Basic Facts and FAQs About the Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC or EITC) 

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The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a tax break intended to benefit low-to-moderate income earners. The income limit requirements and the maximum amount of tax credit you could claim will change from year to year, so it’s important to keep up to date with the current facts. Major life changes – like a change in marital status or employment – can also impact your eligibility for the credit. 

In this article, we cover what it takes to qualify for the EITC, how much it could be worth, claiming dependents for the credit, and other frequently asked questions. 

How to claim the EITC using TaxSlayer   

To claim the EITC, you must file a tax return. Simply create a free TaxSlayer account to begin. 

Once your account has been created, follow the step-by-step instructions in the program to complete your tax return. You’ll enter info about your income, investments, and dependents. If you meet all the eligibility requirements for the EITC, your credit will be calculated automatically. 

To find the amount of Earned Income Credit you received once you’ve completed your return:  

  1. Go to the Summary page  
  1. Click on Payments  
  1. On the right side of your screen, you’ll see Earned Income Credit and the amount 

Please note: If you claim the EITC, your refund may be delayed. By law, the IRS cannot issue EITC before mid-February. Learn more about why the EITC affects your refund timing

The EITC is for low to middle income earners  

It’s true: The Earned Income Tax Credit is intended to benefit U.S. taxpayers with low to moderate income. But the IRS doesn’t just look at how much you earn to decide if you can claim the credit. Lots of other requirements must also be met. All of the following things must be true for you to qualify for the EITC: 

  • You must have been a U.S. citizen or a resident alien all tax year. 
  • You must have a Social Security Number (an ITIN does not count). 
  • You must not need to file Form 2555, Foreign Earned Income; or Form 2555-EZ, Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. 
  • You must file a tax return (even if you’re not required to file), and your filing status must be Single, Married Filing Jointly, Head of Household, or Qualifying Widower.  
  • You must not have more than $10,000 of unearned (investment) income. 
  • You must have earned income, and it must be below a certain amount for your filing status. Below are the income limits for tax year 2022 (returns filed in 2023):  
Number of children Maximum Earned Income Tax Credit Maximum AGI if single or head of household Maximum AGI if married filing jointly 
$560 $16,480 $22,610 
$3,733 $43,492 $49,622 
$6,164 $49,399 $55,529 
3 or more $6,935 $53,057 $59,187 

To qualify for the EITC when your filing status is single: Your AGI must be less than $16,480 if you have no children; $43,492 with one child; $49,399 with two children; and $53,057 with three or more children.  

To qualify for the EITC if your filing status is married filing jointly: Your AGI must be less than $22,610 if you have no children; $49,622 with one child; $55,529 with two children; and $59,187 with three or more children.

How much is the EITC worth in 2022? 

The exact amount of credit you can claim on your 2022 tax return will depend on your unique situation. The table below shows the maximum amount of credit you could receive based on the number of qualifying dependents you can claim. 

Number of children Maximum Earned Income Tax Credit 
$560 
$3,733 
$6,164 
3 or more $6,935 

If you do not claim a qualifying dependent, the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit you can receive is $560. 

With one qualifying dependent, the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit you can receive is $3,733. 

With two qualifying dependents, the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit you can receive is $6,164. 

With three or more qualifying dependents, the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit you can receive is $6,935. 

Who is a qualifying child for the EITC? 

To be considered a qualifying child for the Earned Income Tax Credit, your dependent must meet these requirements: 

  • They must have a valid Social Security number (not an ITIN).  
  • You must be the only person claiming them as a dependent. If you share custody, make sure you know which parent will claim them as a dependent. 
  • They must not file a joint tax return with anyone. If they are married filing jointly with their spouse, you cannot claim them as a dependent. 
  • They must be related to you by blood, adoption, or be your foster child. 
  • They must be under age 19 (or under age 24 and a full-time student). There’s no age limit if your child is permanently and totally disabled. 
  • They must live with you for more than half the year. (Some exceptions apply.) 
  • You must support the child financially. 

Do I have to have a child to get the EITC? 

No, you don’t need to have a child or claim a dependent to qualify for the EITC.  

To be eligible for the EITC without a dependent, you (and your spouse if you file a joint return) must not be claimed as a dependent or qualifying child on someone else’s return, and you must meet the following age requirement: 

  • You must be at least 18 if you are a qualified former foster youth or a qualified homeless youth 
  • You must be at least 19 if you aren’t a specified student, qualified former foster youth, or qualified homeless youth 
  • You must be at least 24 if you are a specified student (unless you are a qualified former foster or homeless youth) 

Reminder: You must pass this age requirement and meet all the other qualifications listed above (See section ‘Who qualifies for the EITC?’) 

Which parent can claim the EITC if we’re not married? 

 If your child is also the qualifying child of another person, only one of you may claim the child for the EITC. Unmarried parents with a qualifying child should choose which parent will claim the credit on their individual return.  

Learn more about how to file when you share custody of a child 

Can I claim the EITC if my child passed away this year? 

A child who has passed could still qualify as your dependent for the EITC as long as you meet all the other requirements for the credit. Read also: Who Can I Claim as a Dependent? 

Is unemployment included as earned income? 

No, unemployment is one type of income that does not count toward the Earned Income Tax Credit. Other income types that do not qualify as earned income for the EITC include:  

  • Child support 
  • Alimony 
  • Retirement income 
  • Social Security 

Does self-employment income count as earned income for the EITC? 

Yes, the income you earn from self-employed work qualifies as earned income for the EITC. 

Why did my EITC decrease? 

The amount you receive for the EITC could decrease if you or your spouse are earning more income (for example, if you started a new job or received a raise this year). If your marital status changed, that could also impact your EITC amount. 

Why can’t I get the EITC?  

Some of the reasons why you may not qualify for the EITC include: 

  • You have too much earned income/your AGI is too high to qualify 
  • You have too much investment income to qualify 
  • You don’t have earned income (not all income counts as earned income) 
  • You are filing as married filing separately 
  • Your child doesn’t meet the criteria for qualifying dependent, and you do not meet the requirements to claim the EITC without a qualifying dependent 

TaxSlayer makes it easy to claim all your tax breaks, including the EITC, so you get the maximum refund you are owed. Create your free account today, and start filing as soon as your tax forms begin arriving.

This article was last updated on 08/17/2022.

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