Earned Income Credit - Information and Rules

Earned Income Credit for Tax Year 2019

The Earned Income Credit (EIC) is a tax credit for certain people who work and have earned income below a certain level.

Rules for all Taxpayers - with or without qualifying children:

  • Your adjusted gross income and earned income must meet the limits shown below
  • Taxpayer must have a valid social security number that allows you to work
  • Filing status cannot be Married Filing Separately
  • Taxpayer must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien all year (A nonresident alien for any part of the year is not eligible for EIC unless married to a U.S. citizen or resident alien, and an election is made to file a joint return in which both the taxpayer and spouse are taxed on world-wide income)
  • Taxpayer cannot file Form 2555) Foreign Earned Income
  • Investment income must be $3,600 or less
  • Taxpayer must have earned income from employment, self-employment, or another source

*If you are married and file a joint return with your spouse, your spouse must also meet the EIC rules for everyone, above.

Rules if taxpayer has one or more qualifying child:

  • Child must meet the relationship, age, residency, and joint return criteria as stated below to be a qualifying child for EIC
  • Qualifying child cannot be claimed for EIC by more than one taxpayer
  • Taxpayer (and spouse) cannot be the qualifying child of another person

Rules if the taxpayer does not have a qualifying child:

  • Taxpayer (or spouse) must be at least age 25 but under age 65 at the end of 2018 (for the 2018 return, per IRS Publication 596 page 16, you would meet the age test if you were born after December 31, 1953 and before January 2, 1994)
  • Taxpayer (or spouse) cannot be the dependent of another taxpayer
  • Taxpayer (or spouse) cannot be the qualifying child of another taxpayer
  • Taxpayer (or spouse) must have lived in the U.S. for more than 6 months in 2018

Earned income and adjusted gross income (AGI) must each be less than:

  • $50,162 ($55,952 if married filing jointly), with three or more qualifying children
  • $46,703 ($52,493 if married filing jointly), with two qualifying children
  • $41,094 ($46,884 if married filing jointly), with one qualifying child
  • $15,570 ($21,370 if married filing jointly), with no qualifying children

The maximum credit is:

  • $6,557 with three or more qualifying children
  • $5,828 with two qualifying children
  • $3,526 with one qualifying child
  • $529 with no qualifying children 

A qualifying child for the EIC is a child who:

  • Is your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of any of them (for example, your grandchild, niece, or nephew), and
    • Was under age 19 at the end of 2019 and younger than you (or your spouse, if filing jointly) or
    • Was under age 24 at the end of 2019, a student, and younger than you (or your spouse, if filing jointly) or
    • Permanently and totally disabled at any time during 2019, regardless of age, and
  • Is not filing a joint return for 2019 (or is filing a joint return for 2019 only as a claim for refund)
  • Lived with you in the United States (the 50 states or the District of Columbia) for more than half of 2019
  • Has a valid social security number

Adopted child. An adopted child is always treated as your own child. The term “adopted child” includes a child who was lawfully placed with you for legal adoption.

Foster child. For the EIC, a person is your foster child if the child is placed with you by an authorized placement agency or by judgment, decree, or other order of any court of competent jurisdiction. An authorized placement agency includes:

  • A state or local government agency,
  • A tax-exempt organization licensed by a state, and 
  • An Indian tribal government or an organization authorized by an Indian tribal government to place Indian children.

Permanently and totally disabled. Your child is permanently and totally disabled if both of the following apply.

  1. He or she cannot engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a physical or mental condition.
  2. A doctor determines the condition has lasted or can be expected to last continuously for at least a year or can lead to death.

Additional Information

Per IRS Publication 596 Earned Income Credit (EIC), starting on page 9:

Student defined. To qualify as a student, your child must be, during some part of each of any 5 calendar months during the calendar year:

  1. A full-time student at a school that has a regular teaching staff, course of study, and regular student body at the school, or
  2. A student taking a full-time, on-farm training course given by a school described in (1), or a state, county, or local government.

The 5 calendar months need not be consecutive.

A full-time student is a student who is enrolled for the number of hours or courses the school considers to be full-time attendance.

School defined. A school can be an elementary school, junior or senior high school, college, university, or technical, trade, or mechanical school. However, on-the-job training courses, correspondence schools, and schools offering courses only through the Internet don't count as schools for the EIC.

Vocational high school students. Students who work in co-op jobs in private industry as a part of a school's regular course of classroom and practical training are considered full-time students.

For additional information, please refer to the following links: