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What Is Earned Income Credit? Overview And How It Works

The earned-income credit (EIC) is a refundable tax credit that reduces the amount of tax payable on a dollar-for-dollar basis for certain low-income taxpayers in the United States. If taxpayers’ tax credit exceeds their tax liability for the year, they may be eligible for a refund.

Due to the economic crisis and lockdown, legislation enacted in 2020 recognized that many taxpayers’ incomes that year were lower than their incomes in 2019; this law allows taxpayers to claim EIC on either their 2019 or 2020 earnings on their 2020 tax returns.

Earned income tax credits (EITC) are a frequent technique used by governments to help low-income working families, particularly those with children, improve their financial security. Low-income taxpayers keep more of their earnings by lowering their income tax liability. The amount of a tax credit is largely determined by your income, marital status, and the number of children you have.

How Does The Earn Income Tax Credit Works

Low- and moderate-income working parents who claim a qualified kid based on relationship, age, residency, and tax filing status are eligible for the earned income tax credit (EITC). Employees without qualifying children (commonly called “childless workers”) historically received very little assistance. but the American Rescue Plan (ARP) greatly increased credit for these workers until 2021.

The EITC is intended to benefit only those who work. Workers get a credit equal to a percentage of their earnings up to a certain amount. Family size affects both the credit rate and the maximum credit, with bigger credits available to families with more children. Furthermore, families with one child will receive a maximum credit of $3,618, while families with three or more children will receive a maximum credit of $6,728 in 2021. For childless workers, the maximum credit is $1,502, which is roughly a treble from what it was before the ARP.

The credit remains flat when it reaches its maximum until earnings reach the phaseout point. After that, it becomes worse with each extra dollar of revenue until there is no credit left.

Before the ARP, childless workers could only earn a maximum credit of $543 in 2021, with the credit gradually tapering off as income levels rose. Workers between the ages of 25 and 64 were eligible for the credit. The extended childless EITC under the ARP will not take effect until 2021.

Despite the ARP’s increases, the EITC for childless employees is still limited in comparison to the credit for families with children. At lower income levels, credit is phased down, and there are age restrictions. To qualify for the credit, childless workers must be at least 19 years old (18 years old if formerly a foster child or homeless), or at least 24 years old if they are a half-time or more student for at least five months of the year. Because of stricter eligibility standards and lower maximum benefits, families with children receive 83 percent of EITC payments.

To be eligible for the EITC, all workers’ investment income must be less than $10,000, regardless of family size. The ARP raised the maximum from $3,650, which was the previous regulation. After a year, the alteration remains in effect.

For example, a tax credit equals a dollar-for-dollar reduction in a taxpayer’s liabilities. An individual with a tax bill of $2,900 and a $529 credit, for example, owes $2,900 – $529 = $2,371. The lower amount is the total amount owed to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by the taxpayer for the year. If a taxpayer owes $1,000 in taxes and has a credit of $1,500, he or she should be eligible for a $500 refund.

Who Qualifies For The Earned Income Tax Credit?

Other qualification regulations and requirements exist in addition to staying below the above-mentioned income thresholds. Here are the main eligibility requirements, however, you can also take our quiz below to see if you qualify for the earned income tax credit.

  • You must have at least $1 in earned income (pension and unemployment are not considered earned income).
  • Your investment income must be less than $10,000.
  • If you’re divorced but still married in 2021, you may be eligible for the EITC. You won’t be able to file a joint tax return, and your child will have to live with you for more than half of the year to qualify. You must also have lived apart from your spouse for the previous six months or have a separation agreement or decree.
  • Form 2555, Foreign Earned Income; or Form 2555-EZ, Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, should not be required.

Kids And The Earned Income Tax Credit

If you want to claim an earned income credit for one or more children, they must all pass the following tests:

  • Your son, daughter, adopted child, stepchild, foster child, or grandchild might be the child. Your brother, sister, half-brother or half-sister, stepbrother or stepsister, or any of their children can also be the child (your niece or nephew).
  • If you’re filing jointly, the child must be under the age of 19 at the end of the year and younger than you or your spouse, OR the child must be under the age of 24 if he or she was a full-time student. Children who are permanently and utterly disabled have no age limit.
  • The youngster must have spent more than half of the year in the United States with you or your spouse.

You’ll also need the following items for each child you’re claiming with the EITC:

· A Social Security number (be sure to enter the child’s name and number precisely as they appear on the card).

· The year he or she was born.

If You Don’t Have Kids

If you don’t have a qualifying kid but match the income requirements for your filing status, you may be eligible for the EITC. To be eligible, you must also meet the following three requirements:

  • You must have spent more than half of the year in the United States.
  • On no one’s tax return can you be claimed as a dependent or eligible child.
  • 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 after turning 14 or unhoused in any taxable year, and 19 otherwise for the 2021 tax year (the tax return you file in April 2022). Besides, there is no maximum age limit for the credit in 2021.

Federal Earned Income Tax Credit

The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a tax credit that decreases the amount of federal income tax payable and is refundable if the credit exceeds the tax burden. A tax return with correct paperwork must be filed with the Internal Revenue Service to claim the EITC (IRS).

The credit amount varies from year to year and is determined by earnings, the number of qualified children, and marital status. Furthermore, age, relationship to the filer, length of time the filer and kid have lived together in the United States, and whether the child has filed a joint return are all factors in determining whether a child is a qualifying child.

Those who do not have a qualifying child must be between the ages of 25 and 65 at the end of the year; live in the United States for more than half of the year and cannot be dependent on another person. See IRS Publication 596 for a complete list of qualifications and the actual EITC calculation for the 2019 tax year.

State Earned Income Tax Credit

Low-income earners benefit from state-earned income tax credits in addition to the federal credit since their state income tax due is reduced. In California, for example, 1.4 million families shared $325 million in state credits in 2017, on top of the $6.8 billion in federal credits they earned.

Current state EITC policies are mainly designed after federal credit. But they differ slightly regarding eligibility restrictions, credit calculation techniques, refundability, outreach and awareness activities, and data tracking requirements.

The eligibility requirements for the EITC in most states are quite similar to federal standards. However, there are some distinctions. Wisconsin’s credit does not apply to childless workers, while California’s benefit is more targeted than the federal credit at a narrower range of income levels. Similarly, with a few significant exceptions, most states


The larger the credit, the less you earn. Families with children are often eligible for the most credits. For the 2021 tax year, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 amended a variety of EIC laws, including increasing the amount of—and eligibility rules for—the EIC for taxpayers without qualifying dependents.


What qualifies you for earned income credit?

Have less than $3,650 in investment income in the tax year you claim the credit. Have a current Social Security number. Claim a specific filing status. Be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident for the entire year.

Who’s eligible for earned income credit?

You must have at least $1 in earned income (pension and unemployment are not considered earned income). Your investment income must be less than $10,000. If you’re divorced but still married in 2021, you may be eligible for the EITC.

Can I get an earned income credit with no income?

Yes! Even if you didn’t have income tax withheld or paid estimated income tax, you can get money back thanks to the EITC. A refundable credit is a name for this type of tax benefit.

Do I have too much time to earn earned income credit?

To qualify, you must have earned revenue, but not too much. All salaries from work, as well as some disability payments, are included in earned income. To be eligible for the EITC, both your earned income and your adjusted gross income (AGI) must be below a particular threshold.

Can you get a tax refund if you have no income?

If you don’t earn any money, you’re unlikely to receive a refund because you probably don’t file taxes, and refundable tax credits are generally only available to people who do.