3.   Rules If You Do Not Have a Qualifying Child

Use this chapter if you do not have a qualifying child and have met all the rules in chapter 1. This chapter discusses Rules 11 through 14. You must meet all four of those rules, in addition to the rules in chapters 1 and 4, to qualify for the earned income credit without a qualifying child.

You can file Form 1040, Form 1040A, or Form 1040EZ to claim the EIC without a qualifying child. If you meet all the rules in chapter 1 and this chapter, read chapter 4 to find out what to do next.

If you have a qualifying child.   If you meet Rule 8, you have a qualifying child. If you meet Rule 8 and do not claim the EIC with a qualifying child, you cannot claim the EIC without a qualifying child.

Rule 11—You Must Be at Least Age 25 but Under Age 65

You must be at least age 25 but under age 65 at the end of 2014. If you are married filing a joint return, either you or your spouse must be at least age 25 but under age 65 at the end of 2014. It does not matter which spouse meets the age test, as long as one of the spouses does.

You meet the age test if you were born after December 31, 1949, and before January 2, 1990. If you are married filing a joint return, you meet the age test if either you or your spouse was born after December 31, 1949, and before January 2, 1990.

If neither you nor your spouse meets the age test, you cannot claim the EIC. Put “No” next to line 66a (Form 1040), line 42a (Form 1040A), or line 8a (Form 1040EZ).

Example 1.

You are age 28 and unmarried. You meet the age test.

Example 2—spouse meets age test.

You are married and filing a joint return. You are age 23 and your spouse is age 27. You meet the age test because your spouse is at least age 25 but under age 65.

Death of spouse.   If you are filing a joint return with your spouse who died in 2014, you meet the age test if your spouse was at least age 25 but under age 65 at the time of death.

  Your spouse is considered to reach age 25 on the day before his or her 25th birthday. However, the rule for reaching age 65 is different; your spouse reaches age 65 on his or her 65th birthday.

  Even if your spouse was born before January 2, 1990, he or she is not considered at least age 25 at the end of 2014 unless he or she was at least age 25 at the time of death.

Example 1.

You are married and filing a joint return with your spouse who died in August 2014. You are age 67. Your spouse would have become age 65 in November 2014. Because your spouse was under age 65 when she died, you meet the age test.

Example 2.

Your spouse was born on February 14, 1989, and died on February 13, 2014. Your spouse is considered age 25 at the time of death. However, if your spouse died on February 12, 2014, your spouse is not considered age 25 at the time of death and is not at least age 25 at the end of 2014.

Death of taxpayer.   A taxpayer who died in 2014 meets the age test if the taxpayer was at least age 25 but under age 65 at the time of death.

  A taxpayer is considered to reach age 25 on the day before his or her 25th birthday. However, the rule for reaching age 65 is different; a taxpayer reaches age 65 on his or her 65th birthday.

  Even if the taxpayer was born before January 2, 1990, he or she is not considered at least age 25 at the end of 2014 unless he or she was at least age 25 at the time of death.

Rule 12—You Cannot Be the Dependent of Another Person

If you are not filing a joint return, you meet this rule if:

  • You checked box 6a on Form 1040 or 1040A, or

  • You did not check the “You” box on line 5 of Form 1040EZ, and you entered $10,150 on that line.

If you are filing a joint return, you meet this rule if:

  • You checked both box 6a and box 6b on Form 1040 or 1040A, or

  • You and your spouse did not check either the “You” box or the “Spouse” box on line 5 of Form 1040EZ, and you entered $20,300 on that line.

If you are not sure whether someone else can claim you as a dependent, get Publication 501 and read the rules for claiming a dependent.

If someone else can claim you as a dependent on his or her return, but does not, you still cannot claim the credit.

Example 1.

In 2014, you were age 25, single, and living at home with your parents. You worked and were not a student. You earned $7,500. Your parents cannot claim you as a dependent. When you file your return, you claim an exemption for yourself by not checking the You box on line 5 of your Form 1040EZ and by entering $10,150 on that line. You meet this rule. You can claim the EIC if you meet all the other requirements.

Example 2.

The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that you earned $2,000. Your parents can claim you as a dependent but decide not to. You do not meet this rule. You cannot claim the credit because your parents could have claimed you as a dependent.

Joint returns.   You generally cannot be claimed as a dependent by another person if you are married and file a joint return.

  However, another person may be able to claim you as a dependent if you and your spouse file a joint return merely to claim a refund of income tax withheld or estimated tax paid. But neither you nor your spouse can be claimed as a dependent by another person if you claim the EIC on your joint return.

Example 1—return filed to get refund of tax withheld.

You are 26 years old. You and your wife live with your parents and had $800 of wages from part-time jobs and no other income. Neither you nor your wife is required to file a tax return. You do not have a child. Taxes were taken out of your pay so you file a joint return only to get a refund of the withheld taxes. Your parents are not disqualified from claiming an exemption for you just because you filed a joint return. They can claim exemptions for you and your wife if all the other tests to do so are met.

Example 2—return filed to get EIC.

The facts are the same as in Example 1except no taxes were taken out of your pay. Also, you and your wife are not required to file a tax return, but you file a joint return to claim an EIC of $63 and get a refund of that amount. Because claiming the EIC is your reason for filing the return, you are not filing it only to claim a refund of income tax withheld or estimated tax paid. Your parents cannot claim an exemption for either you or your wife.

Rule 13—You Cannot Be a Qualifying Child of Another Taxpayer

You are a qualifying child of another taxpayer (your parent, guardian, foster parent, etc.) if all of the following statements are true.

  1. You are that person's son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, or a descendant of any of them. Or, you are that person's brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of any of them.

  2. You were:

    1. Under age 19 at the end of the year and younger than that person (or that person's spouse, if the person files jointly),

    2. Under age 24 at the end of the year, a student, and younger than that person (or that person's spouse, if the person files jointly), or

    3. Permanently and totally disabled, regardless of age.

  3. You lived with that person in the United States for more than half of the year.

  4. You are not filing a joint return for the year (or are filing a joint return only to claim a refund of withheld income tax or estimated tax paid).

For more details about the tests to be a qualifying child, see Rule 8.

If you are a qualifying child of another taxpayer, you cannot claim the EIC. This is true even if the person for whom you are a qualifying child does not claim the EIC or meet all of the rules to claim the EIC. Put “No” next to line 66a (Form 1040), line 42a (Form 1040A), or line 8a (Form 1040EZ).

Example.

You lived with your mother all year. You are age 26, unmarried, and permanently and totally disabled. Your only income was from a community center where you went three days a week to answer telephones. You earned $5,000 for the year and provided more than half of your own support. Because you meet the relationship, age, residency, and joint return tests, you are a qualifying child of your mother for the EIC. She can claim the EIC if she meets all the other requirements. Because you are a qualifying child of your mother, you cannot claim the EIC. This is so even if your mother cannot or does not claim the EIC.

Joint returns.   You generally cannot be a qualifying child of another taxpayer if you are married and file a joint return.

  However, you may be a qualifying child of another taxpayer if you and your spouse file a joint return merely to claim a refund of income tax withheld or estimated tax paid. But neither you nor your spouse can be a qualifying child of another taxpayer if you claim the EIC on your joint return.

Child of person not required to file a return.   You are not the qualifying child of another taxpayer (and so may qualify to claim the EIC) if the person for whom you meet the relationship, age, residency, and joint return tests is not required to file an income tax return and either:
  • Does not file an income tax return, or

  • Files a return only to get a refund of income tax withheld or estimated tax paid.

Example 1—return not required.

You lived all year with your father. You are 27 years old, unmarried, permanently and totally disabled, and earned $13,000. You have no other income, no children, and provided more than half of your own support. Your father had no gross income, is not required to file a 2014 tax return, and does not file a 2014 tax return. As a result, you are not your father's qualifying child. You can claim the EIC if you meet all the other requirements to do so.

Example 2—return filed to get refund of tax withheld.

The facts are the same as in Example 1 except your father had wages of $1,500 and had income tax withheld from his wages. He files a return only to get a refund of the income tax withheld and does not claim the EIC or any other tax credits or deductions. As a result, you are not your father's qualifying child. You can claim the EIC if you meet all the other requirements to do so.

Example 3—return filed to get EIC.

The facts are the same as in Example 2 except your father claimed the EIC on his return. Since he filed the return to get the EIC, he is not filing it only to get a refund of income tax withheld. As a result, you are your father's qualifying child. You cannot claim the EIC.

Rule 14—You Must Have Lived in the United States More Than Half of the Year

Your home (and your spouse's, if filing a joint return) must have been in the United States for more than half the year.

If it was not, put “No” next to line 66a (Form 1040), line 42a (Form 1040A), or line 8a (Form 1040EZ).

United States.   This means the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It does not include Puerto Rico or U.S. possessions such as Guam.

Homeless shelter.   Your home can be any location where you regularly live. You do not need a traditional home. If you lived in one or more homeless shelters in the United States for more than half the year, you meet this rule.

Military personnel stationed outside the United States.   U.S. military personnel stationed outside the United States on extended active duty (defined in chapter 2) are considered to live in the United States during that duty period for purposes of the EIC.


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