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

Over thirty-five 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, for individuals seeking higher education, and 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 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 35 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 2014:

  • Single workers who were not raising children in their home with an income less than $14,590, or married workers with an income less than $20,020 could earn an EIC up to $496;
  • Single workers who were raising one child in their home with an income of less than $38,511, or married workers with an income less than $43,941 could earn an EIC of up to $3,305;
  • Workers who were raising two children in their home with an income less than $43,756, or married workers with an income less than $49,186 could earn an EIC of up to $5,460, and;
  • Workers who were raising three or more children in their home with an income less than $46,997, or married workers with an income less than $52,427 could get an EIC of up to $6,143. (National Earned Income Tax Credit Outreach Campaign, 2014).

In 2012, more than 27 million families claimed EIC refunds worth $62.9 billion (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Tax Credit Outreach 101). 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.

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 is a proven anti-poverty strategy in the U.S., and one that advocates can help domestic violence survivors 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
    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
    This page has the 2014 tax year income limits, maximum EITC amount, and brief discussion of the American Tax Relief Act of 2012, as well as discussion of the fact that legal same-sex marriages will be recognized for federal tax purposes. Information for tax years 2011 through 2013, as well as a preview of tax year 2015, 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 March 21, 2014)
    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
  • National Earned Income Tax Credit Outreach Campaign | HTML HTML
    from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
    In 1989, the CBPP launched its first annual EITC outreach campaign to promote the EITC, the Child Tax Credit and free tax filing assistance. This site provides numerous resources related to the campaign, including an Outreach Kit.
    + View Summary
  • 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 (December 3, 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
Your Tax Credit Outreach Campaign: What You Need to Know [PDF - 22 p.]
"For over 20 years, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has led a national effort to promote tax credits for lower- and moderate-income people who work. Campaign partners include community organizations and institutions, human services providers and businesses, state and local government agencies, advocacy groups and many others. They inform families and individuals about the Earned Income Credit and the Child Tax Credit, let them know they may qualify, and link them to free tax filing assistance. Here you will find what you need to know to develop an effective Outreach Campaign. You’ll get basic facts about the credits and free tax filing assistance and explore the key elements of a successful campaign.
  • 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
  • Making Sense of Tax Credits: What are the EIC and CTC? What is VITA? | HTML HTML
    by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (2013)
    This webpage provides basic information on both the EIC and CTC, summarizing eligibility requirements for 2013. The importance of community-based outreach efforts is also highlighted.
    + View Summary
  • EIC & CTC Benefits at Various Income Levels | HTML HTML
    by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (2014)
    These two charts highlight earned income credit benefits at various income levels, as well as child tax credit benefits in 2013 sample refund amounts at various income levels. Please note: these charts are not tax tables.
    + 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

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 in 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
  • Tips for Offering Help With Public Benefits at a VITA Site | HTML HTML
    by the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities (2013)
    Helpful tips include: marketing tax programs together, letting people know in advance what services will be available at the VITA site, creating a setting that makes people feel comfortable applying for an array of benefits, and considering using a questionnaire to identify other benefits families would be interested in receiving.
    + 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
  • Q & A: Domestic Violence Survivors | HTML HTML
    by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (December 11, 2013)
    In addition to linking to numerous tax forms, this information sheet covers questions such as: Can a survivor who is separated but not divorced claim the EIC? and What if a survivor is unfamiliar with the tax filing process or has lost tax documents?
    + View Summary
  • 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
  • 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.
    + View Summary
  • Innocent Spouse Relief (Including Separation of Liability and Equitable Relief) | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service
    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
  • Innocent Spouse Questions & Answers | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Updated October 2014)
    These questions and answers address issues such as the process for requesting innocent spouse relief, time for filing, the process for contacting an ex-spouse after filing, rules, and appeal rights.
    + 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
  • Q & A: Eligibility Rules for Immigrant Workers | HTML HTML
    by the National EITC Outreach Campaign of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
    This fact sheet provides information about EITC and CTC eligibility for working people who are immigrants.
    + View Summary
  • Immigrants and Workers Whose First Language is Not English | HTML HTML
    by the National EITC Outreach Campaign of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2013)
    This resource provides tips for conducting outreach to workers who are not proficient in English to help ensure that they are aware of their eligibility for EIC and other tax credits.
    + View Summary
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers | PDF PDF (3 p.)
    by the National EITC Outreach Campaign of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2013)
    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 document 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
    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 | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Updated September 2014)
    This publication explains who qualifies for the credit for the elderly or the disabled, and 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. 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 November 2014)
    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 | HTML HTML
    by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (Updated December 2014)
    This fact sheet provides background information on the EITC, including who is eligible, work incentive features, and effects of the 2009 Recovery Act.
    + View Summary
  • Policy Basics: The Child Tax Credit | HTML HTML
    by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Updated February 2013)
    This fact sheet provides basic details about the CTC, including refundability, the value of the credit, and the effect of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
    + 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
  • 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.
  • State Efforts to Support Low-Income Families and Communities Through the Earned Income Tax Credit | PDF PDF (13 p.)
    by Courtney Smith for the NGA Center for Best Practices (February 2006)
    Despite the success of the EITC, many eligible workers do not claim the tax credit. This paper summarizes a number of states' efforts to increase awareness of, and participation in, the EITC.
    + View Summary
  • Using the Earned Income Tax Credit to Stimulate Local Economies | PDF PDF (9 p.)
    by Alan Berube for The Brookings Institution (2006)
    This paper discusses how the EITC can be used not only as an anti-poverty strategy, but as a tool for investing in local communities.
    + View Summary
  • Earned Income Tax Credit Promotes Work, Encourages Children’s Success at School, Research Finds | HTML HTML
    by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Revised April 2014)
    This article cites to statistics evidencing that the EITC encourages work, improves infants’ health, boosts children’s school achievement and college attendance rates, boosts work effort and earnings when children reach adulthood, reduces poverty, and provides a short-term safety net.
    + 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 | HTML HTML
    by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Updated July 2014)
    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 (March 2014)
    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

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
  • Q & A: Non Traditional Families | HTML HTML
    by the National EITC Outreach Campaign of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
    This fact sheet provides information about IRS rules around custody status and eligibility for the EITC and CTC. Information for families based on differing marital status is also included.
    + 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
  • Comparing the Eligibility Requirements for the EITC and CTC | HTML HTML
    by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2013)
    This is an easy to read chart comparing the basic eligibility requirements for these two tax credit programs.
    + View Summary
  • Toolkit for Advocates: Welcome to the 2014 Tax Credits Outreach Campaign! | PDF PDF (15 p.)
    by the National Women’s Law Center (November 2013)
    This toolkit provides the resources advocates and community leaders need to make sure families find out about state and federal tax credits for which they may be eligible.
    + View Summary
  • 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. 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 | HTML HTML
    by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Updated December 2014)
    This fact sheet provides basic details about the CTC, including refundability, the value of the credit, and the effect of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
    + View Summary
  • The Child Tax Credit: An Extra Tax Break for Working Families! | HTML HTML
    by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (2013)
    This fact sheet provides background information on who can claim the CTC, the definition of a qualifying child, and necessary steps to claim the credit.
    + 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
  • Paying for Child Care? The Child and Dependent Care Credit Could Help | PDF PDF (2 p.)
    by the National EITC Outreach Campaign of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (date unknown)
    This fact sheet provides information about the CDCTC, eligibility, benefits to families, how to claim this credit, and where to find additional resources.
    + 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 2014 Returns | PDF PDF (19 p.)
    by the Internal Revenue Service (2014)
    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 August 2014)
    This page provides general information about the ATC and changes to allowable expenses in the past few years.
    + 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 2014)
    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 January 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 January 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.
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  • Key Facts You Need to Know About: Premium Tax Credits | PDF PDF (9 p.)
    by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (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.
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  • Premium Tax Credit Information & Resources | HTML HTML
    by the National Women’s Law Center (2014)
    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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  • Getting lower costs: Income levels that qualify for lower health coverage costs | HTML HTML
    by U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services (date unknown)
    This page provides a chart to help consumers quickly identify whether they may be eligible for the premium tax credit. It also provides links to additional information about options for buying coverage, accessing low-cost care though Community Health Centers, and options for lowering monthly premiums and/or out-of-pocket costs based on income.
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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.

  • Free Tax Filing Assistance Through VITA | HTML HTML
    by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (2013)
    This fact sheet presents information on Volunteer Income Tax Assistance — a program run by the IRS in conjunction with community based organizations. A checklist of what to bring to a VITA site is included, as well as information on Refund Anticipation Loans.
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  • Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers | HTML HTML
    by the Internal Revenue Service (Updated September 2014)
    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 2012)
    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