the custodial parent and we live in separate states. Will he qualify for the EIC?

    1. Hi Sharon,
      Your daughter would have to be a full-time student in order for you to get earned income tax credit for her. You may still be eligible for earned income tax credit without a dependent if your income is less than $14,590($20,020 married filing jointly).
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

      1. My daughter doesn’t work and she was 18 at the end of 2013 she didn’t turn 19 till April she is in college and I took care of her can I still carry her as a dependent and get the earned income tax credit claimed for her on my taxes.

  16. I got divorced in June 2007 we had 2 children ages 11 months and 3 years of age. We have joint custody with my ex husband being the parent out of the home and myself with primary residential custody. Is it legal for my ex husband to claim earned income credit on 1 of the children since they live with me?

    1. Hi Lacey,
      First, in order for him to claim Earned Income Tax Credit he has to be eligible to claim them as a dependent. Unless your divorce decree states that he can claim your children as a dependent the dependency exemptions would go to the parent with primary custody. The parent with primary custody is the one they live with the most amount of days. If your children live with you an even amount of days, custody is awarded to the one with the higher adjusted gross income. Please see more on this from the IRS
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  17. my daughter turned 24 on Oct. 19, 2013. She was a full time college student up until may 2013, can I claim her for EIC?

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Your daughter has to be younger than age 24 and a full-time student in order to claim her for Earned Income Tax Credit.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  18. I was 19 at the end of 2013. I am filing on my own for the first time. I work and do not go to school. I made less than $3000.00 in 2013. Can I claim any EIC on my return.

  19. Is my 21 year-old college student in year 2013 eligible for EITC Benefits, as he was on work study for 6 months (2013 only), worked part-time for 2 months in 2013 at a business that is closed, and now works in a new job for only 3 months (2013- present) who graduated in Dec 2013 for his AA Degree and is waiting enrollment acceptance as a transfer college student in March 2014. Classes start August 2014?

    1. No, your child is not eligible for the credit. You must be between 25 and 65 years of age. If you provide at least 50% of his support, you can claim him as a dependent. You would also be entitled to his tuition credits, if you qualify. You may also qualify for EITC, depending on your income.

    1. Hi Christina,
      It sounds like you may. TurboTax will ask you simple questions about you and give you the credits and deductions you’re eligible for.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

      1. Hello lisa i have a question i already filed my taxes but my grandma brought it to my attention tht i must have did something wrong , because she said i was suppost to get a little more money back since im still in HSchool im 19 & this is my 1 year fileing & , while i was doing it online i put tht i was in hs but its keep showing me things about college so i skiped so i just want to kjoe what can i do ? & i already recieved my my tax refund not from the state thought ,….

  20. Im a single parent of three kids. I started work in September. I only made about 1800.00 dollars. My kids are 16, 3, and 5. Can I claim head of house and get the earned income and child tax credit?

  21. for 2013 I only made 5,000.00as an independent contractor. I have 2 kids under 16 that live solely with me. I have always qualified for EIC. Now turbo tax is saying I do not qualify! Why do I not qualify for EIC now?

  22. My son is single, 28, and a security guard and lives with me in my home. I have claimed him as my dependant since I have provided more than 1/2 of his support for many years. Less than $20M was his total income for 2012, and I’m wondering if he files and claims himself and I no longer claim him, could he qualify for the EITC and get a greater refund than I would get if I continue to cliam him as my dependant and he thus keeps qualifying me as head of household? I am a long time user of turbo tax and have prepared my own AND his returns for a number of years.

    1. Hi Carl,
      No we do not charge for Earned Income Tax Credit and if you need to ask tax questions we have tax experts available to answer your tax questions for free.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

      1. I made about 3200 for 2014 I have 2 Dependants do you think I will have a pretty decent tax return if I file?

  23. If my child entered the military at the end of July, 2012, and turned 19 in Oct, 2012, do I still get the earned income credit for her?

  24. I absolutely love your blog and find many of your post’s to be exactly I’m looking for.
    Would you offer guest writers to write content for you personally?
    I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on a number of the subjects you write regarding here. Again, awesome website!

  25. I am going to be using a different computer this year. Will my last year info carry over or will I have to reenter it?

    1. Hi Merrilyn,
      Yes your information should transfer no matter what computer you are using if you used TurboTax Online. To access your tax returns on TurboTax online you use your username and password so you can access the information from any computer.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  26. Do I qualify for the Earned Income Credit for my 19 year old college student who lived with me all year and earned under $1,500?

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