Child Tax Credit Qualification and Income Thresholds

[Trump/GOP Tax Reforms and impact to CTC] As part of GOP tax reform bills to support President Trump’s tax reform agenda, there were provisions in place to increase the child tax credit (CTC) from the current $1,000 to $1,600 (House bill) or to $2,000 (Senate bill). However in the final/reconciled bill the CTC is set to $2,000 per child and will higher income and deductibility restrictions then current levels (see prior update below).

The CTC however would only be refundable up to $1,400 per child and start to phase out for those with incomes above $200,000 (single) and $400,000 (married). These income phase out thresholds are more than three times prior limits so will mean a lot more families can take advantage of this credit.

The CTC increase to $2,000 would be in effect from 2018 (i.e you cannot claim it for the 2017 tax year) would expire by 2025 along with several other tax provisions in the GOP tax reform bill.

Note that in addition to the CTC the new GOP tax reforms have kept intact the existing child and dependent care credit, which can be worth up to $1,050 for one child under age 13 or $2,100 for two kids under 13. This credit is only for working parents with earned income who are paying for eligible child or daycare. The Earned income credit (EITC) and Dependent care flexible spending account (FSA) rules were also left intact per current law.

The tax bill also contains a new $500 temporary or flexibility credit (see details) for non-child dependents – E.g for elderly or disabled dependents. This is to provide some relief to those families who will lose the now defunct personal exemption.

Please share this article and connect via Facebook or Twitter to get the latest updates and news related to the CTC in 2018 and beyond.

The IRS announced the child tax credit (CTC) will remain at $1,000 per child in 2018, the same level as it was in 2018. Families must have at least $3,000 in earned income to claim any portion of the credit and can receive a refund worth 15 percent of earnings above $3,000, up to $1,000 per child. The table below shows the maximum income thresholds for getting the full CTC payment

The CTC payment works as a deduction and a credit. The deduction component means it is not fully refundable and only reduces your tax liability. So if the amount of your Child Tax Credit is greater than the amount of income tax you owe then you may not get the entire CTC. But you may still be able to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) which is the refundable component of the child tax credit (but treated as a separate payment). The ACTC is equal to the lesser of the un-allowed Child Tax Credit, or 15% of your earned income that is more than $3,000.

For example a couple, with one qualified child, who filed jointly with household income of $85,000 will receive the full CTC of $1,000 since their income is above $3,000 but less than the maximum income thresholds for married couples shown in the table below. Another example is a single mother with two children earning $14,500. She will receive a refund of $1,725 for two children (15 percent of $11,500 – which is the difference between $14,500 and $3,000).

The updated income thresholds for  CTC qualification are shown below, which have remained unchanged for the last several years.

YearMax Tax Credit AmountIncome Thresholds (reduced/phased-out by $50 for each $1,000 of income above the income threshold)
2018$1,000$110,000 (joint return), $75,000 (individual) and $55,000 (married, filing separate)
2017$1,000$110,000 (joint return), $75,000 (individual) and $55,000 (married, filing separate)
2016$1,000$110,000 (joint return), $75,000 (individual) and $55,000 (married, filing separate)
2015$1,000$110,000 (joint return), $75,000 (individual) and $55,000 (married, filing separate)

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EITC and ACTC Related Tax Refund Delays: The IRS has already announced that it will have to hold/delay refund payments for people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) due to additional anti-fraud safeguards/reviews under newly enacted laws (PATH Act). While the IRS will continue to accept returns claiming EITC and ACTC the new law requires the IRS to hold refunds on tax returns claiming these popular credits, even if you have claimed it successfully in past years, until Feb. 15th 2017. Refund payments will subsequently be delayed past the current schedule up to the week of Feb 27th, 2017 or later (assuming all other items are in order). Also note that the IRS is required to hold  the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC. Note however that this refund hold only applies to the Additional Child tax credit. Not the standard Child tax credit.

The threshold for the other child related tax credit, known as the kiddie tax – meaning the amount of unearned net income that a child can take home without paying any federal income tax was is $1,050.  For 2017, the net unearned income for a child under the age of 19 (or a full-time student under the age of 24) that is not subject to “kiddie tax” is $2,100.

Child Tax Credit Qualification rules

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) covers children under 17 years-old and is available to tax paying parents or legal guardians on the child. Full CTC eligibility is subject to income limits as shown in the table above. The IRS has published additional information around claiming this credit via one or qualifying children. A Qualifying child for this credit is someone who meets the following criteria of six tests: age, relationship, support, dependent, citizenship, and residence:

  1. Age Test – To qualify, a child must have been under age of 17 (i.e. 16 years old or younger) at the end of the year in which the credit is being claimed for.
  2. Relationship Test – To claim a child for purposes of the Child Tax Credit, they must either be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister or a descendant of any of these individuals, which includes your grandchild, niece or nephew. An adopted child is always treated as your own child.
  3. Support Test – In order to claim a child for this credit, the child must not have provided more than half of their financial support in the given financial year the credit is being claimed for.
  4. Dependent Test – You must claim the child as a dependent on your federal tax return. No one else can claim the child.
  5. Citizenship Test – To meet the citizenship test, the child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or U.S. resident alien.
  6. Residence Test – The child must have lived with you for more than half of the year you are the claiming the credit for.
  7. Income Limitations – The credit is limited if your modified adjusted gross income is above a certain amount. Limits are shown in the table above based on filing status. The credit is reduced/phased-out by $50 for each $1,000 of income above the income threshold amounts.  The phaseout ranges are set by statute and so are not adjusted for inflation.
  8. In addition, the Child Tax Credit is generally limited by the amount of the income tax you owe as well as any alternative minimum tax (AMT) you owe.
  9. Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) – If the amount of your Child Tax Credit is greater than the amount of income tax you owe, you may be able to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). The ACTC is equal to the lesser of the un-allowed Child Tax Credit, or 15% of your earned income that is more than $3,000.

The Child tax credit can be claimed in addition to the existing credits (like the EITC) for Child Dependent Care expenses.

[2014 Update] This IRS has confirmed that the 2014 Child tax credit will remain at $1,000 through 2014.

[2013 Update] For 2013, the Child Tax Credit was set to drop to $500. However with the fiscal cliff deal the child tax credit maximum for each eligible under-age-17 child was kept at $1,000 for 2013 and also extended through 2017. The deal also contains provisions to make the 2013 Child Tax Credit available to more working families that previously could not benefit from it by raising income qualification thresholds, which are not indexed to inflation and instead set by statute.

For 2012 the child tax credit started phasing out (reducing) for those above a specified modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). For married taxpayers filing a joint return, the phase-out begins at $110,000. For married taxpayers filing a separate return, it begins at $55,000. For all other taxpayers, the phase-out begins at $75,000. The credit is reduced/phased-out by $50 for each $1,000 of income above the income threshold amounts.

In addition, the Child Tax Credit is generally limited by the amount of the income tax you owe as well as any alternative minimum tax (AMT) you owe. Other qualification details for the credit, per the update below, are set to remain the same.

As part of bush-era tax cuts extension legislation (Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Re-authorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010), a number of popular tax breaks were extended. This includes the valuable tax credit for dependent children that many parents have taken advantage of over the last few years. Thanks to past legislation the child tax credit was doubled to its current level of $1,000, plus making the eligibility and qualification thresholds lower so that more families can take advantage of it. The latest legislation keeps all past rules intact and funds the credit for another two years.

69 thoughts on “Child Tax Credit Qualification and Income Thresholds

  1. Mich

    Isn’t it crazy max age is 17? Most kids graduate at age 18. So we’re not allowed a child credit, (to offset cost of raising our child)while they’re still in high school? Perhaps they need 1 more requirement: Qualifying up to age 18/19, if they were still in High School, (& not because they’re duplicating years)

  2. Nancy Holbert

    Why do I not get the Tax Credit for my son. Yes he turn 17 but he still is in school

  3. Irfan A

    I pay $200 per month for the person take care my kids, now he want to show it in tax returns and asking a document /form to use an proof. What form/document I suppose to provide for his tax returns in 2018.

  4. monica

    can I claim my babies for 2017 taxs if they were born in oct 2017…do the prorate it or do we get it for the whole year.

    1. Tiffany

      i had the same question because my 3rd daughter was born in sept 2017, per H&r block we are to put the full 12 months on how long they lived with us.

  5. April

    Last year I had recieved a child care credit (refund) on my federal taxes. This year I paid more in child care costs… Do we still get this credit? When I did my taxes (just a test run to get an idea of what they would be) there was no credit/refund (I thought this would go up a couple hundred since the cost has doubled. My EIC went down (which I understand- I made $1,000 more this year).

  6. Shannon LEAK

    I am 47.I have three daughters one in college. My wife is disabled and requires more home care attention than the state will pay for. 751 a month misbehave family of five is living on. I worked for 3 months for about 3700 grosspay. Will I get a decent sum in return when I file for 2017?

  7. Bernie

    I am a grandmother who take care of my grandkids financially but they don’t live in my home. I am the sole provider when it comes to buying their clothes and school clothes, and I help with the bills at their home and buy food when needed. My question is…. will I be able to claim them on my taxes? I have all receipts.

    1. K

      Since they didn’t live with you for over half of the year, they wouldn’t satisfy the residence test and therefore you can’t claim them as dependents on your taxes.

    2. Meme

      Bernie, sadly you can not claim them. However, the parents should give you part of the tax refund. Mine do live with me and I am certainly claiming one of them. Good luck/


    Ok so I’ve never had to do this before but I’m wondering did they cancel the child tax credit for Missouri?I just started a new job and I have guardianship of my nephew bc his dad passed away and I was told last year that it’s no longer offered in the state of Missouri just curious if this is true or not bc I have had him since 2015 and was told we can’t get a (CTC) but thinking it may have been just for that year and bc I didn’t make enough money last year, I just got a new job last Monday I will work 40 hours every week guarantee then after 8 weeks I will bump up to 12.50 per hour for 40 hours each week can anyone tell me if I will get the child tax credit. He is 15 years old but he will be 16 years old in 8 days. He also draws social security off of his daddrgar passed away. Thank in advance.

    1. K

      You have to have at least $3000 in earned income (like from a job) to be eligible for the child tax credit.

      It’s a federal tax credit, so it wouldn’t be “cancelled” for residents of Missouri, but’s if you earned less than $3000 you wouldn’t qualify.

      There are some other tests that have to be satisfied in order for you to claim your nephew; see the numbered list in the article above under the heading “Child Tax Credit Qualification rules”. You mention that he draws his dad’s social security survivor benefits, If the money he gets from this provides over half of his support, you would not be able to claim him for purposes of the child tax credit. Also you should be aware that since he’s 16 this year, next year he will have “aged out” of the “child” definition for the child tax credit– a child has to be 16 or under at the end of the year to be eligible.

  9. Nikki

    MY daughter turned 17 may 30th of 2017 and is a student does that qualify for child tax credit

    1. Mammag

      Nope you cannot, I am in the same boat here, so I guess we are both screwed. Nice for the people who have tons of kids under the age of 17 and already don’t pay much in taxes. Go figure.

  10. mary

    I don’t get it, we are responsible for our children until they reach 18, then why is the cut off at 16? Are they not a child at 17?????

    1. Crystal Jardine

      I totally agree. this credit should be changed to under 19.
      If they are not considered “Adult” until 18 we
      should be able to claim them.

  11. Ratheesh

    I was a resident alien and lived first 4 months of 2016 in US along with my son and wife. Then I moved to another country. Am I eligible to claim child tax credit, as all of us were present in the country only for 4 months?

    1. Ann-Marie

      Under physical presence, you are a Resident Alien if in the US for 183 days. This can be in the current year or over the previous 3 years. Count all days in 2016, 1/3 days in 2015 and 1/6 days in 2014 to equal 183. Publication 519. Child Tax Credit can be claimed if: a US Citizen or Resident Alien, child under 17, lived with you for more than half the year, is claimed as a dependent on your return.

  12. Gabe

    Why has the child tax credit stayed at $1000. Why hasn’t it gone up with the cost of feeding kids?

  13. Wendy benge

    My daughter it’s 16 she earned 2900.00 $ at her job if she files herself and I claim her as a fitment dependent Will I still get the 1,000.00 earned income credit for her

  14. Rachelle Adams

    I am a mother if three and i got the earned income credit i claimed my 3 kids and myself and they are ages 5…2…1 will i get 1000 back each of them if i didnt claim the child tax credit? Worried cause we are so far behind on things and tthe money would help alot. Pkease help me

    1. Binnie

      The child tax credit is not refundable. It only reduces the tax liability. For example: your tax liability is 4,000, so you’ll get 3,000 child tax credit, then your tax liability will be reduced to 1,000.

      1. D

        Not completely true. A portion of the CTC is refundable depending on the circumstances and income level. Easy enough to google it and read on the IRS website.


    What if the dad lives in nh and doesn’t live with them can he claim them.

    1. sarah

      Child has to live in his house for 6 months of the year or longer otherwise it has to be agreed to with custody agreement. if your the sole provider then no he cant

  16. Amy

    I’m due March 25th 2017,can I filemy 2016 taxes for my baby I’m a single parent.

    1. JRP

      no child has to be born by December 31 at 11:59 pm in order to be included on your taxes for that year

    2. Ashley Stell

      No. Child has to be alive for 6 months of the year you are fild for. So for 2016 they would have to be born before august

      1. Mike

        This is not correct. If the kid is born 12/31/2016, you get to claim them on your 2016 return the same as if they were born before 2016.

      2. Yiussef

        No it allowa u to put 7 months uf baby was born in oct nov or dec it say it in the child tax form …

    1. gail hunter

      We are wondering the same thing, we normally use turbo tax, it doesnt even give a section to enter her age. But she turned 17 , Jan 14 2016 and is just now a senior in high school, I believe as long as our children are in school we should be about to get the eic credit.

  17. Sommer

    Is it worth filing if I only made $1004.02 and have 3 dependents? Can a relative claim one of my children?

    1. Tiffany

      go onto h&r block website and use their calculator that gives you an estimate of what you would receive back. it does not document any info that is entered.

  18. Trisha

    I am a mother of 1 and am not with the father, we have no legal documentation of custody rights. We both want to file, is that possible? A split return?

    1. AnonymousDad

      If both of you try to claim the child for the credit, the IRS will flag and return both of your tax returns. You are far better off deciding between which one of you should claim the credit, and, if you agree to split the credit after that point, the one who receives the full amount of the return can cut the other a check. In some states (Illinois is one), a judge can award the right to claim the credit to a parent on an every-other-year basis. Even years, it’s Dad, odds, it’s Mom.

      1. shawn

        That’s incorrect, If both parent file the IRS will pay whoever filed first claim and deny the other trust me had it done to me and he filed first so they denied my claim i had to seed prof that i had physical,legal ,primary custody and prof they lived with me the entire year which i did and they refunded me my refund

    1. Andy (Author)

      You can claim him as dependent (assuming he does not file his own return and is your qualified dependent). But you would not be able to get the CTC for him.

  19. zykevinron

    My daughter turned 17 on December 26, can I get the child tax credit of $1000

    1. Andy (Author)

      No, she would fail the age test – “Age Test – To qualify, a child must have been under age of 17 (i.e. 16 years old or younger) at the end of the year in which the credit is being claimed for.”

  20. Sherry

    My son didn’t turn 17 till December why can’t I get tax credit of the $1000

  21. julia quinn

    Practical blog post ! I was fascinated by the details . Does anyone know where I might get ahold of a fillable a form document to fill out ?

  22. Gianna walker

    I’m a singel mom of 3, my oldest is 17. Still I’m school. I’m not understanding why I can’t claim him if he’s a student n lives with me and I support him.

    1. Steve

      You can claim him, you just don’t get the Child Tax Credit because, even though he is a dependent, he is no longer a “child” in accordance with this credit per the laws passed by Congress.

  23. missy

    Hi im a 26yr old divorced woman with 2kids my oldest is in school an my youngest will be 3 in may an will be starting head start soon i make $8 an hr 40hrs a week so around 15,500 a yr i don’t get any child support. Can u give me a estimated amount of how much i will get back when i file next January2016 for this yr??

    1. Mickey Thomas

      Depending on how old your first child is, and how much they took out your voucher cks for taxes.. Around 7-9 thousand… Use hnr block tax calculator it’s very accurate…

  24. Amber

    i am helping a family who has 4 kids in full time schooling. She claims the 15, 10 & 7 year old so she gets the child tax credit but was told she couldn’t claim the 18 year old even though he is a junior in high school and not working. He worked two months during the summer for minimum wage. She receives govt assistance for him but was told she couldn’t or shouldn’t claim him. We want to do what is legally right and with hopes it will hep the family. In addition does he haveto file on his own. Again, he’s living at home and a full time student. Thanks

    1. Steve

      Legally, assuming he doesn’t provide over half of his own financial support, his mother can and should claim him. He won’t qualify for the Child Tax Credit because he turned 17 in 2016 or earlier, but she can still claim him as her dependent. Whoever told her she can’t claim her oldest is mistaken. However, truth be told, he probably won’t save her anything because all of her federal tax liability will have been eliminated. You can see the effect of him being on her tax return by preparing the return without him and see what her refund will be. Then add him in and see if the refund changes. Chances are it won’t.

  25. Tracy Lynn George

    I am 36 ..well 35 in December. 2014..I am a single mother. Of a single1 year old
    Son..he was born in February28-2014 and. My. Baby daddy went to jail for battery in the2nd degree against me while I was 8 months pregnant ..too keep roof over my son’s and is head I kept my house house cleaned and laundry done ..since I had. New baby and no paying job. I have moved into a friends a job making 7:25 .hr and never get over my20 hours per weekk.I do good to get 8 hrs a week..I have foodstamps 316.00 a month and my bchoirs played our way to live at Robert…I now pay 60.00 every 2 weeks for child care. And been on the waiting list for government housing since September 2014…I’m still waiting to hear back from them…please let me know what if anything I can. Do to get earned income ..I am the one who tool care of hi…only me since my lol buddy.was born ..thanks Tracy George

    1. Andy (Author)

      See this article I wrote on claiming dependents. If he is filing and getting a tax return etc if may be hard for you to claim up. It depends on both your tax filing status’ otherwise the IRS may think you are double dipping!

  26. zoraida

    I made 15500 I have 5 independent I’m head of household 3 are still in school under 16 about how much will I get back on my income tax

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  33. Katherine

    I have 3 children 2 are which are still in school and the other in college we were only allowed to claim our youngest what about kids still in school and you still have to pay for their meals, clothes and schooling why did they change the law where you cant claim your 17 or 18 year old still in school.

  34. Patricia

    I have two kids in school who live with me. My daughter just turned 17 on December 4, 2011 and is in 11th grade in highschool.

    My son is 18, a 12th grade highschool student. Will I be able to file tax credit for them both?

    I only made $28,000 for the year……..I am head of the household

    1. Andy

      If you are claiming the child tax credit or additional child tax credit the sum of the two cannot be more than $1,000 multiplied by the number of qualifying children. Also, at least one dependent must meet the requirements for the child tax credit. Make sure that each dependent you claim:

      Qualifies as a dependent
      Is under age 17
      Is a U.S. Resident

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