Child-Related Tax Benefits Comparison

Our handy chart shows some of the basic eligibility requirements for tax benefits available to those with a qualifying child. This chart compares the earned income tax credit (EITC), the dependency exemption, the child tax credit (CTC) and the refundable part of the CTC, the additional child tax credit (CTC/ACTC), the head of household filing status and the child and dependent care credit..

Warnings:  

  • This chart is for quick comparison only. Each listed benefit has other requirements. This at-a-glance guide also directs you to more information to make sure the child is a qualifying child for the tax benefit.
  • To claim a qualifying child for the EITC, the child MUST HAVE A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER (SSN).  The SSN must be valid for employment and must be issued by the due date of the return (including extensions).
  • A taxpayer may not claim an EITC with a qualifying child if the child is identified by an adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN) or an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
  • For the CTC/ACTC,
    • if a SSN is used, the SSN must be issued by the due date of the return (including extensions)
    • if an ATIN or an ITIN is used, it must be issued by the due date of the return (including extensions).  The IRS will consider an ATIN or ITIN as issued by the due date of the return(including extensions) if a taxpayer applied for the ATIN or ITIN by that date and the IRS issues an ATIN or ITIN as a result of the application.

 

Criteria Earned Income Tax Credit

Dependency Exemption

Child Tax Credit

Head of Household

Child and Dependent Care Credit

 Age

Child must be:
 

• Younger than
   you (or your
   spouse if filing
   a joint return)
   and under age
   19 at end of the tax year
 

• Younger than
   you (or your
   spouse if filing
   a joint return),
   under age 24
   at the end of
   the tax year and
   a full time
   student1
 

• Any age if
  permanently
  and totally
  disabled2

Child must be: 
 

• Younger than
   you (or your
   spouse if filing
   a joint return)
   and under age
   19 at end of
   the tax year  
 

• Younger than
   you (or your
   spouse if filing
   a joint return),
   under age 24
   at the end of
   the tax year and
   a full time student1


 

• Any age if
  permanently
  and totally
  disabled2

Child must be younger than you (or your spouse if filing a joint return) and under age 17 at the end of the tax year

 

 

Child must be:
 

 • Younger than
   you (or your
   spouse if filing
   a joint return)
   and under age
   19 at end of
   the tax year
 

 • Younger than
   you (or your
   spouse if filing
   a joint return),
   under age 24
   at the end of
   the tax year and
   a full time
   student1
 

• Any age if
  permanently
  and totally
  disabled2

Child must be:

Younger than you (or your spouse if filing a joint return)

And

Under age 13 for the days  the care was provided during  the tax year

 

 

 Child's Relationship

Child must be your:

son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, adopted child,3 foster child,4 brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or descendent of any of them

Can You Claim Without Qualifying Child? Yes, see rules for claiming without a qualifying child Yes, see rules for qualifying relative  No Yes, see rules for dependents who are not a qualifying child Yes, see rules for qualifying persons
 Residency

Child must have lived with you in the U.S. for more than half of the tax year
 

Exceptions:
• Temporary
  absence
• Serving in
  military
  overseas
• Birth or
  death of
  child
• Kidnapped
  child

Child must have lived with you for more than half of the tax year
 

Exceptions:

• Temporary
  absence
• Birth or
  death of
  child
• Kidnapped
  child
• Divorced or
  separated
  parents or
  parents
  who
  live apart

Child must have lived with you for more than half of the tax year
 

Exceptions:

• Temporary
  absence
• Birth or
  death
  of child
• Kidnapped
  child
• Divorced or
  separated
  parents or
  parents
  who
  live apart 

Child must have lived with you for more than half of the tax year
 

Exceptions:

• Temporary
   absence
• Birth or
  death of
  child
• Kidnapped
  child

Child must have lived with you for more than half of the tax year 
 

Exceptions:

• Temporary
   absence
• Birth or
  death
  of child

 

 

 Support None. But, if the child is married, generally, you must be entitled to a dependency exemption for the child. Child must not provide over half of own support for the tax year but see rules for divorced or separated parents or parents who live apart. Child must not provide over half of own support for the tax year but see rules for divorced or separated parents or parents who live apart. Child must not provide over half of own support for the tax year. Also, see rules for providing over half the cost of maintaining the household. Child must not provide over half of own support for the tax year but see rules for divorced or separated parents or parents who live apart and rule allowing the custodial parent to claim the credit.
Child Must Have SSN (Not ATIN or ITIN Yes and the SSN must be valid for employment and issued before the due date of the return (including extensions No
Child must be U.S. Citizen, U.S. National or U.S. Resident N/A but see residency and child must have an SSN that is valid for employment and that was issued by the due date of the return (including extensions) N/A but see next row

Yes. To be considered a U.S. resident, the child must:

• Meet the
  substantial
  presence test

 or

• Be admitted
  for lawful
  permanent
  residence

 or

• Make a first-
  year election

N/A but see next row
Child must be U.S. Citizen, U.S. National, U.S. Resident or Resident of Canada or Mexico** N/A but see residency and child must have an SSN that is valid for employment and that was issued by the due date of the return (including extensions) Yes N/A  but see previous row Yes
Non custodial Parent May Claim Using the Special Rule for Divorced or Separated Parents or Parents who Live Apart No, the rule does not apply  Yes No, the rules does not apply  No, only the custodial parent may claim the credit 
May Disabled Child be Any Age?  Yes No  Yes  Not as a qualifying child but see qualifying person
Am I Required to Complete and Submit a Schedule or Form with my Form 1040 or 1040A?

Yes, Schedule EIC and you must include the child's name and SSN 

and

Form 8862 (Spanish version of Form 8862 if EITC previously disallowed 

Paid Preparers must complete Form 8867

Form 8867 Instructions

No, but must show name and SSN or other taxpayer identification number on tax return

Yes if the child has an ITIN, you must complete Schedule 8812

Schedule 8812 Instructions

No, but if child isn't listed as a dependent, name must be on tax return

Yes,

Form 2441
 

Form 2441 Instructions

Reference

Publications

Publication 596, Earned Income Credit
 

Publication 596 (SP), Crédito por Ingreso del Trabajo
 

 

Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction and Filing Information
 


Publication 17 (SP) (PDF), El Impuesto Federal sobre los Ingresos
 

 

Publication 972, Child Tax Credit
 

Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens
 


Publication 17 (SP) (PDF), El Impuesto Federal sobre los Ingresos
 

 

Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction and Filing Information
 


Publication 17 (SP) (PDF), El Impuesto Federal sobre los Ingresos
 

Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses
 


Publication 17 (SP) (PDF), El Impuesto Federal sobre los Ingresos
 

 

1 Student defined

 To qualify as a student during some part of any 5 calendar months of the year (the 5 calendar months don't have to be consecutive); your child must be:

    • A full-time student at a school that has a regular teaching staff, course of study, and a regularly enrolled student body at the school, or
    • A student taking a full-time, on-farm training course given by a school described above, or by a state, county or local government agency.

Full-time student. A full-time student is a student who is enrolled for the number of hours or courses the school considers to be full-time attendance.

School defined. A school can be an elementary school, junior or senior high school, college, university, or technical, trade, or mechanical school. But, an on-the-job training course, correspondence school, or school offering courses only through the Internet doesn't count as a school.


Vocational high school students.
Students who work on “coop” jobs in private industry as a part of a school's regular course of classroom and practical training are considered full-time students.


2Permanently and totally disabled

Your child is permanently and totally disabled if both of the following apply:

    • Your child can not engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a physical or mental condition
    • A doctor or government agency determines the condition has lasted or can be expected to last continuously for at least 12 months or can be expected to result in death

3Adopted Child

An adopted child is always treated as your own child. This term includes a child who is lawfully placed with you for legal adoption

4Foster child

A foster child is a child placed with you by an authorized placement agency or by judgment, decree, or other order of any court of competent jurisdiction. An authorized placement agency includes a state, the District of Columbia, a possession of the United States, a foreign country, an Indian tribal government, or an agency or organization that is authorized by a state, the District of Columbia, a possession of the United States, a foreign country, an Indian Tribal Government, or a political subdivision of any of these to place children in foster care.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 13-Apr-2017