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Save Money with the Child Tax Credit

Posted by attorney James Oberholtzer

If you have a child under age 17, the federal Child Tax Credit for your federal income taxes may save you money at tax-time. Here are some facts the IRS wants you to know about the credit.

  • Amount. The non-refundable Child Tax Credit may help reduce your federal income tax by up to $1,000 for each qualifying child you claim on your return.
  • Qualifications. For this credit, a qualifying child must pass seven tests:
  1. Age test. The child must have been under age 17 at the end of 2012.

  2. Relationship test. The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, or stepsister. A child may also be a descendant of any of these individuals, including your grandchild, niece or nephew. You would always treat an adopted child as your own child. An adopted child includes a child lawfully placed with you for legal adoption.

  3. Support test. The child must not have provided more than half of their own support for the year.

  4. Dependent test. You must claim the child as a dependent on your federal tax return.

  5. Joint return test. The child cannot file a joint return for the year, unless the only reason they are filing is to claim a refund.

  6. Citizenship test. The child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or U.S. resident alien.

  7. Residence test. In most cases, the child must have lived with you for more than half of 2012.

  • Limitations. The Child Tax Credit is subject to income limitations, and may be reduced or eliminated depending on your filing status and income.
  • Additional Child Tax Credit. If you qualify and get less than the full Child Tax Credit, you could receive a refund even if you owe no tax with the refundable Additional Child Tax Credit.

- Schedule 8812. If you qualify to claim the Child Tax Credit make sure to check whether you must complete and attach the new Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit, with your return. If you qualify to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit, you must complete and attach Schedule 8812.

IRS Publication 972, Child Tax Credit, can provide you with more details. View it online at or request it by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). You can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on the IRS website to check if you can claim the credit. The ITA is a resource that can help answer tax law questions.

Additional resources provided by the author

Additional IRS Resources:

IRS Free File
E-file Options
Interactive Tax Assistant
Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit
Publication 972, Child Tax Credit

IRS YouTube Videos:

Do Your Taxes for Free: Taxes Made Less Taxing - English | Spanish

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