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Publication 17

Chapter 36
Earned Income Credit (EIC)(p230)

What's New(p230)

At the time this publication went to print, Congress was considering legislation that would do the following.
  1. Provide additional tax relief for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, Irma, or Maria, and tax relief for those affected by other 2017 disasters, such as the California wildfires.
  2. Extend certain tax benefits that expired at the end of 2016 and that currently can't be claimed on your 2017 tax return.
  3. Change certain other tax provisions.

To learn whether this legislation was enacted resulting in changes that affect your 2017 tax return, go to Recent Developments at
Disaster relief.(p230)
If you were affected by Hurricane Harvey, Irma, or Maria, you may be able to figure your 2017 EIC using your 2016 earned income if your 2017 earned income is less than your 2016 earned income. See Pub. 976.
Earned income amount is more.(p230)
The maximum amount of income you can earn and still get the credit has increased. You may be able to take the credit if:
  • You have three or more qualifying children and you earned less than $48,340 ($53,930 if married filing jointly),
  • You have two qualifying children and you earned less than $45,007 ($50,597 if married filing jointly),
  • You have one qualifying child and you earned less than $39,617 ($45,207 if married filing jointly), or
  • You don't have a qualifying child and you earned less than $15,010 ($20,600 if married filing jointly).
Your adjusted gross income also must be less than the amount in the above list that applies to you. For details, see Rules 1 and 15, later.
Childless EIC.(p230)
You may be able to qualify for the EIC under the rules for taxpayers without a qualifying child if you have a qualifying child for the EIC who is claimed as a qualifying child by another taxpayer.
Investment income amount is more.(p230)
The maximum amount of investment income you can have and still get the credit has increased to $3,450. See Rule 6, later.


Delayed refund if claiming the EIC. (p230)
Due to changes in the law, the IRS can't issue refunds before February 15, 2018, for returns that claim the EIC. This applies to the entire refund, not just the portion associated with the EIC.
Increased EIC on certain joint returns.(p230)
A married person filing a joint return may get more EIC than someone with the same income but a different filing status. As a result, the EIC table has different columns for married persons filing jointly than for everyone else. When you look up your EIC in the EIC Table, be sure to use the correct column for your filing status and the number of children you have.
Online help.(p230)
You can use the EITC Assistant at to find out if you are eligible for the credit. The EITC Assistant is available in English and Spanish.
EIC questioned by IRS.(p230)
The IRS may ask you to provide documents to prove you are entitled to claim the EIC. We will tell you what documents to send us. These may include: birth certificates, school records, medical records, etc. The process of establishing your eligibility will delay your refund.
The earned income credit (EIC) is a tax credit for certain people who work and have less than $53,930 of earned income. A tax credit usually means more money in your pocket. It reduces the amount of tax you owe. The EIC may also give you a refund.

How do you get the EIC?(p230)

To claim the EIC, you must:
  1. Qualify by meeting certain rules; and
  2. File a tax return, even if you:
    1. Don't owe any tax,
    2. Didn't earn enough money to file a return, or
    3. Didn't have income taxes withheld from your pay.
Figure your EIC by using a worksheet in the instructions for Form 1040, Form 1040A, or Form 1040EZ. Or, if you prefer, you can let the IRS figure the credit for you.

How will this chapter help you?(p230)

This chapter will explain the following.


Useful items

You may want to see:

 596  Earned Income Credit (EIC)
Form (and Instructions)
 Schedule EIC: Earned Income Credit (Qualifying Child Information)
 8862: Information To Claim Certain Refundable Credits After Disallowance

Do You Qualify for the Credit?(p230)

To qualify to claim the EIC, you must first meet all of the rules explained in Part A. Rules for Everyone. Then you must meet the rules in Part B. Rules if You Have a Qualifying Child, or Part C. Rules if You Don’t Have a Qualifying Child. There is one final rule you must meet in Part D. Figuring and Claiming the EIC. You qualify for the credit if you meet all the rules in each part that applies to you.

Table 36-1, Earned Income Credit in a Nutshell.(p230)

Use Table 36–1 as a guide to Parts A, B, C, and D. The table is a summary of all the rules in each part.

Do you have a qualifying child?(p230)

You have a qualifying child only if you have a child who meets the four tests described in Rule 8, later, and illustrated in Figure 36–1.

If Improper Claim Made in Prior Year(p230)

If your EIC for any year after 1996 was denied or reduced for any reason other than a math or clerical error, you must attach a completed Form 8862 to your next tax return to claim the EIC. You must also qualify to claim the EIC by meeting all the rules described in this chapter.
However, if your EIC was denied or reduced as a result of a math or clerical error, don't attach Form 8862 to your next tax return. For example, if your arithmetic is incorrect, the IRS can correct it. If you don't provide a correct social security number, the IRS can deny the EIC. These kinds of errors are called math or clerical errors.
If your EIC for any year after 1996 was denied and it was determined that your error was due to reckless or intentional disregard of the EIC rules, then you can't claim the EIC for the next 2 years. If your error was due to fraud, then you can't claim the EIC for the next 10 years.

More information.(p230)

See chapter 5 in Pub. 596 for more detailed information about the disallowance period and Form 8862.