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Special Collection: Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Other Tax Credits

Over forty years ago, Congress authorized a federal tax credit program called the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). It was conceived as an incentive to "make work pay" by giving low-income workers a refund for a percentage of their earnings. Since its inception, the EITC has been heralded as one of the most successful anti-poverty strategies in the United States, and numerous other tax credit programs have followed. Today there are tax credit programs for low-income workers with children and other dependents and for individuals seeking higher education, as well as outreach efforts designed specifically for underserved populations.

This collection highlights key resources for the EITC, the Child Tax Credit, Health Coverage Tax Credits, and others. It includes general information and fact sheets, reports and research, information about how tax credits affect eligibility for other federal benefits, resources to access state specific statistics and contact information, and resources specific to three underserved populations (Native Americans, workers who are immigrants, and workers with disabilities). It also provides information on free tax preparation services across the country and ways to avoid predatory lending and tax services. Please contact the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence with comments, questions, or suggestions for new additions to this collection.

This Special Collection draws heavily from the work of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, one of the nation's premier policy organizations working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals.

Special thanks to Anna Melbin, Founder of Catalyst Consulting and Training for originally developing this collection in partnership with the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.

Table of Contents:

  • Acronym & Abbreviation Key
    Click here for a list of organizational, governmental, and trade-related acronyms and terms contained in the annotated entries of this special Earned Income Tax Credit collection.

Introduction | Back to top

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC or EIC), is a fully refundable federal income tax credit for low- to moderate-income working individuals and families. This tax credit program was first authorized by Congress in 1975, and since then has become one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in the U.S. It has been legislatively expanded many times over the past 40 years, most notably through the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and most recently through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Originally the program was conceived to "make work pay", to offset the burden of social security taxes and provide an incentive for work.

The EITC equals a fixed percentage of earnings, up to a maximum amount; when the EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed it results in a fully refundable tax credit. The maximum depends on the number of children in the family. For example, in tax year 2015:

  • Single workers who were not raising children in their home with an income less than $14,820, or married workers with an income less than $20,330 could earn an EIC up to $503;
  • Single workers who were raising one child in their home with an income of less than $39,131, or married workers with an income less than $44,651 could earn an EIC of up to $3,359;
  • Single workers who were raising two children in their home with an income less than $44,454, or married workers with an income less than $49,974 could earn an EIC of up to $5,548, and;
  • Single workers who were raising three or more children in their home with an income less than $47,747, or married workers with an income less than $53,267 could get an EIC of up to $6,242. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2015)

In the 2013 tax year, the most recent year for which data are available, over 27 million working families and individuals received the EITC (Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 2015). Approximately 6.6 million people, half of them children, are lifted out of poverty annually due to the EITC (Internal Revenue Service, 2012). Yet despite this success, the Internal Revenue Service estimates that each year between 15 - 25% of eligible workers do not claim the EITC (Internal Revenue Service, 2012). In response, advocacy groups have created and launched outreach campaigns to raise awareness about the EITC and increase the number of eligible participants who take advantage of the tax credit.

Due to the relative success of the EITC, other tax credit programs have also been authorized. These include tax credits specifically for families with children and other dependents, tax credits for higher education activities, and incentive programs for employers. The Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit programs offset expenses related to caring for children and other dependents, while the American Opportunity Tax Credit can be claimed against tuition and other expenses related to higher education.

The EITC and CTC, along with other federal benefits and tax credit programs, can help domestic violence survivors regain financial footing and autonomy. Domestic violence survivors often experience under- or un-employment, economic instability, and poverty as a result of the economic abuse they experience. Abusers may prohibit survivors from accessing bank accounts, assets and opportunities for increasing skills and employment. As a lack of financial resources is very often the primary barrier for survivors wanting to leave the abusive relationship, helping survivors increase their economic stability and independence is not only a critical component of safety planning, but may also facilitate a successful escape from an abusive partner. The EITC, CTC, and other tax credit programs are effective anti-poverty strategies in the U.S., and ones that advocates can help domestic violence survivors to access.

This collection highlights key resources related to tax credit programs, including the EITC, CTC, Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, Adoption Tax Credit, Higher Education Tax Credits, and Health Coverage Tax Credits. It includes general information and fact sheets; tax credits and public benefits eligibility; population-specific EITC considerations and programs, (including resources specific to domestic violence survivors and advocates working with survivors, such as tips for increasing survivors' access to the EITC, tax information provided by the IRS, and links for additional information); laws and public policy; reports and research; state-specific information; information on other tax credits for low-income individuals and families; and finally, information about free tax preparation services across the country.

EITC: General Information and Fact Sheets | Back to top

This section provides resources with summaries of the EITC and basic facts about eligibility, credit levels, and how to apply for this tax credit program. Information in this section is general and not specific to domestic violence survivors or other underserved populations.
  • EITC Central | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Updated April 10, 2015)
    The IRS maintains this site as a comprehensive online resource for EITC information, including a "What's Hot" page to provide timely updates on the EITC program, including legal and administrative changes.
    + View Summary
  • EITC Income Limits, Maximum Credit Amounts and Tax Law Updates | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Updated November 24, 2015)
    This page includes the 2015 tax year income limits, maximum EITC amount, and brief discussion of the American Tax Relief Act of 2012, as well as recognition of same-sex marriage for federal tax purposes. Information for tax years 2012 through 2015, as well as a preview of tax year 2016, is also available.
    + View Summary
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – Use the EITC Assistant to Find Out If You Should Claim It | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Updated January 22, 2015)
    This current year EITC Assistant will help you: find out your filing status; find out if you are eligible for EITC; determine if your child or children meet the tests for a qualifying child; and estimate the amount of credit.
    + View Summary

For more than 25 years, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has led a national effort to promote tax benefits that provide critical work supports for employees earning low to moderate wages. Get It Back Campaign partners include community organizations, employers, social service programs, advocacy groups, government agencies, financial institutions and many others who help connect workers to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC), and free tax filing assistance.

This website provides the information you need to develop a vibrant Tax Credit Outreach Campaign. Get started with these three steps:

  • Read up on the tax credits, free tax filing, and why they’re important for workers.
  • Find out how you can reach out to workers.
  • Use printable materials in your outreach campaign.
  • The EITC and the Refundable Child Tax Credit Are Extremely Important to Women’s Economic Security | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by the National Women’s Law Center (Updated December 2014)
    This fact sheet evidences how refundable tax credits for low- and moderate income working families, including the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), provide a significant economic boost to women and their families.
    + View Summary
  • EITC and CTC Comparison Chart | PDF PDF (1 p.)
    by the National EITC Outreach Campaign of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2015)
    This chart compares EITC and CTC qualifications based on income, taxpayer ID number, filing status, age requirement, and child qualifications.
    + View Summary
  • Earned Benefit Toolkit: Employer Guide | PDF PDF (59 p.)
    by the National Human Service Assembly (2010)
    This comprehensive manual is for nonprofit organizations who are interested in promoting access to earned benefits, including tax credits, among their lower earning employees.
    + View Summary
  • Podcast: The Earned Income Tax Credit | HTML HTML
    by the National EITC Outreach Campaign of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (January 29, 2010)
    This question and answer session provides clear information about what the EITC is, who is eligible, and where to access additional resources.
    + View Summary

Tax Credits and Public Benefits Eligibility | Back to top

Many eligible taxpayers do not take advantage of the various tax credit and income deduction programs available for fear of losing their public benefits, such as TANF, food stamps, and SSI. The resources in this section provide general information about how the EITC and other tax credit programs impact eligibility for other types of federal assistance. Also included is a report outlining the importance of using various federal benefit programs, including tax credits, as complements to a larger anti-poverty strategy.
  • Q&A: Public Benefits | HTML HTML
    by the National EITC Outreach Campaign of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2011)
    This fact sheet provides answers to basic questions about how the EITC and CTC affect eligibility for public assistance benefits.
    + View Summary
  • AFI Guidance on Tax Refunds and Public Benefits | HTML HTML
    by the Assets for Independence Resource Center (February 4, 2011)
    This document explains how provisions under new tax legislation affect eligibility for federally funded services, particularly the Assets for Independence program.
    + View Summary
  • Improving Access to Public Benefits: Helping Eligible Individuals and Families Get the Income Supports they Need | PDF PDF (20 p.)
    by Shelly Waters Boots, for the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation (April 2010)
    This report discusses several federal public benefit programs, including the EITC, and the importance of having all these programs accessible to low-income people in order to reduce poverty and increase economic stability.
    + View Summary

Population-Specific EITC Considerations and Programs | Back to top

Many social justice advocates, organizations and policy makers across the United States are concerned with increasing the economic stability of underserved and marginalized populations. Numerous strategies are utilized towards this end, including tax credit and deduction programs. Resources here include tax preparation services, research on how to increase access to tax credit programs, and specific tax codes relevant to Native Americans, workers who are immigrants, and workers with disabilities. There are also helpful resources to address the concerns of domestic violence survivors in the tax filing process.

Domestic Violence Survivors
  • Helping Domestic Violence Survivors Claim the Earned Income Tax Credit | HTML HTML
    by the Assets for Independence Resource Center
    This brief fact sheet provides an overview of the EITC and how this anti-poverty strategy can be used specifically with domestic violence survivors. Links to additional resources are included.
    + View Summary
  • Innocent Spouse Relief (Including Separation of Liability and Equitable Relief) | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Updated December 30, 2015)
    In some instances married people can get relief from joint tax liability. This site describes three types of relief, how they work together, and links to access the appropriate forms.
    + View Summary
Native Americans
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Sites in Native Communities | PDF PDF (4 p.)
    by Kristen Wagner & Amy Locklear Hertel for the Center for Social Development, Washington University (January 2010)
    This paper discusses the results of a research study with American Indian/Alaskan Natives/Native Hawaiians, to better understand how the EITC can benefit Native families and communities.
    + View Summary
  • A Tribal Leader's Guide to Launching an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Campaign | PDF PDF (68 p.)
    by First Nations Development Institute (April 2005)
    This manual is designed for Native American leaders and community members who are interested in launching an EITC awareness campaign. It includes an overview of the EITC, concrete strategies and tips, and outreach campaign tools and resources.
    + View Summary
Workers Who Are Immigrants
  • FAQs: Immigrant Workers | HTML HTML
    by the National EITC Outreach Campaign of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2015)
    To learn about EITC and CTC eligibility for working people who are immigrants, select “Immigrant Workers” under the “Sections” tab on the left of the webpage, or scroll down the main page until you reach the same title. Select each individual question to obtain the answer.
    + View Summary
  • Immigrant Families | HTML HTML
    by the National EITC Outreach Campaign of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2015)
    This webpage includes strategies to assist immigrant workers with claiming their tax credits. Strategies include: using bilingual materials; explaining tax credit information in other languages; promoting multi-lingual free tax help; distributing materials through schools and community events; and working with non-English language media. A list of resources is also included at the bottom of the webpage.
    + View Summary

“It is especially important for outreach messages to emphasize that immigrants who are legally authorized to work and have Social Security numbers (SSNs) may be eligible for the EITC, and that families may qualify for the CTC even if all family members do not yet have SSNs.” ~ National EITC Outreach Campaign of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number | HTML HTML
    by the National EITC Outreach Campaign of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2015)
    An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is issued by the IRS to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain, a Social Security number (SSN) issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Such individuals include immigrants in the U.S. who are not yet able to obtain a valid SSN, as well as nonresident aliens who are listed on a U.S. tax return. This webpage describes the purpose of the ITIN, as well as how it can be obtained.
    + View Summary
Workers with Disabilities
  • Living and Working with Disabilities: Tax Benefits and Credits | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Revised September 2013)
    This brochure outlines the various tax deduction, tax credit, and income inclusion programs available to people with disabilities.
    + View Summary
  • Publication 524: Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled | PDF PDF (14 p.)
    by the Internal Revenue Service (2015)
    This publication explains who is eligible for the credit for the elderly or the disabled, as well as how to figure the credit.
    + View Summary

Laws and Public Policy | Back to top

The EITC and other tax credit programs are authorized by various federal and state laws. The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (Act) was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in December 2010. The primary focus of the Act is to extend provisions under the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (commonly referred together as the "Bush tax cuts"). The Act also extends a few key provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, such as increases in the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Next, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in January 2013, extended a majority of tax cuts originally passed in 2001, 2003, and 2009. In December 2015, Congress passed a bipartisan tax deal that permanently extended key improvements in the EITC and CTC programs. This section includes resources on legislation and public policies relevant to the EITC and CTC, with a focus on policy analysis and useful information for the average reader. High level detail and technical information can be found at the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives websites.

  • Tax Policy Center Analysis of the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) | HTML HTML
    by the Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute and Brookings Institute (date unknown)
    Links included on this webpage provide a detailed description of ATRA's provisions and tables showing the law’s distributional effects and effective marginal tax rates on different sources of income.
    + View Summary
  • Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010: Information Center | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Updated October 2015)
    The Act was passed and signed into law in December 2010. It extends Bush-era tax cuts, unemployment insurance, and specific provisions under ARRA including key tax credit programs for families. This page provides an overview of the Act and implications for tax payers.
    + View Summary
  • Policy Basics: The Earned Income Tax Credit | PDF PDF
    by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (Revised November 2015)
    This fact sheet provides background information on the EITC, including who is eligible, how the credit reduces poverty, key provisions of the credit at risk of expiring, and the 2015 parameters.
    + View Summary
  • Policy Basics: The Child Tax Credit | PDF PDF
    by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Updated August 2015)
    This fact sheet provides basic details about the CTC, including how it helps low-income working families and how it reduces poverty and expands children’s opportunities, as well as the key provisions that were at risk of expiring before they were permanently extended in the tax deal passed at the end of 2015.
    + View Summary
  • New Legislation Enacted Determining How Tax Refunds and Credits are Treated by Other Public Benefit Programs | HTML HTML
    by the National EITC Outreach Campaign of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2011)
    New legislation signed in December 2010 expanded certain tax credits and simplified how EITC and CTC refunds affect eligibility for other public benefits. This document explains the basics of the legislation and provides references for the statutory language.
    + View Summary
  • Tax Deal Makes Permanent Key Improvements to Working-Family Tax Credits | PDF PDF (4 p.)
    by Chuck Marr for the National EITC Outreach Campaign of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (December 2015)
    This report discusses the bipartisan tax deal that permanently extends key improvements in the CTC and the EITC that were slated to expire after 2017.
    + View Summary
  • New State Data Show EITC’s Widespread Anti-Poverty Impact | HTML HTML
    by Jane Williams and Elizabeth Kneebone for The Hatcher Group (January 2013)
    This blog is dedicated to providing up-to-date information on tax credit legislative activity, particularly introduced bills and signed law that relate to tax credit programs for families.
    + View Summary

Reports and Research | Back to top

This section includes a few key reports highlighting research on the EITC, tax credits for families with children, and the use of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program in Native American communities. Information about specific states' efforts to increase access to the EITC is also included.
  • EITC and Child Tax Credit Promote Work, Reduce Poverty, and Support Children’s Development, Research Finds | PDF PDF (17 p.)
    by Chuck Marr, Chye-Ching Huang, Arloc Sherman, and Brandon DeBot for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Updated October 2015)
    This article cites to research evidencing that the EITC and CTC lead to improved infant and maternal health, better school performance, greater college enrollment, increased work and earnings in the next generation, and Social Security retirement benefits.
    + View Summary
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Sites in Native Communities | PDF PDF (4 p.)
    by Kristen Wagner & Amy Locklear Hertel for the Center for Social Development, Washington University (January 2010)
    This paper discusses the results of a research study with American Indian/Alaskan Natives/Native Hawaiians, to better understand how the EITC can benefit Native families and communities.
    + View Summary
  • Making Care Less Taxing: Improving State Child and Dependent Care Tax Provisions | PDF PDF (60 p.)
    by the National Women's Law Center (April 2011)
    Many states do not offer tax assistance for low income families with care-related expenses. This report is designed to help state policy makers and advocates understand the benefits of care-related tax credits and assist them in implementing CDCTC provisions in their state.
    + View Summary
  • Strengthening the EITC for Childless Workers Would Promote Work and Reduce Poverty | PDF PDF (12 p.)
    by Chuck Marr and Chye-Ching Huang for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (February 2015)
    This article discusses how the EITC misses many low-wage childless workers, how strengthening the credit could provide social and economic benefits, and ideas on how to strengthen the credit for childless workers.
    + View Summary

State Specific Information | Back to top

State Map This section focuses on tax credit information that can be accessed for individual states, such as participation rates, legislative activity, and state specific contact information.
  • Tax Credits For Working Families | HTML HTML
    by The Hatcher Group (date unknown)
    This is an online resource for research and information about the EITC, CTC, CDCTC, and the Property Tax Circuit Breaker. The site also includes a State Resource Map, to locate extensive state-specific information about these tax credit programs, resources and legislative updates specific to each state, and contacts for additional information.
    + View Summary
  • State Fact Sheets: The Earned Income and Child Tax Credits | HTML HTML
    by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Updated September 2015)
    These fact sheets provide state-by-state data on how the EITC and CTC reduce poverty, who benefits, how state EITCs can supplement the federal credit, and who benefits from two proposals to strengthen the credits.
    + View Summary
  • States Can Adopt or Expand Earned Income Tax Credits to Build a Stronger Future Economy | PDF PDF (7 p.)
    by Erica Williams and Michael Leachman or the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Updated February 2015)
    This paper makes the case for why states should consider a state-based EITC program. It explains how the EITC design rewards working families, how most states model their EITCs on the federal credit, and how state EITCs are easy to administer and less expensive than many other tax cuts.
    + View Summary

Other Tax Credits for Low Income Individuals and Families | Back to top

A number of federal tax credit programs are designed specifically for workers with children and dependents. The goal of these programs is to help workers maintain employment by offsetting the costs related to caring for children and dependents. This section includes general information about tax credits for families, as well as specific information about the Child Tax Credit, the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, and the Adoption Tax Credit. In addition, this section explores credits available for those investing in their education and health.

General Information on Tax Credits for Families
  • A Reference Manual for Child Tax Benefits | PDF PDF
    by Elaine Maag, Stephanie Rennane, and C. Eugene Steuerle for The Urban–Brookings Tax Policy Center (April 2011)
    This manual describes a number of child-related provisions in the individual income tax code, and describes the specific benefits for each targeted group.
    + View Summary
  • Divorced and Separated Parents | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Updated October 2015)
    This webpage includes frequently asked questions about who claims EITC if the parents are divorced or separated.
    + View Summary
  • Noncustodial Parents, and Child Support & EITC Policy: Are We Moving Families Toward Economic Security? | PDF PDF (10 p.)
    by Nino Rodriguez, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (December 2013)
    This paper examines recent state tax policy proposals that will inevitably result in increased tax burdens on low-income families; considers the effect of federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits on parents who are court-ordered to pay child support; and calculates the impact of that policy on parents in four focus states.
    + View Summary
  • After DOMA: Tax Filing FAQs for Same-Sex Married Couples | PDF PDF (4 p.)
    by the Human Rights Campaign and the National Women’s Law Center (2015)
    This fact sheet includes questions and answers designed to give general information about tax issues that same-sex couples will be dealing with in tax year 2013 and beyond, and is not meant to be exhaustive. It is intended for general information purposes only.
    + View Summary
  • Chart Book: The Earned Income Credit and Child Tax Credit | PDF PDF (25 p.)
    by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (Updated November 2015)
    This chart book provides important information about these working-family tax credits and outlines priorities for making the credits more effective.
    + View Summary

The 2016 Tax Credits Outreach Campaign Toolkit, a project of the National Women’s Law Center, provides resources advocates and community leaders need to make sure families find out about state and federal tax credits for which they may be eligible. Resources include:

  • Tax Credits for Lower-Income Working Families Help 21 Million Mothers | HTML HTML
    by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (May 9, 2013)
    This fact sheet highlights how the EITC and CTC have proven to be powerful tools for reducing children's poverty and advancing their long-term well-being.
    + View Summary
Child Tax Credit
The Child Tax Credit (CTC) is a federal tax credit designed to help working families offset the cost of raising children. First created in 1997, the CTC was expanded through the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, and then again through ARRA in 2009, to provide greater tax relief and make a portion of the credit refundable. Those improvements were then extended through December 31, 2012 in The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. In 2015, key improvements to the CTC were permanently extended. The credit is currently worth up to $1,000 per child under age 17 and is subtracted from the amount of income taxes the family owes. If the CTC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, a portion of the difference is refundable. This section provides information about the CTC including relevant legislative activity, eligibility, and how to access the appropriate application forms.
  • Policy Basics: The Child Tax Credit | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Updated August 2015)
    This fact sheet provides basic details about the CTC, including how it helps low-income working families and how it reduces poverty and expands children’s opportunities, as well as the key provision that were at risk of expiring prior to being permanently extended at the end of 2105.
    + View Summary
  • Ten Facts about the Child Tax Credit | HTML HTML (1 p.)
    by the Internal Revenue Service (February 10, 2011)
    This page provides quick facts about the CTC including qualifications, credit levels, limitations, and links to application forms.
    + View Summary
  • The Child Tax Credit: Economic Analysis and Policy Options | HTML HTML (21 p.)
    by Margot L. Crandall-Hollick for Economic Legislation (May 14, 2013)
    The goal of this report to Congress is to analyze the economic impact of the CTC as it is currently structured, and to present policy options for changing parameters of the credit – as part of the potential tax reform in the 114th Congress or prior to the expiration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 changes at the end of 2017.
    + View Summary
  • Child Tax Credit: For use in preparing 2014 Returns | PDF PDF (12 p.)
    by the Internal Revenue Service (2014)
    This booklet provides basic facts about the CTC, as well as worksheets to specifically determine the amount of CTC to claim on tax returns.
    + View Summary
Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit
The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) is a federal tax credit designed to help working families pay for the care of qualified individuals including children, adult dependents, or an incapacitated spouse. The goal is to offset care-related expenses in order for the taxpayer to maintain employment. The CDCTC is a percentage of the care-related expenses and varies based on the taxpayer's adjusted gross income. Currently, taxpayers can claim up to $3,000 in dependent care expenses for one child/dependent and $6,000 for two children/dependents. The credit is up to 35% of these expenses, depending on income; the lower the income the higher the percentage of care-related expenses that can be claimed. The current CDCTC benefits are a result of an expansion in the 2001 tax cuts that were extended through December 31, 2012 as part of H.R. 4853, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. This section provides resources with general information about the CDCTC, including eligibility and how to access the appropriate forms.
  • Quick Facts: Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) | HTML HTML
    by the Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution (2010)
    This page provides information about what the CDCTC entails, eligibility and who benefits, and proposed changes for the future.
    + View Summary
  • Claiming the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (March 2013)
    This page provides basic facts about the CDCTC including qualified expenses, credit levels, limitations, and links to relevant forms.
    + View Summary
  • Improving the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit Would Help Working Families and Promote Tax Fairness for Women | PDF PDF (3 p.)
    by the National Women’s Law Center (October 30, 2013)
    For nearly 60 years, Congress has recognized that the childcare expenses parents incur in order to earn income should be acknowledged in the tax code. This review provides an opportunity to strengthen and improve the CDCTC to reflect the needs of the increased number of mothers of young children in the labor force and the rising costs of child care.
    + View Summary
  • Child and Dependent Care Expenses: For use in preparing 2015 Returns | PDF PDF (19 p.)
    by the Internal Revenue Service (2015)
    This booklet provides an overview of the CDCTC, explains which expenses qualify, and includes charts for determining eligibility and worksheets for correctly claiming the CDCTC on tax returns.
    + View Summary
Adoption Tax Credit
The Adoption Tax Credit (ATC) is a program for low-income people who have expended qualified out-of-pocket expenses related to the adoption of a child. The credit amount depends on the expenses incurred. Families who have adopted children with special needs can claim the full credit, even if the expenses are less than the credit amount. Adoptions of children with special needs from the foster care system are also fully eligible, even if no adoption expenses were incurred. The ATC was made permanent in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. This section provides basic information about the ATC and explanations of eligibility and how to apply.
  • Topic 607 - Adoption Credit and Adoption Assistance Programs | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Updated January 2016)
    This page provides general information about the ATC and changes to allowable expenses in the past few years.
    + View Summary
  • 2015 Adoption Tax Credit Information | HTML HTML
    by American Adoptions (2016)
    This webpage provides an overview of the Federal Adoption Tax Credit, and provides brief descriptions of qualifying adoption expenses, state adoption tax credits, adoption disruption, dependency tax exemption, and adoption tax credit before finalization.
    + View Summary
Higher Education Tax Credits
The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), which expanded and renamed the already-existing Hope and Lifetime Learning credit, can be claimed for tuition and certain fees for higher education. The AOTC, which was to expire at the end of 2012, was extended through December 2017 by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. This section provides general information about the AOTC and allowable expenses.
  • Two Education Credits Help Pay Higher Education Costs | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (March 29, 2013)
    This fact sheet includes basic information on the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit, as well as links to related tax forms.
    + View Summary
  • Tax Incentives for Higher Education | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Updated August 2015)
    This page provides information about the Hope and Lifetime Learning credit, tuition deductions, and interest deductions for qualified student loans.
    + View Summary
  • American Opportunity Tax Credit: Questions and Answers | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Updated August 2015)
    This page provides basic information about the AOTC, including how to qualify, which expenses are allowable, and where to access application forms.
    + View Summary
Health Coverage Tax Credits
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also sometimes known as Obamacare), millions of Americans qualify for financial assistance to help cover the cost of health insurance. There are also special rules that pertain to victims of domestic violence. Note that the resources and information provided here pertain only to people enrolling in coverage through the federal marketplace. Different rules may apply to those receiving coverage through a state marketplace plan; through Medicaid, Medicare, or CHIP; or through an employer-sponsored plan.
  • The Premium Tax Credit | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Updated November 2015)
    This IRS website provides basic information on eligibility for the premium tax credit, reporting changes in circumstance to the marketplace, and claiming the credit on federal tax returns. The website also links to IRS publications, regulations, and notices related to the premium tax credit.
    + View Summary
  • Key Facts You Need to Know About: Premium Tax Credits | PDF PDF (9 p.)
    by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Updated September 2014)
    This collection of key facts explains who is eligible for the tax credit, how the size of an individual or family’s credit is calculated, how mid-year changes in income and household size affect tax credit eligibility, and how the reconciliation between the tax credit amount a person receives and the amount for which he or she is eligible will be handled.
    + View Summary
  • Premium Tax Credit Information & Resources | HTML HTML
    by the National Women’s Law Center (November 2015)
    These materials are designed to provide general information about available financial assistance to help cover the cost of health insurance, specifically the premium tax credits. Resources include factsheets and webinars on how life changes and changes in income can impact access to the tax credit.
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  • Eligibility for Premium Tax Credit for Victims of Domestic Abuse | PDF PDF (3 p.)
    by the Internal Revenue Service
    This notice provides guidance on circumstances in which a victim of domestic abuse who is married within the meaning of § 7703 of the Internal Revenue Code and is unable to file a joint tax return may claim a premium tax credit under § 36B.
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  • Will you save on health coverage? Do a quick check | HTML HTML
    by U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services (date unknown)
    Use this interactive webpage to determine if you qualify for a health insurance plan with savings based on your income, as well as whether your state is expanding its Medicaid program – and, if it is, whether you qualify based on your income alone.
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Free Tax Preparation Services | Back to top

Communities all across the country have free tax preparation services for individuals and families. The largest is the IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which provides free tax preparation and resources for low and moderate income (generally $49,000 and below) people who cannot prepare their own tax returns. Certified volunteers receive training on basic tax return preparation as well as special tax credits such as the EITC and CTC. VITA sites are typically located at easily accessible places such as community centers, libraries, schools, and shopping malls. Most locations also offer free electronic filing. The IRS also sponsors tax service programs for people over 60 years of age and military personnel. This section provides information about the VITA program, research on the effectiveness of the services, and where to find free tax preparation services by geographic area. Also included is information about the predatory lending practice of Refund Anticipation Loans.

NCTC Logo

The National Community Tax Coalition is the largest membership organization for community-based organizations offering free tax and financial services to low-income working families in the U.S. The Coalition has over 2000 members and engages in federal and state advocacy, as well as provides training and resources. The site has links to resources as well as where to find free tax services by state and by member directory.

  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program | HTML HTML
    by the Tax Coalition (March 2015)
    This webpage describes who can help through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program as well as how to prepare for VITA assistance.
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  • Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Updated November 2015)
    The IRS VITA and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs offer free tax help for taxpayers who qualify. This site provides basic information about these programs, how to find services by state, and what type of documentation is needed.
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  • About AARP Foundation Tax-Aide | HTML HTML
    by the AARP Foundation (Updated January 2014)
    The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is an all-volunteer free tax counseling and preparation service for low and middle income people. The program also offers assistance for people who cannot leave their home ("shut ins").
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  • Something Old, Something New in Tax-Time Financial Products: Refund Anticipation Checks and the Next Wave of Quickie Tax | PDF PDF (36 p.)
    by Chi Chi Wu for the National Consumer Law Center (February 2013)
    This financial products report explains the replacement of refund anticipation loans with refund anticipation checks, the difference between the two products, and historical data on the two products.
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Acronym & Abbreviation Key | Back to top

  • AARP - American Association of Retired Persons
  • AFI - Assets for Independence
  • ARRA - American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • ATC - Adoption Tax Credit
  • CBPP - Center for Budget Policy and Priorities
  • CDCTC - Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit
  • CSD - Center for Social Development
  • CTC - Child Tax Credit
  • EIC - Earned Income Credit
  • EITC - Earned Income Tax Credit
  • FVPSA - Family Violence Prevention and Services Program
  • IRS - Internal Revenue Service
  • ITIN - Individual Tax Identification Number
  • NCTC - National Community Tax Coalition
  • NGA (Center for Best Practices) - National Governor's Association
  • NHSA - National Human Service Assembly
  • NNEDV - National Network to End Domestic Violence
  • NRCDV - National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
  • RAL - Refund Anticipation Loan
  • SSI - Supplemental Security Income
  • SSDI - Social Security Disability Insurance
  • TANF - Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • TCE - Tax Counseling for the Elderly
  • VITA - Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program