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IRS Tax Tip: Claim the Earned Income Tax Credit

IRS Tax Tip: Claim the Earned Income Tax Credit

Monday, January 30, 2017

The following tax tip was provided by the IRS. For additional information, visit our toolkit Tax Tips and Information for Low-Income Individuals:

The Earned Income Tax Credit has helped workers with low and moderate incomes get a tax break for 40 plus years. Yet, one out of every five eligible workers fails to claim it. Here are some things taxpayers should know about the EITC:

  • Review Your Eligibility.
    • Taxpayers who worked and earned under $53,505 may qualify for EITC. Filers should review EITC eligibility rules if their household income or family situation has changed. They may qualify for EITC this year, even if they did not in the past. To qualify, a taxpayer must file a federal income tax return claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit.  This is true even if a taxpayer is not otherwise required to file a tax return. Use the EITC Assistant tool to find out about eligibility rules and amounts.
  • Know the Rules. Taxpayers need to understand the rules before they claim the EITC. It is important to get this right. Here are some factors to consider:
    • Taxpayers who are married and file a separate return do not qualify for the EITC.
    • Filers must have a Social Security number valid for employment for themselves, their spouse (if married), and any qualifying child listed on their filed tax return.
    • Taxpayers must have earned income. This may include earnings from working for someone else as an employee or being self-employed.
    • Filers may be married or single, with or without children to qualify. Those who do not have children must also meet the age, residency and dependency rules. For a child to qualify, they must have lived with the taxpayer for more than six months in 2016. In addition, the child must meet the age, residency, relationship and joint return rules to qualify.
    • U.S. Armed Forces members serving in a combat zone have special rules that apply.
  • Lower Your Tax or Get a Refund.
    • Filers who qualify for EITC could pay less federal tax, no tax or even get a refund. The EITC could be worth up to $6,269. The average credit was $2,482 last year.
  • Use Free Services.
    • For those who do their own taxes, the best way to file a return to claim EITC is to use IRS Free File. Free brand name software will figure out taxes and the EITC automatically. Combining e-file with direct deposit is the fastest and safest way to get a refund. Free File is only available on IRS.gov/freefile.

Taxpayers can also get free help preparing and e-filing their return to claim the EITC. The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA program, offers free help at thousands of sites around the country. Get help with health care law tax provisions with Free File or VITA.

Refunds Held Until Feb 15. Beginning in 2017, if taxpayers claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit on their tax return, the IRS must hold their refund until at least February 15. This applies to the entire refund, even the portion not associated with these credits. However, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. Taxpayers should file as usual. There is no need to wait until February 15.

For more on EITC, see IRS Publication 596, Earned Income Credit. It’s available in English and Spanish on IRS.gov.