Earned Income Credit (EITC): Definition, Who Qualifies
You’re our first priority.
We believe everyone should be able to make financial decisions with confidence. And while our site doesn’t feature every company or financial product available on the market, we’re proud that the guidance we offer, the information we provide and the tools we create are objective, independent, straightforward — and free.
So how do we make money? Our partners compensate us. This may influence which products we review and write about (and where those products appear on the site), but it in no way affects our recommendations or advice, which are grounded in thousands of hours of research. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services. Here is a list of our partners.
In general, the less you earn, the larger the credit. Families with children often qualify for the largest credits.
Written by Sabrina Parys, Tina Orem
At NerdWallet, we have such confidence in our accurate and useful content that we let outside experts inspect our work.
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.
What is the earned income tax credit (EITC)?
The earned income tax credit, also known as the EITC or EIC, is a refundable tax credit for low- and moderate-income workers.
For the 2021 tax year, the earned income credit ranges from $1,502 to $6,728 depending on tax-filing status, income and number of children. In 2022, the EITC is $560 to $6,935. People without kids can qualify.
If you fall within the guidelines for the credit, be sure to claim it on your return when you do your taxes. And if you didn’t claim the earned income credit when you filed your taxes in the last three years but you think you qualified for it, the IRS encourages you to file an amended tax return so you can get that money back.
Note that the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act changed some of the rules around the EITC. These changes are noted below.
How does the earned income tax credit work?
Here are some quick facts about the earned income tax credit:
For the 2021 tax year (the tax return you'll file in 2022), the earned income credit ranges from $1,502 to $6,728 depending on your filing status and how many children you have.
You can use your 2019 earned income instead of your 2021 earned income to calculate your EITC — but only if your 2019 income is higher than your 2021 income.
You don't have to have a child in order to claim the earned income credit.
The earned income tax credit doesn't just cut the amount of tax you owe — the EITC could also score you a refund, and in some cases, a refund that's more than what you actually paid in taxes.
If you claim the EITC, the IRS cannot issue your refund until mid-February by law.
Income limit for the earned income credit (EIC)
Below are the maximum earned income tax credit amounts, plus the max you can earn before losing the benefit altogether.
2021 Earned Income Tax Credit
(for taxes due in April 2022)
Number of children
Maximum earned income tax credit
Max AGI, single or head of household filers
Max AGI, married joint filers
3 or more
2022 Earned Income Tax Credit
(for taxes due in April 2023)
Number of children
Maximum earned income tax credit
Max AGI, single or head of household filers
Max AGI, married joint filers
3 or more
Both your earned income and your adjusted gross income each have to be below the levels in the table.
In general, the less you earn, the larger the earned income credit.
Your earned income usually includes job wages, salary, tips and other taxable pay you get from your employer. Your adjusted gross income is your earned income minus certain deductions.
An important note for 2022: You may notice that the credit available to persons with no children has significantly decreased in 2022. This is because the American Rescue Plan Act temporarily boosted it from $543 to $1,502 in 2021; this expansion has not been carried over to the 2022 tax year.
Who qualifies for the earned income tax credit?
Besides staying below the income thresholds noted above, there are other qualification rules and requirements. Here are the big eligibility rules, but you can also check out our quiz below for a quick read on whether you might qualify for the earned income credit.
You must have at least $1 of earned income (pensions and unemployment don't count).
Your investment income must be $10,000 or less.
For the 2021 tax year, you can qualify for the EITC if you’re separated but still married. To do so, you can’t file a joint tax return and your child must live with you for more than half the year. You also must have not lived with your spouse during the last six months or you must have a separation agreement or decree.
There are special EIC rules for members of the military and the clergy, as well as for people who have disability income or who have children with disabilities.
Kids and the earned income credit
If you claim one or more children as part of your earned income credit, each must pass certain tests to qualify:
The child can be your son, daughter, adopted child, stepchild, foster child or grandchild. The child also can be your brother, sister, half-brother or half-sister, stepbrother or stepsister or any of their children (your niece or nephew).
The child must be under 19 at the end of the year and younger than you or your spouse if you're filing jointly, OR the child must be under 24 if he or she was a full-time student. There's no age limit for kids who are permanently and totally disabled.
The child must have lived with you or your spouse in the United States for more than half the year.
For each child you're claiming with the EITC, you’ll also need:
If you don't have kids
You may be able to get the EITC if you don’t have a qualifying child but meet the income requirements for your filing status. To qualify, you must meet three more conditions:
You must have resided in the United States for more than half the year.
No one can claim you as a dependent or qualifying child on their tax return.
For the 2021 tax year (the tax return you file in April 2022), you must be at least 24 if you were a student for at least five months of the year, 18 if you were in foster care any time after turning 14 or were homeless in any taxable year, and at least 19 otherwise. Also in 2021, there is no maximum age limit for the credit.
Consequences of an EIC-related error
Not only does an error on your tax form delay the EIC part of your refund — sometimes for several months — but it also means the IRS could deny the entire earned income credit.
If the IRS denies your whole EIC claim:
You must pay back any EIC amount you’ve been paid in error, plus interest.
You might need to file Form 8862, "Information to Claim Earned Income Credit After Disallowance," before you can claim the EIC again.
You could be banned from claiming EITC for the next two years if the IRS finds you filed your return with “reckless or intentional disregard of the rules.”
You could be banned from claiming EITC for the next 10 years if the IRS finds you filed your return fraudulently.
Most tax software walks you through the EITC with a series of interview questions, greatly simplifying the process. (Plus, if you qualify for the EITC, you might be able to get free tax software.) But remember: Even if someone else prepares your return for you, the IRS holds you responsible for all information on any return you submit.
Looking for the 2020 Earned Income Tax Credit?
2020 Earned Income Tax Credit
(for taxes due in May 2021)
For the 2020 tax year, the earned income credit ranges from $538 to $6,660 depending on your filing status and how many children you have.
Number of children
Maximum earned income tax credit
Max earnings, single or head of household filers
Max earnings, joint filers
3 or more
You can use either your 2019 income or 2020 income to calculate your EITC — you might opt to use whichever number gets you the bigger EITC.
Federal: $24.95 to $64.95. Free version available for simple returns only.
State: $29.95 to $44.95.
All filers get access to Xpert Assist for free until April 7.
Promotion: NerdWallet users get 25% off federal and state filing costs.
Federal: $39 to $119. Free version available for simple returns only.
State: $49 per state.
TurboTax Live packages offer review with a tax expert.
Promotion: NerdWallet users can save up to $15 on TurboTax.
Federal: $29.99 to $84.99. Free version available for simple returns only.
State: $36.99 per state.
Online Assist add-on gets you on-demand tax help.
About the authors: Sabrina Parys is a content management specialist at NerdWallet. Read more
Tina Orem is NerdWallet's authority on taxes and small business. Her work has appeared in a variety of local and national outlets. Read more
On a similar note...
Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.
What is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)? – Get It Back
What is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)?
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) may lower the taxes you owe and refund you up to $6,728 at tax time.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a tax credit that may give you money back at tax time or lower the federal taxes you owe. You can claim the credit whether you’re single or married, or have children or not. The main requirement is that you must earn money from a job.
The credit can eliminate any federal tax you owe at tax time. If the EITC amount is more than what you owe in taxes, you get the money back in your tax refund. If you qualify for the credit, you can still receive a refund even if you do not owe income tax.
Beyond the federal EITC, 29 states and D.C. have adopted state EITCs. Check out the state EITC map to see if your state offers a tax credit.
Click on any of the following links to jump to a section:
How much can I get with the EITC?
Am I eligible for the EITC?
Does my child qualify for the EITC?
How do I claim the EITC?
Does my state have an EITC?
What’s new about the EITC?
The credit amount depends on your income, marital status, and family size. In 2021, the credit is worth up to $6,728. The credit amount rises with earned income until it reaches a maximum amount, then gradually phases out. Families with more children are eligible for higher credit amounts.
The Earned Income Tax Credit in Tax Year 2021
Number of children:
Single workers with income less than:
Married workers with income less than:
EITC up to:
3 or more children
You cannot get the EITC if you have investment income of more than $10,000 in 2021. Investment income includes taxable interest, tax-exempt interest, and capital gain distributions.
There are three main criteria to claim the EITC:
Income: You need to work and earn income. Your work doesn’t have to be year-round. Your earnings cannot be more than the amounts in the chart above, including investment income. Earned income can be from wages, salary, tips, employer-based disability, self-employment income, military pay, or union strike benefits.
Taxpayer Identification Number: You need to have Social Security numbers that permit work for you, your spouse, and any children claimed for the EITC. You do not need to be a citizen to claim the EITC if you have a Social Security Number. You cannot claim the federal EITC if you file your taxes with an ITIN. For more information, please see Tax Filing with Immigrant or DACA Status. New: if you live in California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, or New Mexico, you may be eligible to get the state EITC with an ITIN.
Qualifying Child: If you claim children for the EITC, they must be a “qualifying child”. See below for details.
Additional criteria for some people to claim the EITC:
You must be 19 years of age and above if you are not claiming children
You cannot file as married filing separately
Exceptions apply for both. See What’s New about the EITC? for details.
If you claim children as part of your EITC, they must pass three tests to be a “qualifying child”:
Relationship: The child must be your son, daughter, grandchild, stepchild or adopted child; younger sibling, step-sibling, half-sibling, or their descendent; or a foster child placed with you by a government agency.
Age: The child must be under 19, under 24 if a full-time student, or any age if totally and permanently disabled.
Residency: The child must live with you in the U. S. for more than half the year. Time living together doesn’t have to be consecutive.
To claim the EITC, you must file a tax return. If you are claiming a child for the EITC, you also need to submit “Schedule EIC”.
Going to a paid tax preparer is expensive and reduces the amount of your tax refund. Luckily, there are free options available. You can visit a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site or GetYourRefund.org to have IRS-certified volunteers accurately file your taxes for free. You can also visit MyFreeTaxes.com to file your own taxes for free online if you do not have self-employment income.
Many states have their own version of the federal EITC that can add more money to your tax refund. Most states match a percentage of your federal credit amount. Find out if your state has a state-level tax credit.
For those ages 18-24:
You may be navigating filing taxes for the first time. Here are some resources that may help:
Tax Filing and Tax Credits for Young Adults: John Burton Advocates for Youth have created several resources for young adults, including a guide to tax credits and a tax checklist. Many of these resources are also available in Spanish.
Earned Income Tax Credit Guide that focuses on former foster and youth experiencing homelessness from SchoolHouse Connection.
Taxes FAQ for young adults with experience in foster care or homelessness
Under the 2021 American Rescue Plan, there are multiple temporary and permanent changes to the EITC.
Temporary Expansions to the EITC for Tax Year 2021 Only
There are 2 key temporary EITC expansions.
If You Have No Qualifying Children
You may qualify for the EITC if you are 19 years old or older and not a student. There are two exceptions:
Workers who are 19-23 and were a full- or part-time student for more than 5 months in 2021 do not qualify.
Qualified homeless youth or former foster youth who are at least 18 years old and work are eligible even if they are a student.
If Your 2021 Income is Lower Than Your 2019 Income
If your income in 2021 is less than your 2019 income, you can use your 2019 earned income to calculate your EITC. Choose the year that gives you the bigger refund. If you are married filing jointly, the total earned 2019 income refers to the sum of each spouse’s earned income in 2019.
Permanent Changes to the EITC
There are 4 major permanent changes to the EITC.
If Your Qualifying Child Doesn’t Have a Social Security Number
You can claim the EITC for workers without children if you have a qualifying child for the EITC who doesn’t have a Social Security number.
If You’re Married Filing Separately
If you are married filing separately, you may still qualify for the EITC if your qualifying child lives with you for more than six months of the year and you fulfill at least one of the following requirements:
You and the qualifying child do not live with your spouse during the last six months of the taxable year
You and your spouse have a decree, instrument, or agreement (besides a divorce decree) and do not live together
Note: Filing taxes as married filing separately may affect your eligibility for other tax benefits. Please consult a tax professional if you need help determining your filing status.
If You Have Investment Income
The maximum investment income allowed to claim the EITC is permanently increased to $10,000 from $3,650.
If You Live in a U.S. Commonwealth or Territory
Starting in 2021, individuals living in the following U.S. Commonwealths and territories are allowed to claim the EITC:
U.S. Virgin Islands
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Recommended for you
By Christine Tran, 2021 Get It Back Campaign Intern & Reagan Van Coutren,…
Internet access is essential for work, school, healthcare, and more. The Affordable Connectivity…
If you receive unemployment compensation, your benefits are taxable. You will need to…
US taxation. Earned Income Credit (EIC), or earned income tax credit. What is it and who can get it.
Earned Income Credit(EIC) is a valuable tax credit/credit available to low income taxpayers and the income must be earned (i.e. if your only income is winning the lottery, then EIC does not shine for you because winning the lottery is not earned income). Earned Income Credit can be as high as $6,143 for the 2014 tax year (2014 taxes due in 2015) depending on taxpayer status, income earned, and number of children in the family with whom the taxpayer is eligible for this tax credit. The nice thing about Earned Income Credit is that it is a refundable tax credit/credit , meaning it not only reduces the amount of taxes you have to pay, it can bring it down to zero and even drop it below zero, then negative the amount is returned to you in the form of a tax refund. For example, if the tax amount is $500, the amount of Earned Income Credit you are entitled to is $1,500, then your tax liability is reduced to zero and you will receive $1,000 as a federal tax refund. Just wonderful, isn't it?
Taxpayers can get Earned Income Credit even if they don't have children in their family, only the rules for getting it are slightly different. For taxpayers without family children, the following conditions must be met in order to receive Earned Income Credit: meet age criteria) - not be a child of someone else on a tax return no one can list you on a tax return as a dependent - residency : lived in the United States for at least 6 months in tax year - have earned income and adjusted total income less than $14,590 ( $20,020 for married people filing together) For taxpayers with family children, the following conditions must be met to receive Earned Income Credit: - the presence of a child in the family . The concept of qualifying child is used here, I don’t know how to correctly translate it into Russian, for those who understand English a little, the definition should make sense - a child for whom certain conditions are met in order to be included in the tax return for the purposes of Earned Income Credit. The conditions for qualifying child are as follows: 1. it can be not only a natural child, but also an adopted one, also a brother, sister and or their children; 2. The child must be under 19 years of age at the end of the calendar year, or under 24 years of age if the child is in full-time education and younger than the taxpayer or spouse. Age does not matter if the child was completely disabled at any time during the calendar year; 3. The child must live with the taxpayer for at least 6 months in a calendar year in the United States; 4. child may file tax returns as married and file jointly with spouse, only to receive a tax refund - child can only be claimed on one tax return - child not can be qualifying child of someone else - taxpayers must have earned income and adjusted gross income (AGI = Gross Income – Adjustments and Deductions (alimony, …)) less than than: $46,997 ( $52,427 for married taxpayers filing taxes together) with three or more children in a family $43,756 ( $49,186, for married taxpayers filing together) with two children in a family $14,590, ( $20,020, for married taxpayers filing together) no children
Earned Income Credit rules for all taxpayers (with and without children): - Social security number suitable for work - Married Filing Separately - U. S. citizenship or residency for the entire year - Cannot file Form 2555 (Foreign Earned Income or Foreign Earned Income) or Form 2555-EZ - no investment income above $3,300 allowed - earned income
For 2014, the maximum amounts of Earned Income Credit are: $ 6 143 with three or more children $ 5 460 with two children $ 3 305 with one child $ 496 without children I remind you that I recall that we are talking about the so-called qualifying children (for more details on how to determine who can be a qualifying child, it is written above. This can be not only a child, but also a brother / sister and their children too).
The picture above shows very clearly how the amount of Earned Income Credit changes depending on earned income, number of children and marital status: with an increase in earned income, other things being equal, the amount of the tax credit first increases, then reaches a maximum, after a certain limit - starts to decrease, and when the earned income limit for EIC is reached, it becomes equal to zero. Other things being equal, the more children you have, the higher the amount of EIC you can expect. It is also worth noting that three children is the maximum number that can be entered on the EIC form, meaning the fourth and subsequent children will not affect the EIC amount.
I hope I explained clearly. If you have any questions, ask in the comments.
Earned Income Tax Credits
What is the Earned Income Tax Credit?
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a low-income credit that allows you to earn money from federal government . Even if you don't earn enough to be taxable, you can still get a one-time earned income tax credit! To receive credit, you must file a federal income tax return and send it to the IRS.
Massachusetts also has an Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC) that helps low earners get a refund from state government. To receive credit, you must file a state income tax return and mail it to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.
You may be able to get a refund of from both the federal and state governments if you file your tax returns and declare that you are entitled to these credits.
How much money can you get?
If you did not have children living with you in 2014, you can receive up to $496.
If one child lived with you in 2014, you can receive up to $3,305.
If you had two children living with you in 2014, you can receive up to $5,460.
If you had three or more children living with you in 2014, you may be eligible for up to $6,143.
If you receive a federal credit, the State of Massachusetts will also pay you credit. It will be 15% of what the federal government pays you.
For example: if you receive $496 from the federal government, the state will pay you another $74.40.
How do I get these credits?
You must have earned income from working for an employer, full-time or part-time in 2014; You must have a valid Social Security Number and:
In 2014, you must be between the ages of 25 and 64, with no children living with you, and earning less than $14,590.
In 2014, you had one child living with you and earned less than $36,511
In 2014, you had two children living with you and earned less than $43,756.
In 2014, you had three or more children living with you and earned less than $46.997.
This amount is for unmarried adults. If you are married and filing jointly, add $5,340 to each of the above amounts.
To get a higher tax credit because a child lived with you, how old must the child be?
As a general rule, the child must be 19 or younger in 2014.
but if the child is under 24 in 2014 and is a full-time student.
also , children of any age are counted if they are completely incapacitated, even if they are adults.
What if you are not a US citizen? Is it possible to receive these credits?
Even if you are not a US citizen, you may be entitled to credits if you are a legal permanent resident. You also have the option to get them if you are married to a US citizen or legal permanent resident of the US.
How soon can I get the money?
You will be able to receive the money from 7-10 days after filing your tax return.
Will receiving money reduce other public benefits you already receive, such as welfare or food stamps (SNAP/Food Stamps)?
No. Getting tax credits will not affect your receipt of welfare (welfare) or food stamps (SNAP/Food Stamps), SSI, Medicaid, or community housing programs. But some programs may have rules about how long you can keep that money in the bank without spending it. See Tax refunds and credits.
Can I get tax filing help to get money for these credits?
Yes. If there is a program called the Volunteer Tax Assistance Program (VITA), which will provide you with free assistance in filling out all the necessary paperwork.
You can search (VITA) by the name of your place of residence or the zip code of a free tax precinct near you, or call 1-800-829-1040.