Money and Debt

Child Tax Credit

If you have children under 17 years old, you may be able to lower your taxes and increase your refund through the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Learn more about who qualifies and how to get the Child Tax Credit.

Be cautious with "fast tax refunds" which are really high-interest loans. Read more to learn how to get your tax refund quickly from the IRS. 

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Understanding the Basics

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What is the Child Tax Credit?

The Child Tax Credit provides up to a $2,000 reduction in your tax bill for each of your qualifying children under 17 years old.

Your Child Tax Credit amount will be lower than $2,000 per qualifying child if you:

  • Have high income. If you are a married taxpayer filing taxes jointly, your maximum Child Tax Credit is reduced if your adjusted gross income is higher than $400,000. All other taxpayers are eligible for reduced Child Tax Credits if their income is higher than $200,000.
  • Owe zero taxes. If you do not owe any taxes, you can get a refund through the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), but the maximum amount that can be refunded is $1,400 per qualifying child.
  • Owe an alternative minimum tax amount. The Child Tax Credit is limited by any alternative minimum tax (AMT) you owe. AMT is generally applicable to higher-income individuals.  

Qualifying for the Child Tax Credit

To be eligible for the Child Tax Credit, you must have a “qualifying child” under 17 years old. A “qualifying child” must meet all of these requirements:

  • Age. The child must be 16 years or younger at the end of last tax year.
  • Relationship. The child must be either your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister or a descendent of any of these people (like your grandchild, niece or nephew). An adopted child is always treated as your own child. An adopted child includes a child lawfully placed with you for legal adoption.
  • Support. The child must provide less than half of their own support.
  • Dependent. You must claim the child as a dependent on your federal tax return.
  • Citizenship. The child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or U.S. resident alien. The qualifying child must have a Social Security number issued by the Social Security Administration before the due date of their tax return (including extensions).
  • Residence. The child must live with you for more than half of the tax year. There are some exceptions to the residence requirement. For information about exceptions, read more from the IRS about Schedule 8812 (Form 1040).

If your dependent is over 16 years old or does not have a Social Security number, you may be eligible for another type of credit for dependents.

To determine your child’s eligibility for the Child Tax Credit or for other credits for dependents, use the IRS’ tool

Claiming the Additional Child Tax Credit refund

If your available Child Tax Credit is greater than the total amount of your tax bill, you can claim the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) to get up to $1,400 of your remaining Child Tax Credit as a refund.

To be eligible for the ACTC, your earned income must be at least $2,500. You can get the ACTC as a refund even if you owe no taxes. The maximum amount of ACTC that can be refunded is $1,400 per qualifying child. 

You have to file a tax return to get this refund. After the Child Tax Credit eliminates any taxes you owe, you can claim the ACTC as a refund by submitting Schedule 8812 with your tax return.  

If the IRS denies your Child Tax Credit claim

If you think you qualify for the Child Tax Credit and the IRS denies your claim, contact your local legal aid. They might be able to help you appeal your claim.

Free tax-filing resources

Most people with low or moderate income can do their taxes for free using FreeFile’s brand-name software or fillable forms.

To do your taxes for free:

  • Visit’s available 24/7.
  • Choose an option. Use the online lookup tool or browse all offers to find a good match.
  • Leave the IRS site. On an IRS partner’s website, begin your return safely and securely.

Also, you may qualify for free tax help from:

  • VITA. If you have low income, disability or limited English skills, you may qualify for free tax help from the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
  • TCE. If you are at least 60 years old, you can receive free tax help from Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE).

To find the nearest VITA site near you, use the VITA locator tool or call (800) 906-9887. VITA services may vary by location. Please check with your local VITA site to find out what options are available.

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