Money and Debt

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

If you earn a low or moderate income, you may qualify for a tax refund called EITC. Learn more about qualifying for the EITC.

A note on COVID-19: As part of the COVID relief law, If you earned less income in 2021 then you did in 2019, you can use your 2019 income to calculate your EITC. The amount of your EITC can increase if you have more earned income for the year. You can use the IRS's free online assistant to calculate your EITC to see if you should take advantage of this new law.       

Last updated 1.26.22.

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Understanding the Basics

See what you need to know to take action.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a tax refund for working people who earn low or moderate income. The amount depends on your income and marital status, plus the number of qualifying children you have.

Qualifying for EITC

To qualify for the EITC, you must:

  • Be a US citizen or “resident alien.” Resident alien means that you have a green card or meet a residency requirement.
  • Have a social security number. You must have a social security number to qualify for the EITC. If you have a spouse, they must also have a social security number.
  • Work full-time or part-time. You must have earned income including money from wages, tips, self-employment or long-term disability payments paid by your employer.
  • Submit taxes. You must use the filing status "Single," "Married Filing Jointly" or "Head of Household." You cannot use the filing status "Married Filing Separately."
  • Have “qualifying children” or be 25 to 64 years old.

The IRS offers a free online tool to help you figure out if you’re eligible for EITC, if your children count as “qualifying children” and estimate the amount of your credit. 

Some companies advertise “fast refunds” during tax season. These offers are actually expensive loans, called Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs). If you need your refund quickly, there are some steps you can take other than RALs:

  • Open a savings account. To receive your refund faster, schedule direct deposit of your refund into a savings account. Learn more about opening a bank account from the FDIC.
  • Request an expedited refund. If you experience an economic hardship or an IRS processing delay, the IRS maybe able to send your refund faster. To request an expedited refund, call the IRS at (800) 829-1040. Explain your situation. Ask for an “expedited manual refund.”
  • Contact the Taxpayer Advocate. If you need your refund quickly due to economic hardship, call the Taxpayer Advocate service at (877) 777-4778.
  • If you have urgent bills, you should ask the senders for more time.

EITC and public benefits

Your EITC will not affect your current eligibility for benefits including food stamps, low-income housing, cash assistance and SSI. If you do not spend your EITC, it may become an asset that affects your eligibility for future public benefits.

If you are denied public benefits because of your EITC, contact your local legal aid - they may be able to help. 

If the IRS denies your EITC claim

If you think you qualify for the EITC and the IRS denies your claim, contact your local legal aid. They can 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 It’s available 24/7.
  • Choose an option. Use the “help me” tool to find a good match.
  • Click “Leave 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).

Coronavirus (COVID-19) changes

Due to COVID-19, a number of VITA sites and TCE sites are closed. To find the nearest open VITA site near you, use the the VITA locator tool or call (800) 906-9887.


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