Child tax credit

What is the child tax credit?

The child tax credit is a tax credit intended to make caring for children or qualifying dependents more affordable for working families. There are requirements stating which children qualify for the credit, and ceilings on the total credit amount available. You must have at least $3,000 in earned income to qualify for the child tax credit.

Deeper definition

As of the 2017 tax year, the maximum value of the child tax credit was $1,000 per child. The exact amount of the credit varies based on your filing status and adjusted gross income. The credit decreases by $50 for each $1,000 of income that exceeds the following income thresholds:

  • Married filing separately: $55,000
  • Single, head of household, or qualifying widow/widower: $75,000
  • Married filing jointly: $110,000

To claim the credit, the following requirements must be met:

  • The child must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien, and be under 17 years of age at the end of the tax year.
  • The child must have a taxpayer identification number or a Social Security number.
  • The taxpayer claiming the credit must have a familial or foster relationship with the child. Both foster children and adopted kids qualify for the child tax credit.
  • The taxpayer must have provided at least half of the child’s financial support in the stated tax year, and the child must have lived with the filer for at least half of the year.

Unlike other tax credits, the child tax credit is not refundable. This means that if the credit exceeds the amount of your tax obligation, the extra will not be returned as a tax refund. A secondary credit known as the additional child tax credit lets taxpayers reclaim some of the non-refundable portion of the tax credit. Families who have three or more qualifying children or dependants may claim the additional tax credit.

Child tax credit example

Atticus, a widower, files as head of household and has two qualifying children. His modified adjust gross income is $76,000. Since his income exceeds the threshold by $1,000, his child tax credit is reduced by $100 to a total of $1,900. This amount is subtracted from his total tax liability. If Atticus’s modified adjusted gross income was $116,000 or more, he would be disqualified from receiving any child tax credit.

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