Earned Income Tax Credit Requirements
Feb 04, 2024 By Triston Martin

Understanding the earned income tax credit (EITC) requirements is a great way to ensure you take advantage of all the benefits of filing your taxes.

From identifying whether you qualify for the EITC and how much it can add to your refund to calculating what portion of childcare expenses are covered by this valuable tax credit.

We've got everything you need to understand and apply the EITC correctly regarding files. Read on for an overview of the key EITC requirements for this important tax credit.

Overview of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

The Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC is a federal tax credit for low- and moderate-income working families. The credit reduces the taxes owed by qualifying households and may even result in a refund if the credit exceeds the household's tax liability.

To qualify for the EITC, taxpayers must meet certain requirements regarding their earned income, filing status, and other factors.

Who is Eligible to Receive the EITC

You must meet certain criteria to qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Generally, you should’ve earned money from self-employment, employment, or a combination of these sources and have a rational Social Security Number.

You ought to be a naturalised citizen of the United States or an authorized resident alien of the United States for the whole filing year; the status of your filing cannot be "married filing separately". Additionally, the anticipated income in 2020 must be less than a specific amount of $3,650.

Qualifying Children Requirements for the EITC

You must have at least one qualifying child to qualify for the EITC. A qualifying child is an individual who had a home in the United States and who meets all of the following requirements:

  • Relationship: The child must be your daughter, son, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, half-brother or sister, stepbrother or stepsister, or descendant of any of these individuals.
  • Age: The child must be under 19 at the end of the year. If the child is a full-time student, they can qualify up to and including age 24.
  • Residence: The child must have the same principal place of residence as you for more than half the year.
  • Support: The child must not provide more than half during the tax year.

If a qualifying child meets all these requirements, you may be eligible to claim them for EITC purposes.

Maximum Earnings Level to Qualify for the EITC

To be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, your income must not exceed certain limits. The maximum amount of income that can be earned to qualify changes yearly.

In 2021, the maximum limit for those filing as single or head of household was $22,920 if you have no qualifying children; up to $51,464 if you have one qualifying child; up to $56,844 if you have two qualifying children; and up to $57,756 for three or more qualifying children.

The income you can earn and still qualify for the EITC is reduced as your income rises. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you must meet all of the following requirements to qualify:

  • You, your spouse (if married filing jointly), and any qualifying children must have valid Social Security numbers.
  • It would be best to use something other than the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion or the Housing Cost Exclusion to qualify for the credit.
  • You must not file Form 2555 or 2555-EZ relating to foreign-earned income.
  • Your income must be below the maximum limits set for your filing year.
  • You must've received money during the tax year from a job, your own business, or another source.
  • Investment and other unearned income do not qualify for the EITC.
  • You must be a citizen or resident alien of the United States and meet certain residency requirements.

If you think you may be eligible, reviewing all of the IRS requirements for claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit before filing your tax return is important.

Determining your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) for the EITC

For the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is an important factor in determining whether or not you are eligible for the credit. The AGI is the total income you have earned from all inception, minus certain deductions and credits such as student loan interest payments, alimony payments, and health savings account contributions.

To determine your AGI, you should use the appropriate line on your tax return--either Form 1040 or Form 1040A.

When filing your taxes with the IRS, report all your annual income, even if it is not taxable. This includes any wages earned from employment,

self-employment income, Social Security benefits, alimony payments received, and royalties or rental income. Once all of your income is reported, you can subtract any applicable deductions to help determine your AGI for the EITC.

The IRS also requires that you meet certain other requirements to qualify for the EITC. These requirements include meeting the income limits, filing a valid tax return, and having a valid Social Security number. Additionally, you must meet certain age requirements and have qualifying children or dependents to be eligible for the credit.

Calculating your Credit Amount with the EITC Calculator

When you file your taxes and claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, you'll need to know how much credit you're entitled to receive. The IRS provides an online calculator tool to help you accurately estimate your EITC amount.

This calculator will require information from your tax return and details about any other income sources. You can access the calculator on the IRS website or use a tax preparation software program to determine your credit amount.

The EITC calculator is designed to help you understand how much credit you may be eligible for and how it affects other elements of tax filing, such as deductions and credits.

Understanding these calculations will also give insight into how changes in your income or other factors can cause you to qualify for a smaller or larger Earned Income Tax Credit award.

Once you've used the calculator, it's important to review all the information carefully and ensure the project credit amount is accurate. Errors in calculations can lead to potential inaccuracies in your tax refund or even an IRS audit.

If you have questions while using the calculator or reviewing your results, consult a tax professional for further assistance.


What is considered earned income?

Earned income includes wages, salaries, and other payments for work performed. It also includes some disability benefits as long-term unemployment compensation.

What is the difference between earned income and adjusted gross income?

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is the total money you make from all sources minus certain deductions in a year. Earned income is the money you make from work after taxes and other deductions.

Is the EITC refundable?

Yes, the Earned Income Tax Credit is refundable. You may receive a refund even if you don't owe any taxes. The maximum amount of credit that can be claimed for 2020 is $6,660.


The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a valuable benefit that can help many qualified taxpayers get relief from their overall tax burden. Determining if you are eligible to receive the credit and fully understanding the associated rules and regulations is important. To qualify for the EITC, taxpayers must meet certain criteria, including income levels, qualifying children or children in their home, and Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) calculations.