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IRS.gov Website
Instructions for Form 1040-EZ
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Lines 8a and 8b, Earned Income Credit (EIC)(p13)

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What Is the EIC?(p13)

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The EIC is a credit for certain people who work. The credit may give you a refund even if you do not owe any tax.
Note.(p13) If you have a qualifying child (see this page), you may be able to take the credit, but you must use Schedule EIC and Form 1040A or 1040 to do so. For details, see Pub. 596.

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To Take the EIC:(p13)

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For help in determining if you are eligible for the EIC, go to www.irs.gov/eitc and click on EITC Assistant. This service is available in English and Spanish.
caution
If you take the EIC even though you are not eligible and it is determined that your error is due to reckless or intentional disregard of the EIC rules, you will not be allowed to take the credit for 2 years even if you are otherwise eligible to do so. If you fraudulently take the EIC, you will not be allowed to take the credit for 10 years. See Form 8862, who must file, under Definitions and Special Rules later. You also may have to pay penalties.
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 Step 1   All Filers

1.  Is the amount on Form 1040EZ, line 4, less than $13,660 ($18,740 if married filing jointly)?
Yes.  Go to question 2.
No. Stop.  You cannot take the credit.
2.  Do you, and your spouse if filing a joint return, have a social security number that allows you to work or is valid for EIC purposes (explained later under Definitions and Special Rules)?
Yes.  Go to question 3.
No. Stop.  You cannot take the credit. Enter No in the space to the left of line 8a. 
3.  Were you, or your spouse if filing a joint return, at least age 25 but under age 65 at the end of 2011? (Check Yes if you were born after December 31, 1946, and before January 2, 1987). If your spouse died in 2011, see Pub. 596 before you answer.
Yes.   Go to question 4.
No. Stop.  You cannot take the credit. 
4.  Was your main home, and your spouse's if filing a joint return, in the United States for more than half of 2011? Members of the military stationed outside the United States, see Members of the military under Definitions and Special Rules later before you answer.
Yes.   Go to question 5.
No. Stop.  You cannot take the credit. Enter No in the space to the left of line 8a.
5.  Are you filing a joint return for 2011?
Yes.  Skip questions 6 and 7; go to Step 2 on the next page.
No.  Go to question 6.
6.  Look at the qualifying child conditions below. Could you be a qualifying child of another person in 2011?
Yes. Stop.  You cannot take the credit. Enter No in the space to the left of line 8a.
No.  Go to question 7.
A qualifying child for the EIC is a child who is your...

Son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, half sister, or a descendant of any of them (for example, your grandchild, niece, or nephew).
and
was...
Under age 19 at the end of 2011 and younger than you
(or your spouse, if filing jointly)
or
Under age 24 at the end of 2011, a student (defined later), and younger than you (or your spouse, if filing jointly)
or
Any age and permanently and totally disabled (defined later)
and
Who is not filing a joint return for 2011 or is filing a joint return for 2011 only as a claim for refund (defined later)
and
Who lived with you in the United States for more than half of 2011. If the child did not live with you for the required time, see Exception to time lived with you under Definitions and Special Rules later.
caution Special rules apply if the child was married or also meets the conditions to be a qualifying child of another person (other than your spouse if filing a joint return). For details, use TeleTax topic 601 in Section 6, later or see Pub. 596.
 
7.  Can you be claimed as a dependent on someone else's 2011 tax return?
Yes. Stop.  You cannot take the credit.
No.  Go to Step 2 on the next page.
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 Step 2   Earned Income

1.  Figure earned income:
 Form 1040EZ, line 1   
 a. Subtract, if included in line 1, any:    
Taxable scholarship or fellowship grant not reported on a Form W-2.    
Amount received as a pension or annuity from a nonqualified deferred compensation plan or a nongovernmental section 457 plan (enter "DFC" and the amount subtracted in the space to the left of line 1 on Form 1040EZ). This amount may be shown on your Form W-2 in box 11. If you received such an amount but box 11 is blank, contact your employer for the amount received as a pension or annuity. Right brace



 
Amount received for work performed while an inmate in a penal institution (enter "PRI" in the space to the left of line 1 on Form 1040EZ).    
 b. Add all of your nontaxable combat pay if you elect to include it in earned income. Also enter this amount on Form 1040EZ, line 8b. See Combat pay, nontaxable on the next page, and the Caution below. +  
 
cautionElecting to include nontaxable combat pay may increase or decrease your EIC. Figure the credit with and without your nontaxable combat pay before making the election.
    
 Earned Income = box2  
      
2.  Is your earned income less than $13,660 ($18,740 if married filing jointly)?
Yes.  Go to Step 3.
No. Stop.  You cannot take the credit.
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 Step 3   How To Figure the Credit

1.  Do you want the IRS to figure the credit for you?
Yes.  See Credit figured by the IRS on the next page.
No.  Go to the Earned Income Credit (EIC) Worksheet below.
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(p15)

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Earned Income Credit (EIC) Worksheet—Lines 8a and 8b

 
1.Enter your earned income from Step 2 above1.  
2.Look up the amount on line 1 above in the EIC Table later, to find the credit. Be sure you use the correct column for your filing status (Single or Married filing jointly).   
 Enter the credit here2.
 If line 2 is zero, stop You cannot take the credit. Enter "No" in the space to the left of line 8a.   
3.Enter the amount from Form 1040EZ, line 43.  
4.Are the amounts on lines 3 and 1 the same?    
  box Yes. Skip line 5; enter the amount from line 2 on line 6.    
  box No.Go to line 5.    
5.Is the amount on line 3 less than $7,600 ($12,700 if married filing jointly)?   
  box Yes. Leave line 5 blank; enter the amount from line 2 on line 6.   
  box No.Look up the amount on line 3 in the EIC Table later, to find the credit. Be sure you use the correct column for your filing status (Single or Married filing jointly).   
   Enter the credit here5.
   Look at the amounts on lines 5 and 2. Then, enter the smaller amount on line 6.   
        
6.Earned income credit. Enter this amount on Form 1040EZ, line 8a6. 
caution If your EIC for a year after 1996 was reduced or disallowed, see Form 8862, who must file on the next page to find out if you must file Form 8862 to take the credit for 2011.