10 Things You Need To Know About The Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit is for people who work, but have lower incomes. Here are some things you may not know about the EITC.

1. A quarter of all taxpayers that qualify don’t claim the credit. The Earned Income Tax Credit is money you can use to make a difference in your life. Just because you didn’t qualify last year, doesn’t mean you won’t this year.  As your financial situation changes from year-to-year you should review the EITC eligibility rules to determine if you qualify.

2. If you qualify, it could be worth up to $4,800 this year. If you qualify, you could pay less federal tax or even get a refund. The EITC is based on the amount of your earned income and whether or not there are qualifying children in your household.

3. Your filing status cannot be Married Filing Separately. Your filing status must be married filing jointly, head of household, qualifying widow or single.

4. You must have a valid Social Security Number. You, your spouse (if filing a joint return) and any qualifying child listed on Schedule EIC must have a valid SSN issued by the Social Security Administration.

5. You must have earned income. This credit is called the “earned income” tax credit because you must work and have earned income to qualify. You have earned income if you work for someone who pays you wages or you are self-employed.

6. Married couples and single people without kids may qualify. If you do not have qualifying children, you must also meet the age and residency requirements as well as dependency rules.

7. Special rules apply to members of the U.S. Armed Forces in combat zones. Members of the military can elect to include their nontaxable combat pay in earned income for the EITC. If you make the election, the combat pay remains nontaxable, but you must include in earned income all nontaxable combat pay you received.

8. You can visit the IRS Web site to estimate your credit online. It’s easy to determine whether you qualify for the EITC. The EITC Assistant, an interactive tool available on IRS.gov, removes the guesswork from eligibility rules. Just answer a few simple questions to find out if you qualify and to estimate the amount of your EITC. You will see the results of your responses right away.

9. E-file programs will figure the credit for you. If you are preparing your taxes electronically, the software program you use will figure the credit for you. If you qualify for the credit you may also be eligible for Free File. You can access Free File through the IRS Web site at IRS.gov.

10. Advanced Earned Income Tax Credit. You don’t have to wait until you file your tax return to receive your EITC. Advance EITC is a portion of the EITC that qualified workers may be able to receive in advance payments, added to their wages throughout the year. For more information, see Form W-5, Earned Income Credit Advance Payment Certificate.

For more information about the EITC and Advance EITC see IRS Publication 596, Earned Income Credit. This publication (available in both English and Spanish) and Form W-5 can be downloaded from IRS.gov or ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

An Earned Income Tax Credit outreach program in Boston
An Earned Income Tax Credit outreach program in Boston

Tax Tip: Want a bigger paycheck? Check out the Advanced Earned Income Credit.

Internal Revenue Service Tax Tips on Shoeboxed Blog

Why wait? You may be eligible for a tax credit right now that could mean larger paychecks this summer. This benefit is called the Advanced Earned Income Credit or Advance EIC.

If you expect to qualify for the credit in 2008, you may be able to start getting part of the credit with your pay now. Otherwise, you could wait until you file your tax return in 2009.

To receive part of the credit with your pay, you must expect to have at least one qualifying child for the current year, expect to fall within certain income limits, and expect to meet certain other conditions. You cannot get the Advance EIC if you do not expect to have a qualifying child, even if you expect to be eligible to claim the EIC on your current year tax return. To see if you qualify, ask your employer for the current year Form W-5, Earned Income Credit Advance Payment Certificate.

If you qualify, complete Form W–5 and give it to your employer. Your employer will then add the advance earned income credit to your net pay each pay period you are eligible.

You may have only one Form W–5 in effect with a current employer at one time. If you and your spouse are both employed, each of you must file a separate Form W–5.

If your situation changes after you give your employer Form W–5, you must give your employer a new Form W–5. For example, give your employer a new Form W–5 if you no longer expect to qualify for the EIC or you no longer want to get advance payments of the credit with your pay.

Remember, if you receive the EIC with your pay during the current year, you must file Form 1040A or Form 1040 for the current year to report the advance payments you received during the year and to take advantage of any remaining credit. You cannot use Form 1040EZ. The total of the advance payments you receive will be shown on your current year Form W–2.

The current year Form W–5 expires on December 31, 2008. If you expect to be able to claim the credit in advance for the following year, you must give a new completed Form W–5 which is valid for that year to your employer.

For more information about the Advance EIC see IRS Publication 596, Earned Income Credit. This publication (available in both English and Spanish) and Form W-5 can be downloaded from IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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