What is the Child Tax Credit?


The Child Tax Credit allows you to claim up to $1,000 for each of your “qualifying” children who are under the age of 17 – provided you meet certain income limits.

When Congress passed the fiscal cliff agreement in January 2013, lawmakers put the Child Tax Credit into effect for five years, locking it in from 2012 through 2016.

So if you’re filing your tax returns, it’s worthwhile to learn more about the Child Tax Credit, which can lower the taxes you owe to Uncle Sam or possibly get you a refund.

Who is a Qualifying Child?

For the purpose of claiming the Child Tax Credit on your 2012 taxes, you must have a “qualifying” child to get this credit.

A “qualifying” child must be your dependent, under the age of 17 at the end of 2012, and the child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or U.S. resident alien.

2012 Income Requirements for the Child Tax Credit

You must also meet certain income requirements to qualify for Child Tax Credit.

For 2012, your adjusted gross income must have fallen below the following levels in order for you to be eligible for the full Child Tax Credit:

$110,000 – if you are married filing jointly

$75,000 – if you are single, head of household, or a qualifying widow(er)

$55,000 – if you are married filing separately

Once your income goes above these amounts, your Child Tax Credit begins to get phased out. The Child Tax Credit is reduced $50 for every $1,000 – or every part of $1,000 – that your adjusted gross income exceeds the figures shown above.

The Additional Child Tax Credit

It’s also important to know that the $1,000 Child Tax Credit can be both a nonrefundable and a refundable credit. The IRS calls the refundable part of the Child Tax Credit the “Additional Child Tax Credit.”

For the 2012 tax year, the Additional Child Tax Credit may be available to you if you:

  • had three or more qualifying children, and
  • you had earned income of $3,000 or more

How to Claim the Child Tax Credit

To claim the Child Tax Credit, most people can simply fill in the amount of the credit for which they qualify on line 51 of their 1040 form – or on line 33 for those filing a 1040A form.

However, if you are claiming the Child Tax Credit and your dependent child has an ITIN instead of a Social Security Number, then you are required to also attach Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit, to your 1040 or 1040A form.

For more information on this topic, see IRS Publication 972, Child Tax Credit.

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