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?

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 $51,464 $57,414 $6,728
2 children $47,915 $53,865 $5,980
1 child $42,158 $48,108 $3,618
No children $21,430 $27,380 $1,502

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.

Am I eligible for the EITC?

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 StatusNew: 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.

Does my child qualify for the EITC?

If you claim children as part of your EITC, they must pass three tests to be a “qualifying child”:

  1. 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.
  2. Age: The child must be under 19, under 24 if a full-time student, or any age if totally and permanently disabled.
  3. 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.

How do I claim the EITC?

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.

Does my state have an EITC?

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.

What’s New About the EITC?

For those ages 18-24:

You may be navigating filing taxes for the first time. Here are some resources that may help:

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. If You Have Investment Income

The maximum investment income allowed to claim the EITC is permanently increased to $10,000 from $3,650.

  1. 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:

      • Puerto Rico
      • U.S. Virgin Islands
      • Guam
      • The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
      • American Samoa

Recommended for you

The latest