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John Malone, JD, CTC
January 26, 2024

What is Child Tax Credit?

As a taxpayer with children, you have access to a valuable federal tax benefit known as the Child Tax Credit. This credit plays a crucial role in providing financial support to families and can significantly reduce your tax bill. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about the Child Tax Credit, including eligibility criteria, claiming procedures, and the potential amount you could receive per child. We will also discuss the upcoming changes to the credit and provide tips for optimizing your Tax Optimization to maximize your benefits.

Child Tax Credit: Insights from a Tax Strategist

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) is a non-refundable tax credit available to taxpayers with dependent children under the age of 17. This credit allows you to reduce your tax bill on a dollar-for-dollar basis, potentially eliminating your tax liability altogether. Additionally, some taxpayers may be eligible for a partial refund of the credit through the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC).

To qualify for the Child Tax Credit, both you and your child must meet certain eligibility criteria. These criteria include the child's age, their relationship to the person claiming them, residency, financial support, citizenship, and income. Let's delve deeper into each of these requirements.


To be eligible for the Child Tax Credit, your child must have been under the age of 17 at the end of the tax year.


The child you're claiming must have a specific relationship to you. This can include your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, sibling, or a descendant of any of these individuals, such as a grandchild, niece, or nephew.

Dependent Status

You must be able to claim the child as a dependent on your tax return. Additionally, the child cannot file a joint tax return unless they are filing for the sole purpose of claiming a refund of withheld income taxes or estimated taxes paid.


The child you're claiming must have lived with you for at least half of the tax year. There are exceptions to this rule, so make sure to consult the IRS guidelines for more specific information.

Financial Support

As the taxpayer, you must have provided at least half of the child's support during the tax year. If your child financially supported themselves for more than six months, they may not qualify as a dependent.


According to the IRS, your child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or U.S. resident alien. They must also have a valid Social Security number.


To take full advantage of the Child Tax Credit, you must meet certain income thresholds. If your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeds the income limits, the amount of credit you receive may be reduced or you may be deemed ineligible.

How Much is the Child Tax Credit?

The amount of the Child Tax Credit varies depending on the tax year. For the 2023 tax year (returns filed in 2024), the credit is worth up to $2,000 per qualifying dependent child. However, the refundable portion, also known as the Additional Child Tax Credit, is worth up to $1,600. It's important to note that the refundable portion is subject to income limits.

If your MAGI exceeds the income thresholds, the credit amount you receive will be reduced by $50 for every $1,000 your income exceeds the threshold. The credit eventually phases out completely for high earners.

Changes to the Child Tax Credit

The Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024, a nonpartisan legislation, aims to modify the Child Tax Credit if passed into law. The proposed changes include indexing the base credit amount for inflation and increasing the maximum refundable amount per child. However, it's important to note that these changes have not been implemented yet, and we will keep you updated as news develops.

How to Claim the Child Tax Credit: Tips from a CPA

To claim the Child Tax Credit for the 2023 tax year, you will need to file your tax return in 2024. You can claim the credit on your federal tax return (Form 1040 or 1040-SR) by using Schedule 8812, which is titled "Credits for Qualifying Children and Other Dependents." This schedule will help you determine the exact amount of your Child Tax Credit and any potential refund through the Additional Child Tax Credit.

Most quality tax software will guide you through the process of claiming the Child Tax Credit, simplifying the process and auto-filling the necessary forms. If your income falls below a certain threshold, you may also be eligible to use free tax software through the IRS' Free File program.

When to Expect Your Child Tax Credit Refund

If you file your tax return electronically and choose direct deposit as your refund method, you can expect to receive your Child Tax Credit refund by February 27, 2024. However, if you choose to file a paper return, the processing times may be longer. The IRS's "Where's My Refund" tool can provide you with updates on the status of your refund.

Consequences of a Child Tax Credit Error

It's essential to accurately report your Child Tax Credit on your tax form to avoid any issues or penalties. If the IRS determines that your claim for the credit is erroneous, you may be required to repay any amount you were paid in error, plus interest. You may also need to file Form 8862, "Information to Claim Certain Credits After Disallowance," before being able to claim the credit again.

State Child Tax Credits

In addition to the federal Child Tax Credit, some states offer their own state-level credits. States such as California, Colorado, and New York provide state-level Child Tax Credits that you may be eligible for when filing your state tax return. Be sure to visit your state's department of taxation website for more information on these credits.

The $500 Credit for Other Dependents

If you have a child or a relative you care for who doesn't meet the criteria for the Child Tax Credit, you may still be eligible for the Credit for Other Dependents (ODC). This nonrefundable credit is worth $500 and can be claimed for dependents who don't qualify for the Child Tax Credit. The IRS provides a tool to help you determine if your dependent qualifies for this credit.

History of the Child Tax Credit

The Child Tax Credit has undergone several changes throughout its history. Initially introduced as a $500 nonrefundable credit in 1997, it was increased to $1,000 per dependent and made partially refundable in 2001. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in 2017 brought further changes to the credit, including increasing the credit ceiling to $2,000 per dependent and adjusting the partially refundable portion for inflation each year. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 temporarily modified the credit for the 2021 tax year, expanding it to a maximum of $3,600 per qualifying child and making it fully refundable. However, these enhancements ended in 2022, and the credit reverted back to the rules established by the TCJA.

Conclusion: Maximizing Tax-Free Wealth

The Child Tax Credit is a valuable tax benefit that can significantly reduce your tax bill and provide financial support for families with dependent children. By understanding the eligibility criteria, claiming procedures, and potential changes to the credit, you can optimize your tax strategy and maximize your benefits. Remember to consult with a tax strategist or CPA for personalized advice tailored to your specific situation. Take advantage of the Child Tax Credit to achieve tax-free wealth and provide a brighter future for your children.

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