Tax Benefits for Having Dependents

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The article below is up to date based on the latest tax laws. It is accurate for your 2019 taxes (filed in 2020) and 2018 taxes, filed by the April 15th, 2019 (or October 2019 with filed extension) deadline.

Kids can be overwhelming when they are cooped up in the house during summer break, but they are also blessed tax-savers when you file your taxes.

Even though the dependency exemption of $4,050 was eliminated under the new tax law beginning with your 2018 taxes (the ones you file in 2019), there are still some tax benefits you can take advantage of to maximize your tax refund if you have kids and other dependents.

Child Tax Credit: You may be eligible for a tax credit, which is even better than a tax deduction since it reduces your taxes dollar-for-dollar. The Child Tax Credit is increased to a $2,000 credit under the new tax law (it was previously $1,000 for 2017) and is available if you have a dependent child under the age of 17. The income threshold at which you can claim the Child Tax Credit is raised to $400,000 for couples who are married filing jointly and $200,000 if you are single.

If your dependent child is over 17 or you support a relative you may still be able to claim the new Other Dependent Credit of $500.

Child and Dependent Care Credit: Childcare is expensive, but Uncle Sam can help you out with the cost. If you are working or actively seeking work, and you pay childcare for your dependent who is under age 13 (no age limit if disabled), you can claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

This credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your taxes, based on your childcare expenses, up to 35% of $3,000 ($1,050) for one child or $6,000 ($2,100) for two or more children. The credit ranges from 20% to 35% of your child-care expenses, depending on your income. Nursery school, private kindergarten, after-school programs, and daycare are all qualifying expenses.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): There’s a special tax credit available if your wages or self-employment income are below a certain income level. The amount of credit you receive is based on your income, filing status, and how many qualifying kids you have.

The refundable tax credit you can receive ranges from a maximum of $6,431 if you have three or more children, to $519 if you have no children for tax year 2018, and for tax year 2019, the credit ranges from $6,557 for three or more children down to $529 with no children. Unlike other tax credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit is refundable, so if the credit is greater than the tax you owe, you can still receive the difference as a tax refund.

The gross income limits for tax year 2018: if you have three or more children, you can earn up to $49,194 ($54,884 if you are married and filing jointly) and qualify. With just two children, that drops to up to $45,802 ($51,492 married filing jointly). If you only have one child, your earnings and adjusted gross income must be less than $40,320 ($46,010 married filing jointly).

The gross income limits for tax year 2019 (the taxes you file in 2020): if you have three or more children, you can earn up to $50,162 ($55,952 if you are married and filing jointly) and qualify. With just two children, that drops to up to $46,703 ($52,493 married filing jointly). If you only have one child, your earnings and adjusted gross income must be less than $41,094 ($46,884 married filing jointly).

So next time the kids are driving you crazy this summer, remember these tax savings and give them a big hug instead.

Don’t worry about knowing these tax rules. TurboTax asks you simple questions about you and gives you the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for based on your answers. If you have questions, you can connect live via one-way video to a TurboTax Live CPA or Enrolled Agent to get your tax questions answered. TurboTax Live CPAs and Enrolled Agents are available in English and Spanish and can also review, sign, and file your tax return.

Comments (92) Leave your comment

  1. Jan 2016…I havent worked in 2 years can my girlfriend claim me? Im 30 years old how much can she get by claimimg we been been together for 4 years we are not married but she has been taking care of me can she claim head of household to? We been at our place for 6 months or so let me know thanks

  2. So I heard that claiming 2 kids is the same as claiming 3..??? Or that I can claim however many but only get amount of claiming2 or something like that…I just had my 3rd baby last year so just wanna know…also what’s the max for each child under the age of 7

  3. Hey so I have made 9,686.44 I claimed 2 all year because I did need more in my checks I am claiming 2 children when I file I only had 114.92 taken out on my federal and 289.44 in state how much do you think I will get back also I pay 50$ a week for childcare please help let me know

    1. Hi,
      It’s hard to say without knowing your income, other tax deductions and credits, and how much taxes were withheld. If you have 2 dependents you will be eligible for a dependent exemption of $4,000 for each child which will be deducted from your income. You will also be eligible for a Child Tax Credit of up to $1,000 per child. You may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit of up to $5,548. There are many tax credits and deductions that may get you more money back. TurboTax walks you through all of the tax deductions and credits you are eligible for.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

    1. Hi Betty,
      Child support payments are not deductible by the payee and are not taxable to the person receiving them. You can deduct alimony paid and the person receiving alimony has to include it in their taxable income. If your son meets the age qualifications to be a qualifying child (under 19 and 24 if a student) and he does not provide over half of his own support and lives with you for more than half of the year then you can claim a dependent exemption for him and may be eligible for other credits and deductions related to your child like the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and the Child and Dependent Care Credit.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  4. I worked & earned some income but filed exempt so no taxes were actually taken but can I still claim my girlfriends child as a dependent & get some money back?

  5. If I’m not claiming my son this year, I’m letting his dad claim him, can I still deduct childcare expenses? I thought I could but if so, how do I do that on Turbo Tax online? When I select Child and Dependent Care Credit, it will not let me select a name to enter the expenses because it shows my son’s status as “Nondependent”.

  6. So can my bf file and have my baby as a dependent and my brother in law he only made like 2,000 or is that not enough tgis was only 1 w2 form ?? Btw my baby is 8months first year using him as a dependent also herd we can get 2,300 ? Is it truee

  7. My niece is 24 years old living on her own. She has a 6 month old son and was told she couldn’t collect earned income credit because you have to be 25 years of age to be able to collect it. Is this true? Sincerely Jill Chinderle

  8. I have 4 children and married we file together and normally every year get close to 8000.00 or 9000.00 I was told u can only claim 3 children not 4 and my son dad wants to claim him this yr is it true I can only count 3 of my kids anyways? And should let him claim my son or would it affect me and my son still count for doing my taxes and be beneficial to me?

    1. Yes that is true. You can put as many dependent a down but while claiming children you only get money back for 3 so you should allow your sons father to claim him.

  9. I filed exempt this year But they was still taking tax out I made less than 44.000 I have a one-year old and a six year old will I get anything back and if so how much for two kids??

  10. So i started working April of 2014 but ended up being pregnant and went on maternity leave for October and November went back to work in December i also have a three year old. Would I get a good tax return or will I owe?

  11. Hi

    I am self employed I lost money this year in fact I lost everything I made 1000.00 in income this year not including help from family. Am I not going to get any refund for my three children now that I need it the most?

  12. I worked cleaning houses started out as a temp job for 2 weeks making 10$ an hour for a reality company I filled out a 1099 when I started after my two weeks was up and I was supposed to be done with the job they liked my work and had me doing more work with other Realtors and their clients cleaning houses and I was paid cash I made about $5,500 dollars I have one dependent do I need to file my taxes and how do I go about getting a copy of my 1099? Do I get Earned Income Credit if so do I not get the full amount because I didn’t work all year or make enough??

  13. if filing married with four dependents myself and my son my wife and her 3 kids, is there a way to determine the precentage of the return that is hers or mine?

  14. Hi I have twins that are 18 but in their first year of college. I was told i could still clam them, but am I still able to get any extra credits? I am not married and file head of house hold. Thank You

  15. Im 17 years old and me and my dad has been working, i have been working for 4 or 5 months but i dont know my dads income, how much do you think we would get back if he carries me

  16. I’m having trouble knowing if i can claim my two children or not. I haven’t been employed for the whole year of 2014. My children’s father passed away in December 2012 and i get social security survivors benefits for them and rent a 3 bedroom house with just us. Can someone help me out.. It would be a big help for me if i am able to claim them??

    1. Hi Felicia,
      Yes, if you had any type of taxable income coming in like unemployment. If you didn’t have any income then you wouldn’t have to file.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

      1. I made 100000 this year and ive got 3 dependents. Can you give me an estimate on how much my tax return would be?

  17. If I been paying taxes since november and make 450 a week and Im 16 years old with a 5 month old baby how much in tax refunds would i get?

  18. I started my new job last year I but 3 dependence on my application and I have made less than 15000 this year will that affect my tax refund and how much would I be getting back I have two children and married

    1. Hi Kim,
      Without knowing how much taxes were withheld from your paycheck I can’t tell you exactly, but having 2 dependents will make you eligible for valuable tax deductions and credits like the Child Tax Credit worth up to $1,000, dependent exemptions worth $3,950 per child and for your spouse, and the Earned Income Tax Credit worth up to $5,460 with your income and amount of dependents. TurboTax will guide you through all of the tax deductions and credits that you are eligible for. You don’t need to know all of these tax credits and deductions. You may also be able to file absolutely free https://turbotax.intuit.com/
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

      1. so when I had put 3 dependents all my application do they take taxes out or notI think they had to take a little bit of something out

      2. so when I had put 3 dependents all my application do they take taxes out or not.i think they have to take a little bit of something out right

  19. Hi there, i just got married this past year. I also didn’t work this year either, but i have two children from two different dads, can i still claim taxes if i didn’t work? also my husband owe back child support would i be able to get my childrens money back if he claims all of us even though i didn’t work?

  20. Divorced parents, taking turns claiming the children. Is it possible for the parent who is Not claiming the child as a dependent to take the Child Tax Credit if the parent claiming them cannot (makes over 75g/year)?

  21. My husband and his ex-wife have a 9 year old and have been divorced for 6 years. Although there is no stipulation in the divorce decree on who will legally file their child, they have joint legal custody and my husband has always paid 67% of total cost to raise their son. She had physical custody until my husband was awarded physical custody this year (2014) in August. The ex is on public assistance because she had another baby this year and my husband has paid more childsupport in 2014 than she made in wages and collected in benefits combined. Who can legally claim their one child o n common for 2014?

  22. Hi. I been working at my job for over a year and this year im having my first child will i be able to claim her an if so how much do u think ill get back. I went from working 30-40 hour a week to 10-15 because im pregnate an she is due dec 3.

  23. I live with my family and I have a 17 year old little brother and a 13 year old little sister. I am single and would like to claim them. I normally pay about 30-40% in taxes on my paychecks? Do I get a tax break for claiming those 2?

  24. I have 2 kids and disable husband that doesn’t work and I am self contractor working part-time for an interpreting company and they don’t withhold taxes of my paycheck, so my question is: can I claim my kids and husband as dependents? do I still have to pay taxes?

  25. I may have to get guardianship of my 3 nieces and 1 nephew. I already have a little one of my own as well. Im the only source of income because my sons mother does not work. I make right around 200,000 a year. Since I am over the child tax credit limit as far as income goes will I be able to get any break on taxes with having 4 extra dependents?

  26. I have a question. I started a job 3 months ago. I claim 3 dependants. 2 kids that are 2 and 5 and my husband . I make min wage at 8.25/8.55. I only work between 16-29 hours a week. My husband says I can get 1000$ Back for each dependants. Is that statement true?

  27. I cashed in approximately $25,000 in stock at the beginning of the year for wedding and honeymoon expenses. We got married in January and I have not changed my withholdings to married. I make approximately $85,000 a year. Is there going to be a big difference in my monthly net income when I change to married? With the marriage came two children. Should I put them on my monthly withholdings as well?

  28. I’m a single mom going to get married soon.. I know I get pretty much for being a single parent of two..if I get married will I still get close to that amount back or will it cut back?

    1. Hi Ash,
      It depends on how much money you and your spouse make. You may be eligible for lower tax rates when filing married filing jointly, however when two married people both earn a high income they may see greater tax liability. You can use TurboTax TaxCaster to see what your tax situation will be.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  29. I have 2 children and was claiming 0 on w4. Did not get much back. Should I be claiming 3 for wife and 2 children or leave at 0 to get bigger return?

    1. Hi David,
      I don’t know what your other deductions are, but if you claim more less will be taken out of your paycheck so you are getting the money in your paycheck instead of a refund. If you like to see a refund then claiming 0 would give you the maximum deduction from your paycheck giving you a bigger refund depending on your situation.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  30. I have a question for next year. I have a temporary contract job but salary-wise it pays LESS than the cost of childcare.
    For 2013 I OWED a LOT in taxes due to a similar situation.
    How is it, if my income is technically NEGATIVE, that I can still owe taxes?. I don’t mind owing taxes if my income were higher (hopefully soon!)
    Do I fall into some odd crack/loophole? The Self Employment tax is what kills me.

    1. Hi Greta,
      Yes, there are a couple of things that can cause this:
      1) The Child and dependent care credit is not dollar-for-dollar what you paid. For instance, if you paid $6,000 for childcare for one child for the year you may expect to get a $6,000 credit, but you get up to 35% of $3,000($1,050) and the percentage depends on your income. This tax benefit may also be phased out at certain income levels.
      2) The additional self-employment tax of 15.3% may also be impacting your taxes.
      3) Make sure you took advantage of other credits for your child like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. These can help.
      4) Also, keep in mind that the Child and dependent care credit is not refundable so you cannot receive a credit that is more than your tax.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  31. Can i receive some,if any,tax money even though i have not worked or have a current dependent?May i claim myself only?

    1. Hi Chris,
      If you don’t have any income you would not need to file and would not be eligible for refundable credits like the Earned Income Credit since you have to have earned income.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  32. This year i claimed unemployment half the year the other half worked but got 1099misc where do you fill out that part of income also im married with 4 dependants why will it only allow me to claim 3 of them when 4 qualify would it be better to claim seperate from wife even though she had no income

  33. Its my first time filing taxes and i filed with Turbo Tax..it gave me the amount for federal and state refunds..i want to know if i claimed 2 of my kids..is the amount separate from the federal and state or do the IRS approve for the amount i get for each child to be added with my federal and state refunds??please help..first timer

  34. I’m married my husband didn’t work and I made around $52,000 I have five children their dad wants to carry two of them on his taxes and he’s telling me I only need to carry 3 dependents. I think letting him carry 2 of the kids will affect my tax bracket. Is this true that only 3 dependents matter especially since I’m in a higher bracket

  35. If i only worked half the yr and only made 6,000 claimed 5 got 2 kids claimed head of household…. will i qualify for earned income credit for my kids?

  36. I am unsure of your overall situation or if you have filed your taxes in prior years. It more than likely was due to 1. Your income earned. . If you made LESS money than before it could lessen your refund as easily as earning MORE income this tax year. If you had more income that you did not report, you have 3 years to file an amended return to include all income earned.
    2. With holdings could have impacted your refund. Your with holdings could have been less than in previous years. Changing the number of exemptions on your W4 form such as adding a child or getting married and including the spouse for with holding can affect this. 3. The number of exemptions that you claimed has decreased. These are all reasons and I hope that it has helped.God bless you.

  37. Diane, no
    Melissa, That is the difference between the credit and the deduction. It depends on how much income you reported
    Aretha, who knows?

  38. I would like to claim my 82 year old mother as a dependent. She only receives her Social Security check, but she does have a savings account of $50,000.00 Will her savings account make a difference in me claiming her??

  39. I was told that people will receive the difference in cash for the credit of the child. For example, a person did not work and has 3 children, they received thousands from their taxes simply for having children. Is this true?

    1. I have prepared taxes for 13 years now. You have to have income to file a tax return and the thousands of dollars in refunds must be the EITC EARNED Income Tax Credit. You have to have earned income to receive a refund from this credit. It is based on several factors including number of dependents, income earned, filing status and even with holdings from W4 (s) ect. Not everyone’s taxes are the same but you do not get one dime for simply having children. I hope that this helps some. God bless and have a wonderful day.

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