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Earned Income Tax Credit requirements

8 min read

8 min read

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC or EIC) is a refundable tax credit. That means, even if your tax liability is zero, if you qualify for the EITC, the credit will be paid to you. It was created to benefit low-income, working families.

The criteria for claiming this valuable credit can be confusing, which is why we’ve outlined details about the Earned Income Tax Credit requirements below.

Earned Income Credit qualifications

It’s estimated that only four out of five families who qualify for EITC claim the credit. Not sure if you qualify? That’s what we’re here for. Whether you file with a tax pro or file with us online, we’ll help you navigate complex tax benefits such as the Earned Income Credit.

Read on to learn more about EITC requirements.

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EITC requirements

Here are the EITC requirements:

  1. Your earned income and Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) are within certain limits – in 2023 your earned income must be less than $63,398 if you’re Married Filing Jointly with three or more children. The levels vary based on filing status and how many of children you have.
  2. You meet the basic rules (valid SSN, qualifying filing status, U.S. citizen or resident, and other income requirements)
  3. You either:
    • Meet the qualifications for those without a qualifying child. (You unfortunately can’t be claimed as a dependent or be a qualifying child of another person, you meet age requirements, and you lived in the U.S. more than half the year); or
    • Have a child who meets all the qualifying child rules for you, or your spouse, if you file a joint return (SSN, relationship, age, residency, and joint return), your qualifying child can’t be used by more than one person to claim the EIC, and you aren’t the qualifying child of another person.

Sounds like a lot of rules, but we’re here to break down the details into smaller pieces to make it a bit easier to understand.

EITC income requirements

Earned income is, generally, money either paid to you by an employer or money you earn though your own business or farm. It includes wages, tips, salaries, non-taxable combat pay, union strike benefits, and certain long-term disability benefits. Retirement income, Social Security income, unemployment benefits, alimony, and child support don’t count as earned income.

More restrictions: You must have $11,000 or less in investment income and you can’t file a foreign earned income exclusion form.

For tax year 2023, both your earned income and adjusted gross income must be no more than:

Children or Relatives ClaimedMaximum AGI
(filing as Single, Head of Household, Widowed or Married Filing Separately*)
Maximum AGI
(filing as Married Filing Jointly)

EITC filing status

You must meet additional requirements to claim the EITC if you are separated from your spouse and don’t file a joint return. This applies if you lived apart from your spouse for the last six months of the year or are legally separated according to state law under a written separation agreement or a decree of separate maintenance and you didn’t live in the same household as your spouse at the end of the year.

Any other filing status is fine (Married Filing Jointly, Single, Head of Household, or Qualifying Widow(er)).

EITC residency requirements

You and your qualifying child must live in the same home for more than half of the year — more than six months or 183+ days. The residence must be in the 50 U.S. states or the District of Columbia.


  1. Paul lives at home from January until May, at which point he graduates high school and moves into an apartment of his own. Despite that, his parents still provide him financial assistance because he is unemployed. Since Paul only lived with his parents for five months of the year, he will not meet the residency test.
  2. Mark and Lauren give birth to their son in Kansas City in January. In April, they move to Canada for a job opportunity. They cannot claim the EITC because they did not maintain a U.S. residence for more than six months.

Special rules apply to military personnel stationed outside the U.S., children who born or died during the year, and other circumstances including adoption.

EITC citizenship requirements

The qualifying child must be a U.S. citizen, national or resident. You and your tax dependents must also have valid Social Security numbers.


  1. Maria and Felix are U.S. citizens. They claim their daughter, Penelope (also a citizen), 6, as a dependent. Marie and Felix also claim a daughter from a previous marriage, Sofia, 12, who was living in Mexico but came to live with them. Sofia has an ITIN because she is in the process of becoming a citizen but is not yet a U.S. citizen. Can the couple claim the EITC with Penelope as their qualifying child? Yes, as Penelope is a U.S. citizen with a valid SSN. Can the couple claim the EITC with Sofia as their qualifying child? No, because Sofia does not have a valid SSN.
  2. Paul and Lauren are in the process of adopting a child, Lilly. She has been placed with the couple, but the adoption is not yet final. They have not been able to get Lilly’s social security number, so they will file a tax return for her using an ATIN (Adoption Tax Identification Number). They cannot claim Lilly as a qualifying child for the EITC. If they think they can get an SSN for Lily by October 15 they should consider filing an extension and claiming the EITC when the SSN is available. Otherwise, they won’t be able to claim EITC for Lilly until next year’s tax return.
  3. Kai and Zehra are studying in the U.S. on student visas. They also have two children in the U.S. with them. They all use ITINs (Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers) to file a tax return. They can’t claim the EITC.

EITC age requirements

The qualifying child claimed must be younger than you (or your spouse if filing jointly) or totally and permanently disabled. Additionally, the qualifying child must either be under 19, under 24, and a full-time student or any age and totally/permanently disabled.


  1. Shelly, 18, can claim her daughter, Stella, 2, for the EITC.
  2. Mark, 50, can claim his daughter, Lauren, 21, for the EITC. Lauren is enrolled in college full-time.
  3. Pam, 55, wants to claim her son, Patrick, 23, for the EITC because he lives at home. Because he is not attending school full-time, she cannot claim him. This is so even if Pam can claim Patrick as a dependent qualifying relative.

EITC relationship eligibility

The child must be the taxpayer’s son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, eligible foster child, adopted child, or brother, sister, half-sibling, stepsibling, or descendant of any of these individuals. Someone who only meets the “qualifying relative” test is never eligible to be claimed for purposes of the EITC.


  1. A mother claims son – yes!
  2. An older brother claims younger step-sister – yes!
  3. A grandfather claims grandson – yes!
  4. A man lives with his girlfriend and her child. He is not the child’s father. He can’t claim the child for the EITC, even if all other tests are met.

Earned Income Credit qualifications for claiming dependents

Now that we’ve reviewed age, relationship, citizenship, and residency eligibility for EITC, here’s more helpful guidance on the Earned Income Credit qualifications for claiming dependents.

If you’re child qualifying child of another taxpayer, you can’t claim the EITC for your own child. However, a married child is only a qualifying child for EITC purposes if you claim a dependency exemption for them (i.e. the child passes the joint return test).


  1. Donna is 22 years old and a full-time student. She has a part-time job and earns $5,000. She lives with her mother Abby and Donna’s one-year old son Jed. Donna is a qualifying child of Abby because she meets the age, relationship, residency, and joint return tests. Therefore, Donna may not claim Jed for the EITC. Abby may be able to claim both Donna and Jed for EITC and other tax benefits depending on her income and other requirements.
  2. Your qualifying child may not be used by more than one person to claim the EITC. Sometimes a child meets the tests to be a qualifying child of more than one person. However, only one of those people can treat the child as a qualifying child. You generally cannot divide the tax benefits of one child. There are exceptions for divorced and separated parents, but you still can’t divide EITC.
  3. If a child qualifies for more than one person and one of the persons is a parent or parents, the non-parent can claim the child only if their adjusted gross income (AGI) is higher than the parent(s) and the parent(s) agree. If the child is a qualifying child of other taxpayers (not parents) , the child is treated as a qualifying child only of the taxpayer with the highest AGI. If more than one person claims the same child, IRS applies the tiebreaker rules.

More help with the Earned Income Credit

For more information on claiming the Earned Income Credit, get help from H&R Block. Whether you choose to file with a tax pro or file with H&R Block Online, you can rest assured that we’ll get you the biggest refund possible.

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