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Current Year Tax Map
Publication 17
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174721

Part B. Rules
If You Have a Qualifying Child(p233)

rule
If you have met all of the rules in Part A, read Part B to see if you have a qualifying child.
Part B discusses Rules 8 through 10. You must meet all three of these rules, in addition to the rules in Parts A and D, to qualify for the earned income credit with a qualifying child.
You must file Form 1040 or Form 1040A to claim the EIC with a qualifying child. (You cannot file Form 1040EZ.) You also must complete Schedule EIC and attach it to your return. If you meet all the rules in Part A and this part, read Part D to find out what to do next.
EIC
If you do not meet Rule 8, you do not have a qualifying child. Read Part C to find out if you can get the earned income credit without a qualifying child.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174729

Rule 8. Your Child Must Meet the Relationship, Age, Residency, and Joint Return Tests(p233)

rule
Your child is a qualifying child if your child meets four tests. The four tests are:
  1. Relationship,
  2. Age,
  3. Residency, and
  4. Joint return.
The four tests are illustrated in Figure 35-1. The paragraphs that follow contain more information about each test.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174730

Relationship Test(p233)

rule
To be your qualifying child, a child must be your:The following definitions clarify the relationship test.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174731

Adopted child.(p233)

rule
An adopted child is always treated as your own child. The term "adopted child" includes a child who was lawfully placed with you for legal adoption.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174732

Foster child.(p233)

rule
For the EIC, a person is your foster child if the child is placed with you by an authorized placement agency or by judgement, decree, or other order of any court of competent jurisdiction. An authorized placement agency includes a state or local government agency. It also includes a tax-exempt organization licensed by a state. In addition, it includes an Indian tribal government or an organization authorized by an Indian tribal government to place Indian children.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174733

Example.(p233)

Debbie, who is 12 years old, was placed in your care 2 years ago by an authorized agency responsible for placing children in foster homes. Debbie is your foster child.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174735

Age Test(p233)

rule
Your child must be:
  1. Under age 19 at the end of 2012 and younger than you (or your spouse, if filing jointly),
  2. Under age 24 at the end of 2012, a student, and younger than you (or your spouse, if filing jointly), or
  3. Permanently and totally disabled at any time during 2012, regardless of age.

The following examples and definitions clarify the age test.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174736

Example 1—child not under age 19.(p233)

Your son turned 19 on December 10. Unless he was permanently and totally disabled or a student, he is not a qualifying child because, at the end of the year, he was not under age 19.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000232695

Example 2—child not younger than you or your spouse.(p233)

Your 23-year-old brother, who is a full-time student and unmarried, lives with you and your spouse. He is not disabled. Both you and your spouse are 21 years old and you file a joint return. Your brother is not your qualifying child because he is not younger than you or your spouse.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000232696

Example 3—child younger than your spouse but not younger than you.(p233)

The facts are the same as in Example 2 except that your spouse is 25 years old. Because your brother is younger than your spouse, he is your qualifying child even though he is not younger than you.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174737

Student defined.(p233)

rule
To qualify as a student, your child must be, during some part of each of any 5 calendar months during the calendar year:
  1. A full-time student at a school that has a regular teaching staff, course of study, and regular student body at the school, or
  2. A student taking a full-time, on-farm training course given by a school described in (1), or a state, county, or local government.
The 5 calendar months need not be consecutive.
A full-time student is a student who is enrolled for the number of hours or courses the school considers to be full-time attendance.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174739
School defined.(p233)
A school can be an elementary school, junior or senior high school, college, university, or technical, trade, or mechanical school. However, on-the-job training courses, correspondence schools, and schools offering courses only through the Internet do not count as schools for the EIC.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174740
Vocational high school students.(p233)
Students who work in co-op jobs in private industry as a part of a school's regular course of classroom and practical training are considered full-time students.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174741

Permanently and totally disabled.(p233)

rule
Your child is permanently and totally disabled if both of the following apply.
  1. He or she cannot engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a physical or mental condition.
  2. A doctor determines the condition has lasted or can be expected to last continuously for at least a year or can lead to death.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174742

Residency Test(p233)

rule
Your child must have lived with you in the United States for more than half of 2012. The following definitions clarify the residency test.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174743

United States.(p233)

rule
This means the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It does not include Puerto Rico or U.S. possessions such as Guam.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174744

Homeless shelter.(p233)

rule
Your home can be any location where you regularly live. You do not need a traditional home. For example, if your child lived with you for more than half the year in one or more homeless shelters, your child meets the residency test.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174745

Military personnel stationed outside the United States.(p233)

rule
U.S. military personnel stationed outside the United States on extended active duty are considered to live in the United States during that duty period for purposes of the EIC.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000271774
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174746
Extended active duty.(p235)
Extended active duty means you are called or ordered to duty for an indefinite period or for a period of more than 90 days. Once you begin serving your extended active duty, you are still considered to have been on extended active duty even if you do not serve more than 90 days.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174747

Birth or death of a child.(p235)

rule
A child who was born or died in 2012 is treated as having lived with you for more than half of 2012 if your home was the child's home for more than half the time he or she was alive in 2012.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174748

Temporary absences.(p235)

rule
Count time that you or your child is away from home on a temporary absence due to a special circumstance as time the child lived with you. Examples of a special circumstance include illness, school attendance, business, vacation, military service, and detention in a juvenile facility.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174749

Kidnapped child.(p235)

rule
A kidnapped child is treated as living with you for more than half of the year if the child lived with you for more than half the part of the year before the date of the kidnapping. The child must be presumed by law enforcement authorities to have been kidnapped by someone who is not a member of your family or your child's family. This treatment applies for all years until the child is returned. However, the last year this treatment can apply is the earlier of:
  1. The year there is a determination that the child is dead, or
  2. The year the child would have reached age 18.
If your qualifying child has been kidnapped and meets these requirements, enter "KC," instead of a number, on line 6 of Schedule EIC.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000210359

Joint Return Test(p235)

rule
To meet this test, the child cannot file a joint return for the year.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000210360

Exception.(p235)

rule
An exception to the joint return test applies if your child and his or her spouse file a joint return only to claim a refund of income tax withheld or estimated tax paid.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000236253

Example 1—child files joint return.(p235)

You supported your 18-year-old daughter, and she lived with you all year while her husband was in the Armed Forces. The couple files a joint return. Because your daughter and her husband filed a joint return, she is not your qualifying child.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink100041838

Example 2—child files joint return only to claim a refund of withheld tax.(p235)

Your 18-year-old son and his 17-year-old wife had $800 of wages from part-time jobs and no other income. They do not have a child. Neither is required to file a tax return. Taxes were taken out of their pay, so they filed a joint return only to get a refund of the withheld taxes. The exception to the joint return test applies, so your son may be your qualifying child if all the other tests are met.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000239213

Example 3—child files joint return to claim American opportunity credit.(p235)

The facts are the same as in Example 2 except no taxes were taken out of your son's pay. He and his wife are not required to file a tax return, but they file a joint return to claim an American opportunity credit of $124 and get a refund of that amount. Because claiming the American opportunity credit is their reason for filing the return, they are not filing it only to get a refund of income tax withheld or estimated tax paid. The exception to the joint return test does not apply, so your son is not your qualifying child.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000210361

Married child.(p235)

rule
Even if your child does not file a joint return, if your child was married at the end of the year, he or she cannot be your qualifying child unless:
  1. You can claim an exemption for the child, or
  2. The reason you cannot claim an exemption for the child is that you let the child's other parent claim the exemption under the Special rule for divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart), described later.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000210362

Social security number.(p235)

rule
The qualifying child must have a valid social security number (SSN) unless the child was born and died in 2012 and you attach to your return a copy of the child's birth certificate, death certificate, or hospital records showing a live birth. You cannot claim the EIC on the basis of a qualifying child if:
  1. The qualifying child's SSN is missing from your tax return or is incorrect,
  2. The qualifying child's social security card says "Not valid for employment" and was issued for use in getting a federally funded benefit, or
  3. Instead of an SSN, the qualifying child has:
    1. An individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), which is issued to a noncitizen who cannot get an SSN, or
    2. An adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN), which is issued to adopting parents who cannot get an SSN for the child being adopted until the adoption is final.
If you have more than one qualifying child and only one has a valid SSN, you can claim the EIC only on the basis of that child. For more information about SSNs, see Rule 2.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174752

Rule 9. Your Qualifying Child Cannot Be Used By More Than One Person To Claim the EIC(p235)

rule
Sometimes a child meets the tests to be a qualifying child of more than one person. However, only one of these persons can actually treat the child as a qualifying child. Only that person can use the child as a qualifying child to take all of the following tax benefits (provided the person is eligible for each benefit).
  1. The exemption for the child.
  2. The child tax credit.
  3. Head of household filing status.
  4. The credit for child and dependent care expenses.
  5. The exclusion for dependent care benefits.
  6. The EIC.
The other person cannot take any of these benefits based on this qualifying child. In other words, you and the other person cannot agree to divide these tax benefits between you. The other person cannot take any of these tax benefits unless he or she has a different qualifying child.
The tiebreaker rules explained next explain who, if anyone, can claim the EIC when more than one person has the same qualifying child. However, the tiebreaker rules do not apply if the other person is your spouse and you file a joint return.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000210345

Tiebreaker rules.(p235)

rule
To determine which person can treat the child as a qualifying child to claim the six tax benefits just listed, the following tiebreaker rules apply.
Subject to these tiebreaker rules, you and the other person may be able to choose which of you claims the child as a qualifying child. See Examples 1 through 13.
If you cannot claim the EIC because your qualifying child is treated under the tiebreaker rules as the qualifying child of another person for 2012, you may be able to take the EIC using a different qualifying child, but you cannot take the EIC using the rules in Part C for people who do not have a qualifying child.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000210346

If the other person cannot claim the EIC.(p235)

rule
If you and someone else have the same qualifying child but the other person cannot claim the EIC because he or she is not eligible or his or her earned income or AGI is too high, you may be able to treat the child as a qualifying child. See Examples 6 and 7. But you cannot treat the child as a qualifying child to claim the EIC if the other person uses the child to claim any of the other six tax benefits listed earlier.
Examples. The following examples may help you in determining whether you can claim the EIC when you and someone else have the same qualifying child.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink100023379

Example 1.(p236)

You and your 2-year-old son Jimmy lived with your mother all year. You are 25 years old, unmarried, and your AGI is $9,000. Your only income was $9,000 from a part-time job. Your mother's only income was $20,000 from her job, and her AGI is $20,000. Jimmy's father did not live with you or Jimmy. The special rule explained later for divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart) does not apply. Jimmy is a qualifying child of both you and your mother because he meets the relationship, age, residency, and joint return tests for both you and your mother. However, only one of you can treat him as a qualifying child to claim the EIC (and the other tax benefits listed earlier for which that person qualifies). He is not a qualifying child of anyone else, including his father. If you do not claim Jimmy as a qualifying child for the EIC or any of the other tax benefits listed earlier, your mother can treat him as a qualifying child to claim the EIC (and any of the other tax benefits listed earlier for which she qualifies).
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000201757

Example 2.(p236)

The facts are the same as in Example 1 except your AGI is $25,000. Because your mother's AGI is not higher than yours, she cannot claim Jimmy as a qualifying child. Only you can claim him.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink100023380

Example 3.(p236)

The facts are the same as in Example 1 except that you and your mother both claim Jimmy as a qualifying child. In this case, you as the child's parent will be the only one allowed to claim Jimmy as a qualifying child for the EIC and the other tax benefits listed earlier for which you qualify. The IRS will disallow your mother's claim to the EIC and any of the other tax benefits listed earlier unless she has another qualifying child.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink100023381

Example 4.(p236)

The facts are the same as in Example 1 except that you also have two other young children who are qualifying children of both you and your mother. Only one of you can claim each child. However, if your mother's AGI is higher than yours, you can allow your mother to claim one or more of the children. For example, if you claim one child, your mother can claim the other two.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink100023382

Example 5.(p236)

The facts are the same as in Example 1 except that you are only 18 years old. This means you are a qualifying child of your mother. Because of Rule 10, discussed next, you cannot claim the EIC and cannot claim Jimmy as a qualifying child. Only your mother may be able to treat Jimmy as a qualifying child to claim the EIC. If your mother meets all the other requirements for claiming the EIC and you do not claim Jimmy as a qualifying child for any of the other tax benefits listed earlier, your mother can claim both you and Jimmy as qualifying children for the EIC.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink100023383

Example 6.(p236)

The facts are the same as in Example 1 except that your mother earned $50,000 from her job. Because your mother's earned income is too high for her to claim the EIC, only you can claim the EIC using your son.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000234801

Example 7.(p236)

The facts are the same as in Example 1 except that you earned $50,000 from your job and your AGI is $50,500. Your earned income is too high for you to claim the EIC. But your mother cannot claim the EIC either, because her AGI is not higher than yours.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000234567

Example 8.(p236)

The facts are the same as in Example 1 except that you and Jimmy's father are married to each other, live with Jimmy and your mother, and have an AGI of $30,000 on a joint return. If you and your husband do not claim Jimmy as a qualifying child for the EIC or any of the other tax benefits listed earlier, your mother can claim him instead. Even though the AGI on your joint return, $30,000, is more than your mother's AGI of $20,000, for this purpose half of the joint AGI can be treated as yours and half as your husband's. In other words, each parent's AGI can be treated as $15,000.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink100023384

Example 9.(p236)

You, your husband, and your 10-year-old son Joey lived together until August 1, 2012, when your husband moved out of the household. In August and September, Joey lived with you. For the rest of the year, Joey lived with your husband, who is Joey's father. Joey is a qualifying child of both you and your husband because he lived with each of you for more than half the year and because he met the relationship, age, and joint return tests for both of you. At the end of the year, you and your husband still were not divorced, legally separated, or separated under a written separation agreement, so the special rule for divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart) does not apply.
You and your husband will file separate returns. Your husband agrees to let you treat Joey as a qualifying child. This means, if your husband does not claim Joey as a qualifying child for any of the tax benefits listed earlier, you can claim him as a qualifying child for any tax benefit listed earlier for which you qualify. However, your filing status is married filing separately, so you cannot claim the EIC or the credit for child and dependent care expenses. See Rule 3.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink100023385

Example 10.(p236)

The facts are the same as in Example 9 except that you and your husband both claim Joey as a qualifying child. In this case, only your husband will be allowed to treat Joey as a qualifying child. This is because, during 2012, the boy lived with him longer than with you. You cannot claim the EIC (either with or without a qualifying child). However, your husband's filing status is married filing separately, so he cannot claim the EIC or the credit for child and dependent care expenses. See Rule 3.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink100023386

Example 11.(p236)

You, your 5-year-old son and your son's father lived together all year. You and your son's father are not married. Your son is a qualifying child of both you and his father because he meets the relationship, age, residency, and joint return tests for both you and his father. Your earned income and AGI are $12,000, and your son's father's earned income and AGI are $14,000. Neither of you had any other income. Your son's father agrees to let you treat the child as a qualifying child. This means, if your son's father does not claim your son as a qualifying child for the EIC or any of the other tax benefits listed earlier, you can claim him as a qualifying child for the EIC and any of the other tax benefits listed earlier for which you qualify.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink100023387

Example 12.(p236)

The facts are the same as in Example 11 except that you and your son's father both claim your son as a qualifying child. In this case, only your son's father will be allowed to treat your son as a qualifying child. This is because his AGI, $14,000, is more than your AGI, $12,000. You cannot claim the EIC (either with or without a qualifying child).
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink100023388

Example 13.(p236)

You and your 7-year-old niece, your sister's child, lived with your mother all year. You are 25 years old, and your AGI is $9,300. Your only income was from a part-time job. Your mother's AGI is $15,000. Her only income was from her job. Your niece's parents file jointly, have an AGI of less than $9,000, and do not live with you or their child. Your niece is a qualifying child of both you and your mother because she meets the relationship, age, residency, and joint return tests for both you and your mother. However, only your mother can treat her as a qualifying child. This is because your mother's AGI, $15,000, is more than your AGI, $9,300.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000210356

Special rule for divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart).(p236)

rule
A child will be treated as the qualifying child of his or her noncustodial parent (for purposes of claiming an exemption and the child tax credit, but not for the EIC) if all of the following apply.
  1. The parents:
    1. Are divorced or legally separated under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance,
    2. Are separated under a written separation agreement, or
    3. Lived apart at all times during the last 6 months of 2012, whether or not they are or were married.
  2. The child received over half of his or her support for the year from the parents.
  3. The child is in the custody of one or both parents for more than half of 2012.
  4. Either of the following statements is true.
    1. The custodial parent signs Form 8332 or a substantially similar statement that he or she will not claim the child as a dependent for the year, and the noncustodial parent attaches the form or statement to his or her return. If the divorce decree or separation agreement went into effect after 1984 and before 2009, the noncustodial parent may be able to attach certain pages from the decree or agreement instead of Form 8332.
    2. A pre-1985 decree of divorce or separate maintenance or written separation agreement that applies to 2012 provides that the noncustodial parent can claim the child as a dependent, and the noncustodial parent provides at least $600 for support of the child during 2012.

For details, see chapter 3. Also see Applying Rule 9 to divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart), next.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000210358

Applying Rule 9 to divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart).(p237)

rule
If a child is treated as the qualifying child of the noncustodial parent under the special rule just described for children of divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart), only the noncustodial parent can claim an exemption and the child tax credit for the child. However, the custodial parent, if eligible, or another eligible taxpayer can claim the child as a qualifying child for the EIC and other tax benefits listed earlier in this chapter. If the child is the qualifying child of more than one person for these benefits, then the tiebreaker rules determine which person can treat the child as a qualifying child.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink100023392

Example 1.(p237)

You and your 5-year-old son lived all year with your mother, who paid the entire cost of keeping up the home. Your AGI is $10,000. Your mother’s AGI is $25,000. Your son's father did not live with you or your son. Under the special rule for children of divorced or separated parents (or parents who live apart), your son is treated as the qualifying child of his father, who can claim an exemption and the child tax credit for the child. However, your son's father cannot claim your son as a qualifying child for head of household filing status, the credit for child and dependent care expenses, the exclusion for dependent care benefits, or the EIC. You and your mother did not have any child care expenses or dependent care benefits. If you do not claim your son as a qualifying child, your mother can claim him as a qualifying child for the EIC and head of household filing status, if she qualifies for these tax benefits.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000234547

Example 2.(p237)

The facts are the same as in Example 1 except that your AGI is $25,000 and your mother's AGI is $21,000. Your mother cannot claim your son as a qualifying child for any purpose because her AGI is not higher than yours.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink100023393

Example 3.(p237)

The facts are the same as in Example 1 except that you and your mother both claim your son as a qualifying child for the EIC. Your mother also claims him as a qualifying child for head of household filing status. You as the child's parent will be the only one allowed to claim your son as a qualifying child for the EIC. The IRS will disallow your mother's claim to the EIC and head of household filing status unless she has another qualifying child.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174787

Rule 10. You Cannot Be a Qualifying Child of Another Taxpayer(p237)

rule
You are a qualifying child of another taxpayer (your parent, guardian, foster parent, etc.) if all of the following statements are true.
  1. You are that person's son, daughter, stepchild, grandchild, or foster child. Or, you are that person's brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, or stepsister (or the child or grandchild of that person's brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepbrother, or stepsister).
  2. You were:
    1. Under age 19 at the end of the year and younger than that person (or that person's spouse, if the person files jointly),
    2. Under age 24 at the end of the year, a student, and younger than that person (or that person's spouse, if the person files jointly), or
    3. Permanently and totally disabled, regardless of age.
  3. You lived with that person in the United States for more than half of the year.
  4. You are not filing a joint return for the year (or are filing a joint return only as a claim for refund).
For more details about the tests to be a qualifying child, see Rule 8.
If you (or your spouse, if filing a joint return) are a qualifying child of another taxpayer, you cannot claim the EIC. This is true even if the person for whom you are a qualifying child does not claim the EIC or meet all of the rules to claim the EIC. Put "No" beside line 64a (Form 1040) or line 38a (Form 1040A).
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000174789

Example.(p237)

You and your daughter lived with your mother all year. You are 22 years old, unmarried, and attended a trade school full time. You had a part-time job and earned $5,700. You had no other income. Because you meet the relationship, age, residency, and joint return tests, you are a qualifying child of your mother. She can claim the EIC if she meets all the other requirements. Because you are your mother's qualifying child, you cannot claim the EIC. This is so even if your mother cannot or does not claim the EIC.
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000262978

Child of person not required to file a return.(p237)

rule
You are not the qualifying child of another taxpayer (and so may qualify to claim the EIC) if your parent (or other person for whom you meet the relationship, age, residency, and joint return tests) is not required to file an income tax return and either:
taxmap/pub17/p17-177.htm#en_us_publink1000265648

Example.(p237)

The facts are the same as in the last example except your mother had no gross income, is not required to file a 2012 tax return, and does not file a 2012 tax return. As a result, you are not your mother's qualifying child. You can claim the EIC if you meet all the other requirements to do so.
See Rule 10 in Publication 596 for additional examples.