Get the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit

Get the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit

Last updated: January 2014

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The Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC or EIC) gives certain taxpayers a credit back on their federal tax return. Even if you don't owe income tax, you can get the credit and the cash. Qualifying depends on how many people are in your family and how much money you earn.Most people do not know about the credit, so they do not claim it on their tax return. If you were eligible but did not file for the credit in past years, you can claim the credit for up to 3 years.There are organizations that may be able to help you file your taxes and apply for the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit depending on how much money you make.Click on words that appear like 'this' to learn what these words mean.Why should I file for Federal Earned Income Tax Credit? The Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC or EIC) gives certain taxpayers up to $6,044 back on their federal tax return. Even if you don't owe income tax, you can get the credit and the cash. Most people do not know about the credit, so they do not claim it on their tax return. If you were eligible but did not file for the credit in past years, you can claim the credit for up to 3 years.Does Illinois have a State Earned Income Tax Credit too? Yes. For your 2013 taxes, Illinois residents who claim the federal EITC may also get a State EITC that is worth 10% of the federal EITC. The state EITC is not a tax refund, but it can reduce the amount of State income tax that is owed. The State EITC is claimed on the Illinois Income Tax Return.For more information, see Illinois DHS Earned Income Tax Credit. Am I eligible for the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit? It depends on how many people are in your family and how much money you earn. There are different rules for tax filers without children, tax filers who have one qualifying child, tax filers who have two qualifying children, and tax filers who have two or more qualifying children. What are the requirements for a Qualifying Child? You do not need to have children to get the EITC. But the number of children that you have affects your eligibility and the amount of your refund. Only a "qualifying child" can be counted towards your EITC.To be a "qualifying child" the child must be either a son, daughter, stepchild, foster child or a child of any of them, or a brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister or a child of any of them, whom the taxpayer cares for as his/her own child or an eligible foster child.Any qualifying child must be either:Under the age of 19 at the end of the tax year; orUnder the age of 24 and a full-time student at the end of the tax year; orAny age and permanently and totally disabled at any time during the year.Any qualifying child must have lived with the taxpayer in the United States for more than half of the tax year.I have no children, what are the rules? People with No Children To be eligible for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, you must be able to answer "yes" to all of the questions below:Do you, your spouse (if filing jointly), have a valid Social Security Number?Is your filing status married filing jointly or single? You will not be filing IRS Form 2555 or IRS Form 2555-EZ for foreign income?Your investment income, if any, is $3,300 or less?You earned at least $1 but less than $14,340 (or $19,680 if maried filing jointly)?You are not the qualifying children of any other person?You are not the dependent of any other person?Have you lived in the United States for more than half the year?Are between ages 25 and 65 years old at the end of 2012?I have one qualifying child, what are the rules? People with One Qualifying ChildTo be eligible for the federal EITC, you must be able to answer "yes" to all of the following questions:Do you, and your spouse (if filing jointly), and your qualifying child all have a valid Social Security Number?Is your filing status married filing jointly, head of household, or single?You are not filing IRS Form 2555 or IRS Form 2555-EZ for foreign income?Your investment income, if any, $3,300 or less?You earned at least $1 but less than $37,870 (or $43,210 if married filing jointly)?You are not the qualifying child of any other person?Does your child meet the age, residency and relationship tests for a qualifying child?Is your child a qualifying child for you only?I have two qualifying children, what are the rules? People with Two Qualifying ChildrenTo be eligible for the federal EITC, you must be able to answer "yes" to all of the following questions:Do you, and your spouse (if filing jointly), and your qualifying children all have a valid Social Security Number?Is your filing status married filing jointly, head of household, or single?You are not filing IRS Form 2555 or IRS Form 2555-EZ for foreign income?Your investment income, if any, is $3,300 or less?You earned at least $1 but less than $43,038 (or $48,378 if married filing jointly)?You are not the qualifying child of any other person?Do you have 2 children that meet the age, residency and relationship tests for a qualifying child?Are your children qualifying children for you only?I have three or more qualifying children, what are the rules? People with Three or More Qualifying ChildrenTo be eligible for the federal EITC, you must be able to answer "yes" to all of the following questions:Do you, and your spouse (if filing jointly), and your qualifying children all have a valid Social Security Number?Is your filing status married filing jointly, head of household, or single?You are not filing IRS Form 2555 or IRS Form 2555-EZ for foreign income?Your investment income, if any, is $3,300 or less?You earned at least $1 but less than $46,227 (or $51,567 if married filing jointly)?You are not the qualifying child of any other person?Do you have 3 or more children that meet the age, residency and relationship tests for a qualifying child?Are your children qualifying children for you only?Are there any special rules for members of the military or others? Yes. If you are a member of the military, you do not have to report nontaxable pay as earned income for the EITC. There are also special rules for members of the clergy and individuals receiving disability benefits.For more information, see Special EITC Rules.Will getting EITC reduce my public benefits? No. Getting the federal or state Earned Income Tax Credit will not affect your current cash, food stamp, or medical benfits. Where can I get help with my taxes? You may be able to get help filing your taxes and applying for the Earned Income Tax Credit depending on how much money you make. The Center for Economic Progress offers free tax preparation assistance to families who earn less than $50,000, and individuals who earn $25,000 or less. Ladder Up offers free tax preparation in Chicago and it's suburbs for families with income less than $50,000 and individuals who earn less than $25,000.For more information, see the "Related Articles" section of this Guide.How do I electronically file my tax forms with the IRS? E-filing can help you get your refund faster. You can prepare your forms and e-file your returns for free. See the Forms tab of this Guide Me for more information.If I don't have an e-mail address how do I file my tax forms? Mail your tax return to the IRS at the address that appears on the cover sheet of your printed tax forms. Make sure that you sign the forms and put correct postage on the envelope before mailing. Always keep a copy of your tax return for your records.Should I be careful about going to a commercial tax preparer? If you are not eligible for free tax preparation services and are not comfortable filing on your own, a commercial tax preparer may be the way to go. But, be careful. Many companies will try to sell you additional services that you don't need. Look out for any tax preparer who offers you an "instant tax refund." This is actually a loan, which will cost you hundreds of dollars in fees. Anyone offering your tax refund in less than a week after filing may be charging you excessive fees for what is really a loan. It is much better to wait the extra week or so to get your full refund and avoid paying all of those fees.

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