Thanks to the tax law changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the Child Tax Credit (CTC) is now worth up to $2,000 per qualifying child.
A tax credit is a powerful tool, because it reduces the amount of tax you owe by one dollar for each dollar of a tax credit. This is different from a tax deduction, which only lowers your taxable income by one dollar for each dollar of deduction.
However, the Child Tax Credit can be limited if your adjusted gross income exceeds a specific amount based on your filing status. The Child Tax Credit isn't refundable, but you may be able to get a refund using the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) if you end up owing less tax than the Child Tax Credit you qualify for. You can claim these credits when filing your tax return. Here are the details of how they work.
Determining the Child Tax Credit amount
Calculating the amount of the Child Tax Credit requires a few key numbers. Take the number of children that qualify for the tax credit and multiply this by $2,000 to calculate the total potential credit.
The potential Child Tax Credit amount will be reduced if your adjusted gross income exceeds $400,000 for people who are married and filing jointly, or $200,000 for all other tax filing statuses. For each $1,000 your adjusted gross income exceeds the limit (rounded up to the nearest $1,000), the total potential Child Tax Credit amount is reduced by $50 until it is completely exhausted.
Any remaining Child Tax Credit amount calculated above will be further reduced if your federal income tax is less than the potential Child Tax Credit amount. If your tax exceeds your potential Child Tax Credit amount, you can claim the full credit. If not, the credit is limited to the amount of your tax. Even so, you may qualify to have part of the excess credit refunded through the Additional Child Tax Credit using Form 8812.
Determining the refundable Additional Child Tax Credit amount
If you aren't able to take the entire Child Tax Credit because you don't have enough tax to offset, the Additional Child Tax Credit may help. This credit is refundable for the unused amount of your Child Tax Credit up to $1,400 per qualifying child, depending on your situation.
The credit is calculated by taking 15% of your earned income above $2,500. You get to claim the lesser of this calculated amount or your unused Child Tax Credit amount, up to $1,400 per qualifying child.
In rare cases, if you have three or more qualifying children, certain filers may be able to get a refundable credit even without meeting the traditional earned income requirements. The calculation for the credit using this method works by calculating the net Social Security and Medicare taxes you paid minus the earned income credit you claimed. If this number is greater than the standard calculation using the earned income method, you claim the credit using this calculation. If not, you use the number that results from taking 15% of your earned income above $2,500.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) was signed into law on December 27, 2020 as a stimulus measure to provide relief to those affected by the pandemic. For tax year 2020, The CAA allows taxpayers to use either their 2020 or 2019 earned income in calculating the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
If you file using TurboTax, the program runs the numbers for you and picks the option that results in the largest tax credit.
I have heard that the child tax credit amount may be changed when the Covid bill is passed. The amount may be $3000 rather than $1400 which has already been filed for me. Will I need to or can I refile for the difference if the bill is passed?