Child-Related Tax Benefits Comparison

This shows some of the basic eligibility requirements for tax benefits available to those with a qualifying child. We compare 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:  

  • Use this 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.

 

Tax Benefits Basic Eligibility Requirements
Earned Income Tax Credit 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
Dependency Exemption 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 Tax Credit Child must be:
  • 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
Head of Household 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 and Dependent Care Credit 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
Tax Benefits Basic Eligibility Requirements
Earned Income Tax Credit
Dependency Exemption
Child Tax Credit
Head of Household
Child and Dependent Care Credit

Child must be your:

son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, adopted child,3 foster child,4 brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or descendant of any of them
Tax Benefits Basic Eligibility Requirements
Earned Income Tax Credit Yes, see rules for claiming without a qualifying child
Dependency Exemption Yes, see rules for qualifying relative
Child Tax Credit No
Head of Household Yes, see rules for dependents who are not a qualifying child
Child and Dependent Care Credit Yes, see rules for qualifying persons
Tax Benefits Basic Eligibility Requirements
Earned Income Tax Credit

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
Dependency Exemption

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 Tax Credit

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
Head of Household

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 and Dependent Care Credit

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

Exceptions:
  • Temporary absence
  • Birth or death of child
Tax Benefits Basic Eligibility Requirements
Earned Income Tax Credit None. But, if the child is married, generally, you must be entitled to a dependency exemption for the child.
Dependency Exemption 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 Tax Credit 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.
Head of Household 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 and Dependent Care Credit 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.
Tax Benefits Basic Eligibility Requirements
Earned Income Tax Credit Yes and the SSN must be valid for employment and issued before the due date of the return (including extensions.)
Dependency Exemption No
Child Tax Credit No
Head of Household No
Child and Dependent Care Credit No
Tax Benefits Basic Eligibility Requirements
Earned Income Tax Credit 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.)
Dependency Exemption N/A but see Criteria: Child must be U.S. Citizen, U.S. Nation, U.S. Resident or Resident of Canada or Mexico**
Child Tax Credit 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
Head of Household N/A but see Criteria: Child must be U.S. Citizen, U.S. Nation, U.S. Resident or Resident of Canada or Mexico**
Child and Dependent Care Credit N/A but see Criteria: Child must be U.S. Citizen, U.S. Nation, U.S. Resident or Resident of Canada or Mexico**
Tax Benefits Basic Eligibility Requirements
Earned Income Tax Credit N/A but see Criteria: Residency and Criteria: Child Must Have SSN that is valid for employment and that was issued by the due date of the return (including extensions.)
Dependency Exemption Yes
Child Tax Credit N/A but see Criteria: Child must be U.S. Citizen, U.S. National, or U.S. Resident
Head of Household Yes
Child and Dependent Care Credit Yes
Tax Benefits Basic Eligibility Requirements
Earned Income Tax Credit No, the rule does not apply
Dependency Exemption Yes
Child Tax Credit Yes
Head of Household No, the rule does not apply
Child and Dependent Care Credit No, only the custodial parent may claim the credit
Tax Benefits Basic Eligibility Requirements
Earned Income Tax Credit Yes
Dependency Exemption Yes
Child Tax Credit No
Head of Household Yes
Child and Dependent Care Credit Not as a qualifying child but see qualifying person
Tax Benefits Basic Eligibility Requirements
Earned Income Tax Credit

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)

Dependency Exemption No, but must show name and SSN or other taxpayer identification number on tax return
Child Tax Credit Yes if the child has an ITIN, you must complete Schedule 8812 (Schedule 8812 Instructions)
Head of Household No, but if child isn't listed as a dependent, name must be on tax return
Child and Dependent Care Credit Yes, Form 2441 (Form 2441 Instructions)

 

 

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.