Want to increase your tax return this year?
It’s all about the tax credits. The more you claim, the higher your tax refund.
To maximize your refund, we’ve created a list of tax credits you won’t want to miss and broken them down into 5 categories:
- Family and dependant credits
- Income and savings credits
- Homeowner credits
- Healthcare credits
- Education credits
Turns out, the government is giving out a lot of credits, so make sure to read through them all to find which tax credits you can claim.
1. Family and dependant credits
If you have children or dependents, care for an elderly or disabled family member, or have adopted this year, here’s a list of the family and dependent credits.
Child and dependent care credit
You can claim this credit if you have paid someone to care for a child under the age of 13, or if you have paid for the care of a spouse or adult dependent who cannot take care of themselves and lived in your home for at least six months.
You can include up to $3,000 of eligible expenses if you have one dependent, and up $6,000 if you have two or more. Depending on your income, you can claim 20-35% back. There is no income restriction, but the more you make, the less percentage you get back.
Examples of eligible expenses include paying for daycare, babysitters, and after-school programs.
Did you adopt a child this year? If so, you can get a credit towards the qualified adoption expenses. These expenses include adoption fees, court costs, and travel arrangements, among other things.
The maximum credit is $14,080 per child which you can claim if your gross income is $211,160 or less. If you make more, you can still claim the credit, but you will not get the full amount.
Child tax credit and credit for other dependents
If you have children, you can receive a credit of $2,000 per child under the age of 17. The child must also be a US citizen, US national, or US resident alien and have lived with you for more than half a year.
However, you can only receive the child tax credit if your gross income is $200,000 or less for individual filers and $400,000 or less for joint filers.
Credit for the elderly or disabled
You may be eligible for this credit if you are a US citizen or resident alien over the age of 65 or have retired early due to disability.
As in individual filers, your gross income must be less than $17,500, or as a joint filer, it must be less than $20,000 (or $25,000 if both spouses qualify).
2. Income and savings credits
Most tax credits fall under this category, and almost everyone will qualify for at least one of these credits.
Earned income tax credit
The earned income tax credit (EITC) is for working individuals with low to moderate income. However, there are a lot of requirements.
First, you must have a social security number (SSN) that is valid for employment and was issued on or before the date you file your return. If you file jointly, your spouse must also have a valid SSN, as well as any children you claim as dependents.
Special note for nonresident aliens:
You cannot claim the EITC unless your filing status is “married filing jointly.” You can use this status only if one spouse is a US citizen or resident alien and you choose to treat the nonresident spouse as a US resident.
Additionally, there are several rules regarding the income you earned (numbers are up-to-date for income earned in 2019).
- Your yearly tax investment income must be $3,600 or less
- You must not file Foreign Earned Income (or Exclusion)
- Your earned income must be at least $1
- Your earned income and adjusted gross income (AGI) must be no more than the following:
If you claim a child, they must meet all necessary qualifications.
If you are not claiming a child, you must meet a few more requirements to be eligible for the EITC:
- Your main home is in the US for more than half of the tax year
- You can’t be claimed as a dependent on someone else's return
- You must have been at least 25 but under 65 years old at the end of the tax year
Saver’s tax credit
This specific credit can be claimed by those who make contributions from their salary to employer-sponsored 401(k), 403(b), SIMPLE, SEP or governmental 457 plan or make contributions to their Traditional or Roth IRAs.
The amount of the credit is based on your income and the amount of your contributions. To be eligible, you must also be 18 or older, not a fulltime student, and not claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.
Foreign tax credit
If you paid foreign taxes to another country and are subject to pay taxes on the same income in the US, you may be eligible for a foreign tax credit.
Only income from working or investing in a forieign country is eligible.
Credit for Prior Year Minimum Tax
The prior year minimum tax credit is a credit for alternative minimum tax (AMT) that you paid in a previous year.
If you don’t owe AMT this year, but you paid AMT in a previous year, you might be eligible to get a credit for prior year minimum tax.
3. Homeowner credit
Are you a homeowner? You may be eligible for some of the following homeowner credits.
Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit
The energy efficient property credit is a credit that allows you to claim energy saving improvements you’ve made to your home. The percentage of the cost you can claim back depends on the date you made the improvements to your home:
30%–Between December 31, 2016–January 1, 2020
26%–Between December 31, 2019–January 1, 2021
22%–Before December 31, 2020–January 1, 2022
The main requirement is that the home must be located in the US and you must own it - sorry, renting will not get you this credit.
Low-Income Housing Credit (for Owners)
The low-income housing tax credit gives credit to real estate developers and investors who are creating affordable housing.
Depending on the state where the project is taking place, the tax credit can be up to 70% of the project funding.
4. Healthcare credits
If you are paying for healthcare insurance out of pocket? You could qualify for one of the following healthcare credits.
Premium Tax Credit (Affordable Care Act)
If you have purchased health insurance through the healthcare exchange, sometimes referred to as the Marketplace, under the Affordable Care Act, you could be eligible for the premium tax credit.
The intent is to limit the cost of health insurance for low to middle income earners. The amount you receive depends on several factors, including household income, family size, and the state where you live.
Health Coverage Tax Credit
The health coverage tax credit allows you to have 72.5% of your qualified health insurance premiums paid in advance directly to your health plan administrator on a monthly basis. If you don’t request the advanced monthly payments, you can claim a credit on your tax return.
This only applies to individuals who are between the ages of 55-64 and are receiving benefits from Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).
5. Education credits
Last but not least are the education credits!
American Opportunity Credit
The American opportunity tax credit (AOTC) is a credit for students to help them pay the cost of higher education. The parents of a student who is claimed as a dependent on their own tax return can also qualify for the AOTC.
The credit gives students up to $2,500 toward tuition and fees, school supplies, and other education-related expenses. Room and board costs are not included.
To be eligible for the AOTC, the student must be enrolled at least part-time to pursue a degree or recognized credential and have not already completed the first four years of their higher education.
Lifetime Learning Credit
The lifetime learning credit is similar to the American opportunity credit. However, one main difference is that the credit is only worth up to $2,000. It can be claimed an unlimited number of years, but it cannot be combined with the AOTC.
The lifetime learning credit is also more flexible. You can use it toward paying for undergraduate, graduate and professional degree courses, including courses to acquire or improve job skills.
Get the money back you deserve!
Now that you have gone through all the credits and have seen which ones you may qualify for, the only thing to do is get started on filing your taxes.
But these were only the credits. If you really want to maximize your return, you will also need to see which deductions you should claim!
And if you’re not sure what the difference between a tax credit and a tax deduction is, we’ve got you covered there too with our credit vs deduction factsheet.