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Federal EIC
State EITC Programs
 
What Is the Earned Income Credit?
 
Am I Eligible?
 
How Much EIC Will I Get?
 
How Do I Claim the EIC?
 
Frequently Asked Questions
 
Useful Links
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FEDERAL EARNED INCOME CREDIT (EIC)

How Do Claim the Earned Income Credit?


How do I claim the Earned Income Credit?

Which tax forms do I need?

Where can I get the tax forms?

How do I file my tax return?

Where can I get help with my tax return?


NOTE: Glossary words are highlighted. Click on any glossary word to see its definition.

How do I claim the Earned Income Credit?

To claim the federal Earned Income Credit (EIC), you must file a federal income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Unless you file for an extension, you must submit your tax return by April 15th to report income for the previous tax year. You must file a tax return to get the Earned Income Credit, whether you owe federal income taxes or not.

You should only claim the Earned Income Credit if you are eligible for it. See EIC: Am I Eligible? If the IRS finds that you claimed the credit when you knew you were not eligible, you will not be allowed to take the credit for up to 10 years. You may also face other penalties.

Note: To apply for a state EIC, you must file a state income tax return with your state's Department of Revenue. See State EIC Programs for more information.


Which tax forms do I need?

The tax forms you need depend on whether you have a qualifying child or not:

  • Without a qualifying child

    If you are claiming the Earned Income Credit and you do not have a qualifying child, you should use whichever tax form you would normally use to file your income taxes.

    • You may be able to use the simplest form, Form 1040EZ, if you do not have dependents and you only have certain types of income such as wages, salaries, tips, and unemployment compensation.

    • If you cannot use Form 1040EZ, you may be able to use Form 1040A if you do not itemize deductions, you have no adjustments to income, and you are not claiming tax credits other than the EIC.

    • Otherwise, you probably have to use Form 1040.

  • With a qualifying child

    If you are claiming the Earned Income Credit and you have one or more qualifying children:

    • You must use either Form 1040A or Form 1040. You cannot use Form 1040EZ.
    • You must also include Schedule EIC.

      Schedule EIC is a simple one-page form that asks for information about your qualifying child(ren) such as name, Social Security number, date of birth, and age. See Schedule EIC on the IRS web site for more information.

For detailed information about which tax form to use, see Which Form - 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ? on the IRS web site.

You should read the EIC instructions on your tax form carefully to make sure you are eligible for the credit. You may face a tax penalty if you do not follow the rules.


Where can I get the tax forms?

You can get the forms you need to file your tax return and apply for the Earned Income Credit in several ways:

  • Free File Tax Preparation Programs: You can use Free File tax preparation programs if your adjusted gross income is no greater than the Free File limit. For tax year 2012, the Free File limit is $57,000. You may choose from several Free File companies: Choose a Free File CompanyHelp Me Find a Free File Company.

    Free File tax preparation programs:

    • are free for people who meet the income limits and other requirements
    • let you prepare your tax return, e-file, and file for an extension online
    • use a simple step-by-step interview question format to fill in your forms
    • do all the math for you
    • are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
    • allow you to save your work and return at a later time to finish your return
       
  • Free File Fillable Forms: Free File fillable forms are like paper IRS forms except that you fill them in online and submit them with e-file. Just about everyone is eligible to use Free File fillable forms. To use Free File fillable forms, go to About Free File Fillable Forms.

    Free File fillable forms:

    • are free for just about everyone
    • are online forms that look like paper IRS forms
    • allow you to enter your tax information line by line, just like a paper form
    • do basic math calculations for you
    • are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
    • allow you to save your work and return at a later time to finish your return
       
  • Online printable forms: You can download federal tax forms, instructions, and publications from the IRS Forms and Publications web site.

  • By mail: Go to the IRS Forms and Publications by U.S. Mail web site. To order:

    • Type the name of the form or publication you need into the search box, then click 'Search.'
    • Select the form(s) you want from the list, then click 'Add to Cart.' You may order up to 10 items.
    • When you have added all the forms you need to your cart, click 'Checkout.'
    • Enter your shipping information.

    You can only order current year tax forms by mail. You will get two copies of each form and one copy of each publication that you order. Processing and delivery of mail orders usually takes one to two weeks.

  • By telephone: Call 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676) and follow the instructions.

  • At Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites: VITA sites are free tax assistance sites usually located in community centers, libraries, churches, and similar locations. See Where can I get help with my tax return? for more information.

  • At post offices and libraries: During tax season, typically from mid-January through April 15th, you can pick up federal and state income tax forms at U.S. post offices and public libraries. The post offices and libraries usually have all of the most commonly used tax forms and instructions. You can pick up the forms for free during normal business hours.


How do I file my tax return?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) encourages you to submit your tax return electronically (e-file) if you can. E-filing is free, quick, and accurate. For information, see Everyone can e-file individual tax returns for free on the IRS web site. You may file your tax return electronically at most Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites. See Where can I get help with my tax return? for more information.

If you cannot e-file your tax return, you can mail your return to the IRS. If you live in Massachusetts and prepare and mail in your federal (IRS) tax return yourself during calendar year 2012, you should send your return to the appropriate address listed on the IRS web site:

The address where you send your federal tax return depends on:

  • which tax form you used (1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, etc.)
  • and whether you are enclosing a payment or not

Please note that for most of the addresses, the only difference is the last 4 digits of the zip code.


Where can I get help with my tax return?

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)

You can get free help with your tax return at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) site in your community. VITA and TCE sites are located in community centers, libraries, churches, shopping malls, retirement homes, and similar locations.

To find a VITA or TCE site, see Get Free Tax Prep Help on the IRS web site, or call the IRS site locator at 1-800-906-9887. VITA and TCE sites are open during the tax season, usually from January through April.

At most VITA and TCE sites, you can electronically file ("e-file") your tax return for free. Electronic filing usually speeds up the processing time of your tax return. You will get a tax refund payment more quickly if you e-file than if you send in a paper tax return.

If you go to a VITA or TCE site, you should bring identification, tax records, and financial statements that the tax volunteer will need to help you with your tax return.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The IRS will calculate your Earned Income Credit for you if you ask them to do so. You can find specific instructions on how to have the IRS compute the EIC for you in Chapter 29 of Publication17: Tax Guide for Individuals on the IRS web site.

You can also call the IRS with your tax questions toll-free at 1-800-829-1040, Monday through Friday, 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM (local time).

If you want to meet with an IRS representative one-on-one, your local IRS office will help you. For local IRS office contact information, see Contact Your Local IRS Office on the IRS web site. You do not need an appointment for routine questions. If you have a complicated issue, you should call ahead for an appointment.

 
 
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