Understanding Who is a Qualifying Child

To be a qualifying child for any of the child related tax benefits:

  • Dependency Exemption
  • Child Tax Credit (CTC), and the refundable part of the CTC, the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC)
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • Credit for Other Dependents (ODC)
  • Child and Dependent Care Credit(CDCC)
  • Head of Household (HOH) Filing Status


The child must meet the basic tests under the Uniform Definition of a Qualifying Child and then each credit has additional rules the child and the person claiming the child must meet.


Uniform Definition of a Qualifying Child

 In general, to be your client's qualifying child, a person must satisfy these tests:


Relationship Residency Age Support  Joint Return
Client's son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, adopted child, foster child, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother, stepsister or a descendent of any of them Same principal residence as your client for more than half the tax year 

Under age 19 at the end of the year 

Under age 24 if a full-time student for at least five months of the year

Permanently and totally disabled during the year

Did not provide more than one-half of own support Did not file a joint return (other than only to claim a refund of withheld taxes) with the child's spouse


The law also defined exceptions and special rules for dependents with a disability, divorced parents, adopted children and missing or kidnapped children. The exceptions and special rules for dependents with a disability and divorced parents are different for each of the child-related benefits; see the Child-related Tax Benefits Comparison chart for more information.

See the child’s social security number (SSN) and taxpayers identification number(TIN) requirements along with all the child-related tax benefits at a glance on our Child-Related Tax Benefits Comparison chart.

Adopted Child:  An adopted child is always treated as your own child and includes a child lawfully placed with you for legal adoption.

Missing or Kidnapped Children: You may be able to claim a child who was kidnapped by a non-family member. IRS treats a kidnapped child as living with you for more than half of the year if the child lived with you for more than half the part of the year before the date of the kidnapping.


More Refundable Credit Resources

Find the latest news for refundable credits on Refundable Credits News and Updates


Protect your clients by knowing the questions to ask to help your client's get the most out of refundable credits.


See the AOTC and the LLC criteria side by side on our Compare Education Credits chart 


Whether you are involved in education, interact with students or parents of students or are a tax return preparer, find out What You Need to Know about AOTC and LLC


Whether you are a social or civic organization, a government office or agency, a county or municipal agency or a tax return preparer, find out What You Need to Know about CTC, ACTC and ODC.


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