All Workers Claiming the EITC Must:

  • Have a valid Social Security number,
  • Not file as “married filing separate,”
  • Not file Form 2555 or Form 2555-EZ (related to Foreign Earned Income),
  • Meet the investment income limitation ($3,200 or less for tax year 2012),
  • Have earned income,
  • Not be the qualifying child of another person,
  • Generally, be a U.S. citizen or resident alien for the entire year.


To Claim EITC With a Qualifying Child, the Child Must Pass All of the Following Tests:

  • Relationship
    • A son or daughter (including an adopted child or child placed for adoption)
    • Stepchild
    • Foster child placed by an authorized placement agency or court
    • Brother, sister,  half brother, half sister, stepbrother, stepsister or a descendant of any of them
  • Age, at the end of the filing year, the child was:
    • Younger than the worker (or the worker’s spouse if married filing jointly) and 
      • younger than 19,
      • or, younger than 24 and a full-time student
    • Any age if permanently and totally disabled
  • Residency
    • Child must live with the worker, or the worker’s spouse if filing a joint return, in the United States* for more than half of the year.
  • Joint Return
    • The child can not have filed a joint return, unless the child and the child’s spouse did not have a filing requirement and filed only to claim a refund.

Note: For EITC, the qualifying child does not need to meet the support test under the Uniform Definition of a Child. See Understanding Who is a Qualifying Child.


Warning: Only one person can claim the same qualifying child for EITC and other tax benefits.  If more than one person claims the same child, IRS applies the tiebreaker rules. Read more about the tiebreaker rules here.


To Claim EITC Without a Qualifying Child, You, and Your Spouse if you File a Joint Return:

  • Must have lived in the United States for more than half of the tax year,
  • Either you (or your spouse if filing a joint return) must be at least age 25 but less than age 65
  • Cannot qualify as the dependent of another person.


*Special rules apply for members of the Military on extended duty outside the United States.  See the Military section on the Special Rules for EITC page on irs.gov  for more information.

Tie Breaker Rules

Only one person can use the same qualifying child. If a child is the qualifying child of more than one person, only one person can claim the child as a qualifying child for all of the following tax benefits:

  • EITC
  • Dependency Exemption for the Child,
  • Child tax credit,
  • Head of household filing status,
  • Credit for child and dependent care expenses, and
  • Exclusion for dependent care benefits.


The other person(s) cannot take any of the six tax benefits listed above unless he or she has a different qualifying child.* If they cannot agree on who claims the child as a qualifying child, and more than one person claims tax benefits using the same child, the tiebreaker rule explained below applies.  If the other person is a spouse and they file a joint return, this rules does not apply.

Under the Tiebreaker Rule, the Child is Treated as a Qualifying Child Only By:

  •  The parents, if they file a joint return;.
  • The parent, if only one of the persons is the child’s  parent;
  • The parent with whom the child lived the longest during the tax year, if two of the persons are the child’s parent and they do not file a joint return together;
  • The parent with the highest adjusted gross income (AGI) if the child lived with each parent for the same amount of time during the tax years, and they do not file a joint return together;
  • The person with the highest AGI, if no parent can claim the child as a qualifying child; or
  • A person with the higher AGI than any parent who can claim the child as a qualifying child but does not.