Child and Dependent Care Credit Q&As

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If you pay for childcare so you can work, you may qualify for a credit on your tax return.

The credit is not limited to expenses for the care of young children. You may also be able to take the credit if you must pay for care of a disabled spouse or other qualifying person.

How much can the Child and Dependent Credit be worth to me?

This credit pays you back for as much as 35% of up to $3,000 you pay for child or dependent care. If you have two or more children, your credit may be as much as 35% of up to $6,000 in expenses.

The percentage of your child and dependent care expenses you can take as a credit is reduced as your income rises over $15,000. For example, if your income is over $15,000 but not over $17,000, you may receive a credit for 34% of your expenses. If your adjusted gross income is over $43,000, you may receive a child and dependent care credit equal to 20% of your expenses.

How old does the child or dependent have to be?

The credit is generally based on expenses of caring for your child under age 13. This age limit does not apply if the child or other person needs help dressing, cleaning, or eating, or if the child needs constant attention to prevent injury to themselves or others.

Can I take the credit for someone other than my own child?

Yes. If your spouse or another person lived with you for more than half the year and was unable to care for himself or herself, you may be able to take the dependent care tax credit.

If this person is not your spouse, he or she must be either your dependent or someone who would be your dependent, except that they do not meet the gross income or joint return rules, or because you or your spouse can be claimed as a dependent on someone else's return.

Who has to provide the care?

Your payment must be made to a care provider who is not your spouse or the parent of the child. The caregiver also cannot be your child under age 19, or a dependent of you or your spouse.

Do I have to be working to take this credit?

You generally must work or be looking for work to take this credit. If you are married, you must both work or be looking for work. Your eligible expenses are generally limited to your earned income or your spouse's earned income, whichever is less.

You may qualify for an exception if one spouse has earned income, and the other spouse is a full–time student or is disabled.

What if my employer provides dependent care benefits?

If your employer provides day care benefits, you can exclude up to $5,000 of these benefits from your taxable income. These benefits can be in the form of employer contributions, employer-sponsored day care, or taken as a deduction from your paycheck.

What information do I need to claim this credit on my tax return?

You need information about the qualifying child or other person, the care provider, and the amount you paid for care.

You must provide the taxpayer identification number of each child or other qualifying individual - generally his or her Social Security number.

You also need information from the care provider. If it's a day care center, you generally need their Employer ID Number (EIN). If the care provider is a tax-exempt organization, you need only report the name and address on your return. If the provider is an individual, you need his or her Social Security number.

You can use Form W-10, Dependent Care Provider's Identification and Certification, to request this information from the care provider.

Can I take this credit if I am married and don't file a joint return?

If you're married and living with your spouse, you generally must file a joint return to take the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

However, if you are legally separated or living apart from your spouse, you may be able to file a separate return and still take the credit. You are considered to be married and living apart if you do not file a tax return with your spouse, your home is the home of a qualifying person for more than half the year, you pay more than half the cost of keeping up your home for the year, and your spouse does not live in your home for the last six months of the year.

What tax form do I file to claim this credit?

TaxAct calculates this credit on Form 2441, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.