If you have no taxable income, with or without a dependent, there is no reason to file a tax return. You would not be eligible for any tax credits which require having earned income, such as the Child Tax Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit.
If you are a student, over age 23, and are not claimed as a dependent by someone else (e.g. your parent) you may be eligible for the up to $1000 refundable American Opportunity (tuition) Credit. That credit is not dependent on having either kids or earned income. You must be at least a half time undergraduate student. There's even a loop hole available to claim the credit, if you are on scholarship. The refundable credit is 40% of the tuition paid, up to $4000.
As to the dependent, the money you hear about people getting for just filing a tax return claiming kids requires them to have some earned income (wages or self employment). Without earned income, they are not eligible for the "refundable" Earned Income Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit. Both credits are calculated on the amount of earned income you have. No earned income means no "refund". A small amount of earned income means a small refund. The child tax credit does not "kick in" unless you have at least $2500 of earned income.
A child can be the “qualifying child” dependent of any close relative in the household. If you live with someone else, e.g. your parents, it may be better if they claim your child.
Instead, you could allow the non-custodial parent to claim the children. Non-custodial parents are allowed to claim the child tax credit, but not the Earned income credit.
Correct, there's no place to say no income.
So you are saying the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 doesn't apply to me at all since I have no taxable income in 2020 due to COVID but did in 2019? Seeking clarification.......
If your earned income was higher in 2019 than in 2020, you can use the 2019 amount to figure your EITC for 2020. This temporary relief is provided through the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020.
To figure the credit, see Publication 596, Earned Income Credit.
Turbotax has a question for this and I want to make sure I understand the rules.