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IRS.gov Website
Publication 17
taxmap/pub17/p17-173.htm#en_us_publink1000174677

Part A. Rules for Everyone(p221)

rule
This part of the chapter discusses Rules 1 through 7. You must meet all seven rules to qualify for the EIC. If you don't meet all seven rules, you can't get the credit and you don't need to read the rest of the chapter.
If you meet all seven rules in this part, then read either Part B or Part C (whichever applies) for more rules you must meet.
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Rule 1. Your AGI Must Be Less Than:(p221)

rule
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Adjusted gross income (AGI).(p222)

rule
AGI is the amount on line 7 of Form 1040. If your AGI is equal to or more than the applicable limit listed above, you can't claim the EIC.
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Example.(p222)

Your AGI is $40,550, you are single, and you have one qualifying child. You can't claim the EIC because your AGI isn't less than $40,320. However, if your filing status was married filing jointly, you might be able to claim the EIC because your AGI is less than $46,010.
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Community property.(p222)
If you are married, but qualify to file as head of household under special rules for married taxpayers living apart (see Rule 3, later), and live in a state that has community property laws, your AGI includes that portion of both your and your spouse's wages that you are required to include in gross income. This is different from the community property rules that apply under Rule 7, later.
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Rule 2. You Must Have a Valid Social Security Number (SSN)(p222)

rule
To claim the EIC, you (and your spouse, if filing a joint return) must have a valid SSN issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) by the due date of your 2018 return (including extensions). Any qualifying child listed on Schedule EIC also must have a valid SSN by the due date of your 2018 return (including extensions). (See Rule 8, later, if you have a qualifying child.)
If your social security card (or your spouse's, if filing a joint return) says "Not valid for employment" and your SSN was issued so that you (or your spouse) could get a federally funded benefit, you can't get the EIC. An example of a federally funded benefit is Medicaid.
If you have a card with the legend "Not valid for employment" and your immigration status has changed so that you are now a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, ask the SSA for a new social security card without the legend.
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U.S. citizen.(p222)

rule
If you were a U.S. citizen when you received your SSN, you have a valid SSN.
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Valid for work only with INS or DHS authorization.(p222)

rule
If your social security card reads "Valid for work only with INS authorization" or "Valid for work only with DHS authorization," you have a valid SSN, but only if that authorization is still valid.
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SSN missing or incorrect.(p222)

rule
If an SSN for you or your spouse is missing from your tax return or is incorrect, you may not get the EIC. If an SSN for you or your spouse is missing from your return because either you or your spouse didn't have a valid SSN on or before the due date of your 2018 return (including extensions), and you later get a valid SSN, you can't file an amended return to claim the EIC.
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Other taxpayer identification number.(p222)

rule
You can't get the EIC if, instead of an SSN, you (or your spouse, if filing a joint return) have an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). ITINs are issued by the IRS to noncitizens who can't get an SSN.
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No SSN.(p222)

rule
If you don't have a valid SSN by the due date of your 2018 return (including extensions), enter "No" in the space to the left of line 17 (Form 1040). You can't claim the EIC on either your original or an amended 2018 return.
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Getting an SSN.(p222)
If you (or your spouse, if filing a joint return) don't have an SSN, you can apply for one by filing Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, with the SSA. You can get Form SS-5 online at SSA.gov, from your local SSA office, or by calling the SSA at 1-800-772-1213.
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Filing deadline approaching and still no SSN.(p222)
If the filing deadline is approaching and you still don't have an SSN, you can request an automatic 6-month extension of time to file your return. You can get this extension by filing Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. For more information, see chapter 1.
taxmap/pub17/p17-173.htm#en_us_publink1000174695

Table 35-1. Earned Income Credit in a Nutshell

First, you must meet all the rules in this column.Second, you must meet all the rules in one of these columns, whichever applies.Third, you must meet the rule in this column.
Part A.
Rules for Everyone
Part B.
Rules if You Have a Qualifying Child
Part C.
Rules if You Don’t Have a Qualifying Child
Part D.
Figuring and Claiming the EIC
1. Your adjusted gross income (AGI) must be less than:
• $49,194 ($54,884 for married filing jointly) if you have three or more qualifying children,

• $45,802 ($51,492 for married filing jointly) if you have two qualifying children,

•$40,320 ($46,010 for married filing jointly) if you have one qualifying child, or

• $15,270 ($20,950 for married filing jointly) if you don't have a qualifying child.
2. You must have a valid social security number (SSN) by the due date of your 2018 return (including extensions).
3. Your filing status can't be "Married filing separately."
4. You must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien all year.
5. You can't file Form 2555 or Form 2555-EZ (relating to foreign earned income).
6. Your investment income must be $3,500 or less.  
7. You must have earned income.
8. Your child must meet the relationship, age, residency, and joint return tests.
9. Your qualifying child can't be used by more than one person to claim the EIC.
10. You can't be a qualifying child of another person.
11. You must be at least age 25 but under age 65.
12. You can't be the dependent of another person.
13. You can't be a qualifying child of another person.
14. You must have lived in the United States more than half of the year.
15. Your earned income must be less than:
• $49,194 ($54,884 for married filing jointly) if you have three or more qualifying children,

• $45,802 ($51,492 for married filing jointly) if you have two qualifying children,

• $40,320 ($46,010 for married filing jointly) if you have one qualifying child, or

• $15,270 ($20,950 for married filing jointly) if you don't have a qualifying child.
taxmap/pub17/p17-173.htm#en_us_publink1000174697

Rule 3. Your Filing Status Can't Be Married Filing Separately(p222)

rule
If you are married, you usually must file a joint return to claim the EIC. Your filing status can't be "Married filing separately."
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Spouse didn't live with you.(p222)

rule
If you are married and your spouse didn't live in your home at any time during the last 6 months of the year, you may be able to file as head of household, instead of married filing separately. In that case, you may be able to claim the EIC. For detailed information about filing as head of household, see chapter 2.
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Rule 4. You Must Be a U.S. Citizen or Resident Alien All Year(p223)

rule
If you (or your spouse, if married) were a nonresident alien for any part of the year, you can't claim the EIC unless your filing status is married filing jointly. You can use that filing status only if one spouse is a U.S. citizen or resident alien and you choose to treat the nonresident spouse as a U.S. resident. If you make this choice, you and your spouse are taxed on your worldwide income. If you (or your spouse, if married) were a nonresident alien for any part of the year and your filing status isn't married filing jointly, enter "No" on the line next to line 17 (Form 1040). If you need more information on making this choice, get Pub. 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.
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Rule 5. You Can't File Form 2555 or Form 2555-EZ(p223)

rule
You can't claim the EIC if you file Form 2555, Foreign Earned Income, or Form 2555-EZ, Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. You file these forms to exclude income earned in foreign countries from your gross income, or to deduct or exclude a foreign housing amount. U.S. possessions aren't foreign countries. See Pub. 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, for more detailed information.
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Rule 6. Your Investment Income Must Be $3,500 or Less(p223)

rule
You can't claim the EIC unless your investment income is $3,500 or less. If your investment income is more than $3,500, you can't claim the credit. For most people, investment income is the total of the following amounts.
See Rule 6 in chapter 1 of Pub. 596 if:
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Rule 7. You Must Have Earned Income(p223)

rule
This credit is called the "earned income" credit because, to qualify, you must work and have earned income. If you are married and file a joint return, you meet this rule if at least one spouse works and has earned income. If you are an employee, earned income includes all the taxable income you get from your employer. If you are self-employed or a statutory employee, you will figure your earned income on EIC Worksheet B in the instructions for Form 1040.
taxmap/pub17/p17-173.htm#en_us_publink1000174704

Earned Income(p223)

rule
Earned income includes all of the following types of income.
  1. Wages, salaries, tips, and other taxable employee pay. Employee pay is earned income only if it is taxable. Nontaxable employee pay, such as certain dependent care benefits and adoption benefits, isn't earned income. But there is an exception for nontaxable combat pay, which you can choose to include in earned income, as explained below.
  2. Net earnings from self-employment.
  3. Gross income received as a statutory employee.
taxmap/pub17/p17-173.htm#en_us_publink1000174705

Wages, salaries, and tips.(p223)

rule
Wages, salaries, and tips you receive for working are reported to you on Form W-2, in box 1. You should report these on Form 1040, line 1.
taxmap/pub17/p17-173.htm#en_us_publink1000174706

Nontaxable combat pay election.(p223)

rule
You can elect to include your nontaxable combat pay in earned income for the EIC. Electing to include nontaxable combat pay in earned income may increase or decrease your EIC. Figure the credit with and without your nontaxable combat pay before making the election.
If you make the election, you must include in earned income all nontaxable combat pay you received. If you are filing a joint return and both you and your spouse received nontaxable combat pay, you can each make your own election. In other words, if one of you makes the election, the other one can also make it but does not have to.
The amount of your nontaxable combat pay should be shown in box 12 of your Form W-2 with code "Q."
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Self-employed persons and statutory employees.(p223)

rule
If you are self-employed or received income as a statutory employee, you must use the Form 1040 instructions to see if you qualify to get the EIC.
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Approved Form 4361 or Form 4029(p223)

rule
This section is for persons who have an approved:
Each approved form exempts certain income from social security taxes. Each form is discussed here in terms of what is or isn't earned income for the EIC.
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Form 4361.(p223)

rule
Whether or not you have an approved Form 4361, amounts you received for performing ministerial duties as an employee count as earned income. This includes wages, salaries, tips, and other taxable employee compensation.
If you have an approved Form 4361, a nontaxable housing allowance or the nontaxable rental value of a home isn't earned income. Also, amounts you received for performing ministerial duties, but not as an employee, don't count as earned income. Examples include fees for performing marriages and honoraria for delivering speeches.
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Form 4029.(p223)

rule
Whether or not you have an approved Form 4029, all wages, salaries, tips, and other taxable employee compensation count as earned income. However, amounts you received as a self-employed individual don't count as earned income. Also, in figuring earned income, don't subtract losses on Schedule C, C-EZ, or F from wages on line 1 of Form 1040.
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Disability Benefits(p223)

rule
If you retired on disability, taxable benefits you receive under your employer's disability retirement plan are considered earned income until you reach minimum retirement age. Minimum retirement age generally is the earliest age at which you could have received a pension or annuity if you weren't disabled. You must report your taxable disability payments on Form 1040, line 1 until you reach minimum retirement age.
Beginning on the day after you reach minimum retirement age, payments you receive are taxable as a pension and aren't considered earned income. Report taxable pension payments on Form 1040, lines 4a and 4b.
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Disability insurance payments.(p223)

rule
Payments you received from a disability insurance policy that you paid the premiums for aren't earned income. It doesn't matter whether you have reached minimum retirement age. If this policy is through your employer, the amount may be shown in box 12 of your Form W-2 with code "J."
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Income That Is Not Earned Income(p223)

rule
Examples of items that aren't earned income include interest and dividends, pensions and annuities, social security and railroad retirement benefits (including disability benefits), alimony and child support, welfare benefits, workers' compensation benefits, unemployment compensation (insurance), nontaxable foster care payments, and veterans' benefits, including VA rehabilitation payments. Don't include any of these items in your earned income.
taxmap/pub17/p17-173.htm#en_us_publink1000174714

Earnings while an inmate.(p223)

rule
Amounts received for work performed while an inmate in a penal institution aren't earned income when figuring the EIC. This includes amounts for work performed while in a work release program or while in a halfway house.
taxmap/pub17/p17-173.htm#en_us_publink1000174715

Workfare payments.(p223)

rule
Nontaxable workfare payments aren't earned income for the EIC. These are cash payments certain people receive from a state or local agency that administers public assistance programs funded under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in return for certain work activities such as (1) work experience activities (including remodeling or repairing public housing) if private sector employment isn't available, or (2) community service program activities.
taxmap/pub17/p17-173.htm#en_us_publink1000174716

Community property.(p224)

rule
If you are married, but qualify to file as head of household under special rules for married taxpayers living apart (see Rule 3, earlier), and live in a state that has community property laws, your earned income for the EIC doesn't include any amount earned by your spouse that is treated as belonging to you under those laws. That amount isn't earned income for the EIC, even though you must include it in your gross income on your income tax return. Your earned income includes the entire amount you earned, even if part of it is treated as belonging to your spouse under your state's community property laws.
taxmap/pub17/p17-173.htm#en_us_publink1000273140
Nevada, Washington, and California domestic partners. (p224)
If you are a registered domestic partner in Nevada, Washington, or California, the same rules apply. Your earned income for the EIC doesn't include any amount earned by your partner. Your earned income includes the entire amount you earned. For details, see Pub. 555, Community Property.
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Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments.(p224)

rule
If you were receiving social security retirement benefits or social security disability benefits at the time you received any CRP payments, your CRP payments aren't earned income for the EIC.
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Nontaxable military pay.(p224)

rule
Nontaxable pay for members of the Armed Forces isn't considered earned income for the EIC. Examples of nontaxable military pay are combat pay, the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), and the Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS). See Pub. 3, Armed Forces' Tax Guide, for more information.
Deposit
Combat pay. You can elect to include your nontaxable combat pay in earned income for the EIC. See Nontaxable combat pay election, earlier.