Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): What It Is & How to Qualify in 2021

In general, the less you earn, the larger the credit. Families with children often qualify for the largest credits.
Tina OremJun 15, 2021
Can You Take the Earned Income Tax Credit

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What’s inside

The Earned Income Tax Credit, or the EITC or EIC, is a refundable tax credit for low- and moderate-income workers. In 2021, the earned income credit ranges from $1,502 to $6,728 depending on tax-filing status, income and number of children. People without kids can qualify.

If you fall within the guidelines for the credit, be sure to claim it on your return when you do your taxes  And if you didn’t claim the earned income credit when you filed your taxes in the last three years but you think you qualified for it, the IRS encourages you to let it know so you can get that money back.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act changed some of the rules around the EITC. These changes are noted below.

Here are some quick facts about the Earned Income Tax Credit:


Besides staying below the income thresholds noted above, there are other qualification rules and requirements. Here are the big eligibility rules, but you can also check out our quiz below for a quick read on whether you might qualify for the earned income tax credit.

for members of the military and the clergy, as well as for people who have disability income or who have children with disabilities.

Below are the maximum earned income tax credit amounts, plus the max you can earn before losing the benefit altogether.

If you claim one or more children as part of your earned income credit, each must pass certain tests to qualify:


For each child you're claiming with the EITC, you’ll also need:

Starting in 2021, if your children don’t meet the requirements for the EITC, you can still claim the EITC as if you have no children.

You may be able to get the EITC if you don’t have a qualifying child but meet the income requirements for your filing status. To qualify, you must meet three more conditions:

Not only does an error on your tax form delay the EIC part of your refund — sometimes for several months — but it also means the IRS could deny the entire earned income credit.

If the IRS denies your whole EIC claim:

Most tax software walks you through the EITC with a series of interview questions, greatly simplifying the process. (Plus, if you qualify for the EITC,.) But remember: Even if someone else prepares your return for you, the IRS holds you responsible for all information on any return you submit.

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