A tax credit reduces the amount of tax you must pay. A refundable tax credit not only reduces the federal tax you owe, but also could result in a refund.

Here are five credits the IRS wants you to consider before filing your 2012 federal income tax return:

  1. The Earned Income Tax Credit is a refundable credit for people who work and don't earn a lot of money. The maximum credit for 2012 returns is $5,891 for workers with three or more children. Eligibility is determined based on earnings, filing status and eligible children. Workers without children may be eligible for a smaller credit. If you worked and earned less than $50,270, use the EITC Assistant tool on IRS.gov to see if you qualify. For more information, see Publication 596, Earned Income Credit.
  2. The Child and Dependent Care Credit is for expenses you paid for the care of your qualifying children under age 13, or for a disabled spouse or dependent. The care must enable you to work or look for work. For more information, see Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.
  3. The Child Tax Credit may apply to you if you have a qualifying child under age 17. The credit may help reduce your federal income tax by up to $1,000 for each qualifying child you claim on your return. You may be required to file the new Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit, with your tax return to claim the credit. See Publication 972, Child Tax Credit, for more information.
  4. The Retirement Savings Contributions Credit (Saver's Credit) helps low-to-moderate income workers save for retirement. You may qualify if your income is below a certain limit and you contribute to an IRA or a retirement plan at work. The credit is in addition to any other tax savings that apply to retirement plans. For more information, see Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs).
  5. The American Opportunity Tax Credit helps offset some of the costs that you pay for higher education. The AOTC applies to the first four years of post-secondary education. The maximum credit is $2,500 per eligible student. Forty percent of the credit, up to $1,000, is refundable. You must file Form 8863, Education Credits, to claim it if you qualify. For more information, see Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.

Make sure you qualify before claiming any tax credit. You can always visit IRS.gov to learn about the rules. The free IRS publications mentioned are also available on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

TaxACT's Q&A interview guides you through the criteria for each of these credits to help you maximize your refund. Start your tax return now for free.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

August 1 — Form 720 taxes
File Form 720 for the second quarter of 2016.

August 1 — Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during June.

August 1 — Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in June.

August 1 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the second quarter of 2016. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules.

August 1 — Certain small employers
Deposit any undeposited tax if your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2016 but less than $2,500 for the second quarter.

August 1 — Federal unemployment tax
Deposit the tax owed through June if more than $500.

August 1 — All employers
If you maintain an employee benefit plan, such as a pension, profitsharing, or stock bonus plan, file Form 5500 or 5500EZ for calendar year 2015. If you use a fiscal year as your plan year, file the form by the last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends.

August 10 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during July, report them to your employer - Details

August 10 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the second quarter of 2016. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full.

August 10 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method.
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of July.

August 12 — Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 16 days of July.

August 15 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in July.

August 15 — Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in July.

August 25 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method.
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 16 days of July.

August 29 — Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of August.

August 31 — Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in July.

August 31 — Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during July.

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