Child Tax Credit vs. Earned Income Credit

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are not mutually exclusive. If you meet the requirements for dependent children and income, you can claim both on your tax return. If you are unable to claim the full amount of the CTC, you can claim the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) to receive a portion of the remaining credit amount. The EITC is also available to individuals without children.

The Dependent Child Test

Both the CTC and EITC use a six prong test to determine if a child is a dependent. Failure to satisfy one of the criteria results in disqualification from eligibility to claim the credit.

Age: The CTC requires that the child be age 16 or younger. The EITC allows the credit to be claimed for dependents no more than 19 years old, or 25 if the child is a full-time student.

Relationship: The child must be the claimant’s biological or adopted son or daughter, stepchild, foster child or their biological brother, sister, stepbrother or stepsister. Descendants of relatives are included in the criteria, meaning that grandchildren, nieces or nephews can also qualify.

Support: The child must not provide more than one-half of their own support.

Dependent: The claimant must state that the child is a dependent on their tax return. This means that the child cannot file a tax return in which they claim that they are not a dependent of someone else.

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Citizenship: The child must be a U.S. citizen, national or resident alien.

Residence: With a few exceptions for deceased or kidnapped children, the child must live with the claimant for more than six months of the year.

The only difference between the dependent tests for the two credits is the age requirement. Additionally, the EITC is available to individuals without dependents.

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The Earned Income Tax Credit Explained

The EITC is a tax credit offered to low-income individuals. To qualify for the credit, the taxpayer must not make more than the maximum allowed amount. They do not need to have a dependent child, but the amount of the credit increases if they do. The specific amount of the credit depends on the claimant’s earnings and changes every year.

The Child Tax Credit Explained

The CTC provides taxpayers with dependent children with as much as $1,000 tax credit per child. The credit is only claimable on forms 1040, 1040A or 1040NR. The total amount of credit depends on the taxpayer’s income, reducing after the taxpayer exceeds the allowable maximum income:

Married Filing Jointly: $110,000

Married Filing Separately: $55,000

All Other Taxpayer Statuses: $75,000

The credit for taxpayers earning more than the maximum is reduced by .5 percent of their excess earnings. For example, to determine the credit for a married taxpayer filing separately with an income of $60,000, multiply the $5,000 of excess income by .5 percent (.05). The result is $250.00. Next, subtract the $250 from the maximum $1,000 credit allowed. The result, $750.00, is what the taxpayer can claim for a dependent child.

Unlike the EITC, however, the CTC is not a refundable credit. This means that any amount of the credit remaining after the taxpayer eliminates their tax liability altogether is not returned to them. Instead, the taxpayer can claim the Additional Child Tax Credit on Form 8812. The ACTC refunds 15 percent of the excess amount of the CTC to the taxpayer.

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