Tax guide

Qualifying for the EIC

Updated for filing 2021 tax returns

How do I qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit?

One of the most popular tax credits is the Earned Income Tax Credit. This refundable income tax credit is targeted at low- to moderate-income working individuals and families. 

The EIC is a refundable credit, meaning it can give you a tax refund if you qualify – even if you don’t owe any tax. But you do have to file a tax return to get the credit, plus meet certain requirements.

What does the IRS count as earned income?

You need earned income to qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Earned income for the EIC includes:

  • Wages, salary, or tips 
  • Gig economy work, like rideshares
  • Money made from self-employment
  • Certain disability benefits you got before you were the minimum retirement age
  • Nontaxable Combat Pay

For a fuller list of income types, see the IRS page on the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Here are the types of income that do not count as earned income:

  • Interest and dividends
  • Pensions or annuities
  • Social security
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Alimony
  • Child support

If your only source of income is listed above, you cannot claim the EIC.

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What are the income limits to qualify for the EIC?

If you make more than a certain income limit, you won’t qualify. For tax year 2021, the rates are:

Children or Relatives Claimed Max AGI if filing as Single, Head of Household, or Widowed Max AGI if Married Filing Jointly
Zero $21,430 $27,380
One $42,158 $48,108
Two $47,915  $53,865
Three $51,464  $57,414


In all cases, investment income must be $10,000 or less for the year.

If you’re not sure whether your wage situation qualifies for the Earned Income Tax Credit, the IRS has a handy EIC Qualification Assistant.

How much is the EIC worth?

The EIC is calculated based on your AGI, so here are the maximum amounts you could receive:

  • No qualifying children: $1,502
  • 1 qualifying child: $3,618
  • 2 qualifying children: $5,980
  • 3 or more qualifying children: $6,728

Are there other requirements besides earned income to qualify for the EIC?

If you pass the income test, there are other requirements you must satisfy before being deemed eligible for the EIC:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen (or resident alien living in the U.S.) all year with a valid Social Security Number.
  • You must not be claimed as a qualifying child on anyone else's tax return.
  • The minimum age to claim the EIC is generally age 19; however, if you are a qualified former foster youth or a qualified homeless youth, you need to be at least age 18.
  • If you’re a member of the American Armed Forces, serving in a combat zone, some special rules apply.
  • If one spouse was a nonresident alien for any part of the tax year, the other must be a U.S. Citizen with a Social Security number or a resident alien who was in the U.S. at least 6 months of the year. The couple must also choose the married filing jointly status.

Feel good about tax breaks for low- and moderate-income workers

Not sure if you qualify for the EIC? Don't sweat it. Our simple question-and-answer format means we'll do the math in the background. If you have earned income and qualify, we’ll automatically add the tax break to your return.

Feels good to hand off the calculations, doesn't it?

Be sure to sign up or log in today to get started on your taxes—we’ll see you there!

For more details, take a look at our Earned Income Credit infographic.

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