EITC provides tax break for low to moderate income taxpayers

Notice: Historical Content

This is an archival or historical document and may not reflect current law, policies or procedures.

IRS Tax Tip 2019-10, February 19, 2019

The earned income tax credit benefits low to moderate income people and families. The credit can lower the tax someone owes or mean a refund for the taxpayer.

Taxpayers can do these things to determine if they qualify for the EITC and make claiming it easier:

Review their eligibility

  • Taxpayers must have earned income of $54,884 or less.
  • Taxpayers must file a federal tax return claiming the credit even if no tax is due and filing a return is not otherwise required.
  • Even if they didn’t qualify for the EITC in the past, filers should review EITC eligibility if their household income or family situation has changed.

Learn the EITC rules

  • Taxpayers who are married and file a separate return don’t qualify for the EITC.
  • Filers must have a valid Social Security number for themselves, their spouse and any qualifying child listed on their tax return.
  • Taxpayers must have earned income. This includes money they earn from working as an employee or being self-employed.
  • Filers may be married or single.
  • Taxpayers can be with or without qualifying children.
  • A child must have lived with the taxpayer for more than six months in 2018.
  • The child must meet the age, residency, relationship and joint return rule.
  • Filers who don’t have children must also meet the age, residency and dependency rules.
  • Members of the U.S. military serving in a combat zone have special rules that may apply.

Find free services to help claim the credit

  • Those who do their own taxes can use IRS Free File to claim EITC. Free brand-name software will figure out taxes and the credit automatically.
  • IRS volunteer programs offer free tax help at thousands of sites around the country.

Know when to expect their refund

  • By law, if a taxpayer claims either the EITC, the IRS can't issue the refund before mid-February.
  • This applies to the entire refund, even the portion not associated with these credits.
  • The IRS expects the earliest of these refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards starting on February 27, 2019. This is if the taxpayer chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with the tax return.

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