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Who Is Eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)?


The earned income tax credit can provide substantial financial benefits for low-income working individuals and families, reducing taxes by hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Not just anyone can qualify for this tax break, however. EITC eligibility depends on your income, filing status, qualifying children and a number of other factors. You also have to be a U.S. citizen or be married to someone who is, for instance. Speak with a financial advisor to ensure that you qualify for every tax credit and deduction that you’ve earned.

Earned Income Tax Credit Essentials

The EITC offers eligible tax filers a refundable tax credit equal to a percentage of their total earnings up to the maximum allowed. If you qualify for the EITC, you may even get money back if no income tax was withheld from your paychecks. The EITC for 2024 ranges from a high of $7,830 (up from $7,430 in 2023) for families with at least three children down to a low of $632 (up from $600 in 2023) for taxpayers with no children.

Instituted in 1975 and made permanent in 1978, the EITC is intended to relieve poverty by incentivizing people to work so they have earned income to make them eligible. Working taxpayers receive EITC payments of about $57 billion annually, most of it going to parents.

EITC Qualifying 

Parents reviewing qualifications for the earned income tax credit (EITC).

The dollar amount of the EITC slides up and down based on your total earnings and number of children. Benefits rise with each additional qualified child, up to three or more children ($4,213 for one, $6,960 for two and $7,830 for three or more). For eligible workers without children, maximum credits stand at $632. So parents see much higher credits. But the EITC encourages labor force participation for all qualifying lower-income taxpayers.

Basic thresholds for EITC eligibility include having income below set limits tied to your filing status and number of claimed dependents, receiving investment or interest income below $11,600 for tax year 2024 (up from $11,000 in 2023), meeting citizenship and residency requirements, having a valid Social Security number, using a permitted filing status, and earning qualifying income through work.

Additionally, you must reside in the United States for over half the year before you can qualify without kids. Exceptions exist for military personnel, some clergy members, surviving spouses and taxpayers with disabilities.

Filing status matters too. You can only get the EITC if you are married filing separately when you meet certain conditions. To qualify as head of household, you must be unmarried (which can include legal separation) while paying for over half of the cost of keeping up the home where you and your qualifying dependents lived.

And, if you’re married filing jointly, only one spouse needs to satisfy the rules regarding Social Security numbers and U.S. residency. In other words, non-citizens can qualify if married to a citizen or resident alien meeting those requirements.

EITC Earnings Limits

The rules for determining whether your earned income allows you to claim the EITC are somewhat more complicated. Eligible earned income varies depending on your tax filing status and number of children. The table below shows the 2024 income level where this tax credit gets phased out completely. For example, a single taxpayer with two children needs earned income below $55,768 to get any portion of the credit.

Number of ChildrenMaximum EITCEarnings Level Where EITC Get Fully Phased Out
0 $632$18,591 singles; $25,511 joint return
1$4,213$49,084 singles; $56,004 joint
2$6,960$55,768 singles; $62,688 joint
3$7,830$59,899 singles; $66,819 joint

These maximum earnings figures adjust annually. In 2023, the thresholds were slightly lower. The maximum possible EITC credit also rises each year to adjust for cost of living.

Bottom Line

A parent calculating how much money he could get back with he earned income tax credit (EITC).

In providing substantial financial assistance to working families, the earned income tax credit aims to lift millions out of poverty annually. In 2024, taxpayers earning under $66,819 may be eligible to claim the EITC, receiving up to $7,830 depending on income, number of children and filing status. Ensuring eligibility requires satisfying earned income limits, having Social Security numbers for everyone listed on the return all dependents and meeting rules regarding filing status, citizenship and household expenses.

Tax Planning Tips

  • A financial advisor can help you plan your earnings and tax withholdings to maximize use of the earned income tax credit. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Look ahead to the financial implications of your next tax return by using SmartAsset’s income tax calculator to project how much you’ll owe or receive as a refund.  

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