Child Tax Credit: What It Is, How to Claim It

For the 2022 tax year, taxpayers may be eligible for a credit of up to $2,000 — and $1,500 of that may be refundable.

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This article has been updated for the 2022 tax year.

The child tax credit is a federal tax benefit that plays an important role in providing financial support for American taxpayers with children. For the 2022 tax year, people with kids under the age of 17 may be eligible to claim a tax credit of up to $2,000 per qualifying dependent, and $1,500 of that credit may be refundable.

We’ll cover who qualifies, how to claim it and how much you might receive per child.

What is the child tax credit?

The child tax credit, commonly referred to as the CTC, is a tax credit available to taxpayers with dependent children under the age of 17. In order to claim the credit when you file your taxes, you have to prove to the IRS that you and your child meet specific criteria.

You’ll also need to show that your income falls beneath a certain threshold because the credit phases out in increments after a certain limit is hit. If your modified adjusted gross income exceeds the ceiling, the credit amount you get may be smaller, or you may be deemed ineligible altogether.

Who qualifies for the child tax credit?

Taxpayers can claim the child tax credit for the 2022 tax year when they file their tax returns in 2023. Determining your eligibility for the credit begins with understanding which children qualify and what other criteria you need to be mindful of.

Generally, there are seven “tests” you and your qualifying child need to pass.

  1. Age: Your child must have been under the age of 17 at the end of 2022.

  2. Relationship: The child you’re claiming must be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister or a descendant of any of those people (e.g., a grandchild, niece or nephew).

  3. Dependent status: You must be able to properly claim the child as a dependent. The child also cannot file a joint tax return, unless they file it to claim a refund of withheld income taxes or estimated taxes paid.

  4. Residency: The child you’re claiming must have lived with you for at least half the year (there are some exceptions to this rule).

  5. Financial support: You must have provided at least half of the child’s support during the last year. In other words, if your qualified child financially supported themselves for more than six months, they’re likely considered not qualified.

  6. Citizenship: Per the IRS, your child must be a "U.S. citizen, U.S. national or U.S. resident alien," and must hold a valid Social Security number.

  7. Income: Parents or caregivers claiming the credit also typically can’t exceed certain income requirements. Depending on how much your income exceeds that threshold, the credit gets incrementally reduced until it is eliminated.

Did you know...

If your child or a relative you care for doesn't quite meet the criteria for the CTC but you are able to claim them as a dependent, you may be eligible for a $500 nonrefundable credit called the "credit for other dependents." Check the IRS website for more information.

How to calculate the child tax credit

For the 2022 tax year, the CTC is worth $2,000 per qualifying dependent child if your modified adjusted gross income is $400,000 or below (married filing jointly) or $200,000 or below (all other filers). If your MAGI exceeds those limits, your credit amount will be reduced by $50 for each $1,000 of income exceeding the threshold until it is eliminated.

The CTC is also partially refundable; that is, it can reduce your tax bill on a dollar-for-dollar basis, and you might be able to apply for a tax refund of up to $1,500 for anything left over. This partially refundable portion is called the “additional child tax credit” by the IRS.

How to claim the credit

You can claim the child tax credit on your Form 1040 or 1040-SR. You’ll also need to fill out Schedule 8812 (“Credits for Qualifying Children and Other Dependents”), which is submitted alongside your 1040. This schedule will help you to figure your child tax credit amount, and if applicable, how much of the partial refund you may be able to claim.

Most quality tax software guides you through claiming the child tax credit with a series of interview questions, simplifying the process and even auto-filling the forms on your behalf. If your income falls below a certain threshold, you might also be able to get free tax software through IRS’ Free File.

A word of warning: In the eyes of the IRS, you’re ultimately responsible for all information you submit, even if someone else prepares your return.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you applied for the additional child tax credit, by law the IRS cannot release your refund before mid-February.

» Curious about what other credits you may qualify for? Here's a list of 20 common tax deductions and breaks

Consequences of a CTC-related error

An error on your tax form can mean delays on your refund or on the CTC part of your refund. In some cases, it can also mean the IRS could deny the entire credit.

If the IRS denies your CTC claim:

  • You must pay back any CTC amount you’ve been paid in error, plus interest.

  • You might need to file Form 8862, "Information To Claim Certain Credits After Disallowance," before you can claim the CTC again.

  • If the IRS determines that your claim for the credit is erroneous, you may be on the hook for a penalty of up to 20% of the credit amount claimed.

State child tax credits

In addition to the federal child tax credit, a few states, including California, New York and Massachusetts, also offer their own state-level CTCs that you may be able to claim when filing your state return. Visit your state's department of taxation website for more details.

History of the CTC

Like other tax credits, the CTC has seen its share of changes throughout the years. In 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA, established specific parameters for claiming the credit that will be effective from the 2018 through 2025 tax years. However, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the coronavirus relief bill) temporarily modified the credit for the 2021 tax year, which has caused some confusion as to which changes are permanent.

Here's a brief timeline of its history.

  • 1997: First introduced as a $500 nonrefundable credit by the Taxpayer Relief Act.

  • 2001: Credit increased to $1,000 per dependent and made partially refundable by the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act.

  • 2017: The TCJA made several changes to the credit, effective from 2018 through 2025. This included increasing the credit ceiling to $2,000 per dependent, establishing a new income threshold to qualify and ensuring that the partially refundable portion of the credit gets adjusted for inflation each tax year.

  • 2021: The American Rescue Plan Act made several temporary modifications to the credit for the 2021 tax year only. This included expanding the credit to a maximum of $3,600 per qualifying child, allowing 17-year-olds to qualify, and making the credit fully refundable. And for the first time in U.S. history, many taxpayers also received half of the credit as advance monthly payments from July through December 2021.

  • 2022–2025: The 2021 ARPA enhancements ended, and the credit will revert back to the rules established by the TCJA — including the $2,000 cap for each qualifying child.

Frequently asked questions

1. Does the CTC include advanced payments this year?

The American Rescue Plan Act made several temporary modifications to the credit for tax year 2021, including issuing a set of advance payments from July through December 2021. This enhancement has not been carried over for this tax year as of this writing.

2. I had a baby in 2022. Am I eligible for the CTC?

Yes. You'll likely need to make sure your child has a Social Security number before you apply, though.

3. Is the child tax credit taxable?

No. It is a partially refundable tax credit. This means that it can lower your tax bill by the credit amount, and if you have no liability, you may be able to get a portion of the credit back in the form of a refund.

4. Is the child tax credit the same thing as the child and dependent care credit?

No. This is another type of tax benefit for taxpayers with children or qualifying dependents. It covers a percentage of expenses you made for care — such as day care, certain types of camp or babysitters — so that you can work or look for work. The IRS has more details here.

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