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.

For tax year 2021, there are temporary changes to the EITC that expand eligibility and credit size. You can use the IRS' free online assistant to calculate your EITC to see how these changes could impact your refund.

Last updated 3.4.22.

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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.

To claim the EITC, you must file a tax return.

Changes for tax year 2021

For tax year 2021, there are temporary changes that will make more people eligible for the EITC and increase the maximum credit amount. The changes for 2021 are:

  • Expanded eligibility for people without children. For 2021, you can claim the EITC without qualifying children if you are at least 19 years old with earned income below $21,430, and $27,380 for spouses filing a joint return. For 2021, there’s no upper age limit for claiming the credit if you have earned income. 
  • Income from 2019. Another 2021 change allows individuals to claim the EITC using their 2019 earned income if it was higher than their 2021 earned income. This option may help you get a larger credit if you earned less in 2021 or received unemployment income instead of your regular wages. Use the IRS EITC tool to find out if this change will help increase your credit. 
  • There are also temporary changes to the phase out and credit limits, investment income limits and rules for separated but married spouses. 

Get all your benefits and tax credits in 2022

Follow these steps to make sure that you get or keep all the benefits and tax credits you are eligible for in 2022:

  • File your 2021 tax return. Even if you aren’t required to or don’t normally file your taxes. There are changes to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit that you can only get if you file 2021 taxes.
  • Update your household info with ODJFS. Many people have been displaced or experienced changes in their lives during the pandemic. Update your Medicaid and SNAP cases to make sure you keep your benefits and know when deadlines are coming up. Call (844) 640-6446 or go to "Government and Community Resources" on this page to find the contact information for your local JFS office. 
  • Update your household info with your child’s school. Schools need to keep your information up to date so your child(ren) receive available free or reduced-price school meals and Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) funds. If your child is out of school because of a COVID-19 related reason, make sure to report the reason for their absence to your child’s school so that they may receive P-EBT funds for qualifying absences. Even if your child is receiving free school meals during the COVID-19 pandemic, submit a new National School Meals Program application to your school so that they do not lose access if they are still eligible after the pandemic. Learn more at ohiopebt.org.

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.

Qualifying for EITC

To qualify for the EITC, you must:

  • Be a U.S. 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 the EITC, if your children count as “qualifying children” and estimate the amount of your credit. 

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 IRS.gov/freefile. It’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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