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Earned Income Credit

Earned Income Credit

If you “earn” the income that you report on your tax return, you may be eligible to claim the earned income credit. However, if a substantial portion of your gross income includes “unearned” income, such as investment gains, you will not qualify to take the credit. The rules covering the earned income credit are rather lengthy, so it’s advisable to familiarize yourself with some of the basic requirements before delving into the nuances of the tax rules.

As the name of the credit implies, it’s only available if you earn income from work, which includes the services you provide as an independent contractor and business owner. For purposes of your eligibility to claim the earned income credit, you can never include investment income, such as interest or dividends, or your Social Security benefits. In addition, you must also treat the child support, alimony, welfare benefits, workers’ compensation benefits and unemployment compensation you receive as “unearned” income. Moreover, the IRS precludes you from claiming any credit on your tax return if your investment income exceeds $3,150, regardless of how much (or little) your adjusted gross income (AGI) is.

Earned Income Credit & Maximum AGI

The rules covering the earned income credit are extensive, but you can assess your initial eligibility to take the credit with just your AGI and filing status. If your AGI is $49,078 or more, you are completely phased-out of the earned income credit. For all other taxpayers, your AGI must be less than the corresponding threshold for your filing status and the number of qualifying child dependents you claim on your tax return. For example, if you are a single taxpayer with one qualifying child, your AGI must be $36,051 or less to qualify for the earned income credit. Keep in mind, however, that you must still satisfy a number of additional requirements even if your AGI is below the initial threshold amount.

IRS Reference: What is Earned Income?