Basic Qualifications

The following items answer questions preparers have asked about the basic qualifications for all taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC), the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) and the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). Since some rules changed for 2018-2025 returns as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, we added information about:

  • the new nonrefundable part of the child tax credit, the credit for other dependents (ODC)
  • new rules for a dependent’s taxpayer identification number for CTC/ACTC
  • new rules for a dependent’s work authorization for CTC/ACTC.

For the EITC, your client, your client's spouse (if filing jointly) and each qualifying child listed on Schedule EIC must have a Social Security number (SSN) issued on or before the due date of the return (including extensions). Each person’s SSN must not have been issued only for the person to get a federal benefit such as Medicaid and must be valid for employment in the United States (even if the person is too young to work).

For the CTC/ACTC, for tax years 2018-2025, each qualifying child for the CTC/ACTC must have an SSN valid for employment in the United States (even if the child is too young to work) issued before the due date of the return (including extensions). The rules for your client’s taxpayer identification number have not changed – Your client and his or her spouse (if filing jointly) must have an SSN or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) issued on or before the due date of the return (including extensions).

For the ODC, for tax years 2018-2025, your client, your client's spouse (if filing jointly) and each qualifying child or qualifying relative for the ODC must have an SSN, an adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN) or an ITIN issued on or before the due date of the return. 

For the AOTC, your client, your client's spouse (if filing jointly) and the student claimed for the AOTC must each have an SSN, an ATIN or an ITIN issued on or before the due date of the return (including extensions).

If your client applies for an ATIN or ITIN on or before the due date of his or her return (including extensions) and the IRS issues the ATIN or ITIN as a result of the application, the IRS will consider the ATIN or ITIN as issued on or before the due date of the return.

Not necessarily, the card must be valid for employment.

  • If an alien individual’s SSN was issued only for the person to receive a federally funded benefit, such as Medicaid, it does not meet the requirement for an SSN for EITC purposes. Such a Social Security card is generally marked "NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT."
  • A Social Security card that says, “VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT ONLY WITH INS/DHS AUTHORIZATION” meets the requirement for an SSN for EITC purposes if that authorization is still valid.

No, if either your client or his spouse has an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), they can’t claim the EITC. The IRS issues an ITIN when a person is not eligible for an SSN and has a federal tax reporting requirement or files a tax return to claim a refund.

Find out more on ITINs on irs.gov

No, each child claimed as a qualifying child for the EITC must have a valid Social Security number for employment.

Find out more on ITINs on irs.gov

Find out more on ATINs on irs.gov

Consider whether the State recognizes the parents' relationship as a common law marriage. If so, the IRS will recognize the marriage of the parents. If the parents are considered married for federal tax purposes, the parents must file jointly to claim the EITC.

If the parents are not considered married for federal tax purposes, and each child is a qualifying child of both parents, the parents may agree to each claim one child as a qualifying child for purposes of the EITC and these other child-related tax benefits for which the parent may qualify:

  • Dependency exemption for the child,
  • Child tax credit, including additional child tax credit and credit for other dependents
  • Credit for child and dependent care expenses and
  • The exclusion of dependent care benefits.

No. A resident alien with an SSN valid for employment can claim the EITC.

Also, a nonresident alien with an SSN valid for employment who is married to a U.S. citizen or resident alien can claim the EITC if the spouses elect to file a joint return reporting their worldwide income. 

The answer depends on where his wife and children lived and whether or not the taxpayer chooses to file a joint return.

If his wife and children lived for more than six months at the home in the United States, he may qualify for the EITC if he files a joint return with his spouse.

If his wife and children lived with him for more than six months outside the U.S., he would not qualify.

Also see:

EITC Questions and Answers

Education Credit Questions and Answers

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