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What are the qualifications for the childcare credit and childcare benefit?

To claim the child and dependent care credit, you must meet all of these tests:

  • The care must be for one or more qualifying people, like:
    • A qualifying child who was under the age of 13 when the care was provided.
    • A qualifying person who wasn’t physically or mentally able to care for him or herself
  • The qualifying person must have lived with you for more than half the year.
  • You must pay child and dependent care expenses so that you (and your spouse) can work or look for work. You (and your spouse if filing jointly) must have earned income during the year. If you’re self-employed, any net losses will be subtracted from your other earned income. You or your spouse will be treated as having earned income for any month either of you were:
    • A full-time student
    • Physically or mentally not able to care for yourself
  • You must make payments for child and dependent care expenses to someone you (or your spouse) can’t claim as a dependent. The payments also can’t be to your:
    • Child under age 19 at the end of the year, regardless of whether the child is your dependent
    • A person who was your spouse at any time during the year
    • The parent of your qualifying person if your qualifying person is your child and under age 13
  • Your filing status can’t be married filing separately, unless you are considered unmarried.
  • You must identify the care provider on your return to claim the childcare credit and childcare benefit. Include the provider’s:
    • Name
    • Street address
    • Tax ID -- Social Security number (SSN) or employer identification number (EIN)
  • If the provider does not give you the information, attach a statement to your return explaining that the provider did not give you the information you requested.

You might exclude dependent care benefits provided by your employer. If so, the amount you exclude must be less than the dollar limit for qualifying expenses for credit purposes. While you can usually exclude up to $5,000 using a dependent care benefit plan, the dollar limit for qualifying expenses for the credit is:

  • $3,000 for one qualifying person
  • $6,000 for two or more qualifying people

So, if you have one child and exclude $3,000 or more, you’re ineligible for the credit.

To learn more about the childcare credit and childcare benefit, see Form 2441 instructions at

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