Little one care tax credit score greater than doubles this yr: Learn to declare as much as $16,000

Pay for child care in 2021? You could get up to $16,000 this year. Everything to know

The quantity of child-care bills you’ll be able to declare for final yr is 266% increased than earlier than.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Tax season formally begins Jan. 24, and massive modifications to the little one and dependent care credit score means dad and mom and caregivers may see a big improve of their tax refunds this yr. The kid and dependent care credit score lets taxpayers write off bills associated to little one or dependent care as a direct discount of their federal taxes. It applies to bills for day care, babysitters or care-related transportation for youngsters or dependents. 

Because of a one-time enlargement of the credit score within the American Rescue Plan Act, dad and mom who paid for little one care in 2021 are eligible to obtain as much as 50% of their little one care bills again as a tax break or refund. The quantity of tax credit score you can declare maxes out at $8,000 for one dependent and $16,000 for 2 or extra. The catch? You may want all of your receipts and different financial proof to be sure you can declare the tax break while you file your earnings tax return. 

We’ll clarify how this little one care tax credit score works under. This story was lately up to date. 

What’s the little one and dependent care credit score?

The kid and dependent care credit score is a tax break designed to let dad and mom declare bills from little one care. For instance, should you paid for a day care supplier when you have been working, that expense could be claimed as a credit score while you file your taxes this yr.

How is the kid care credit score completely different for 2021 taxes? In earlier years, the utmost quantity you could possibly declare was $3,000 for one little one or $6,000 for 2 or extra. For 2021 bills, you’ll be able to declare as much as $8,000 for one little one or dependent and as much as $16,000 for a number of kids. The one-time enlargement of the kid care credit score for 2021 additionally will increase the utmost return price for little one care bills from 35% to 50%.

What does that imply? Briefly, for the 2021 tax yr, you could possibly stand up to $4,000 again for one little one and $8,000 again for care of two or extra.

Earlier than the American Rescue Plan, the kid and dependent care credit score was nonrefundable, that means it may scale back your tax invoice to zero however you wouldn’t obtain a refund on something further. Now, the credit score is totally refundable, that means that you’ll obtain cash for it even should you do not owe taxes. 


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Child tax credit: Everything we know



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What counts as an eligible expense for the child care credit?

The law defines expenses based on child care providers, but there’s some wiggle room that also accounts for expenses like transportation. Any organization or person providing care for your dependent counts as long as you’re paying them. (For example, a spouse or unpaid relative doesn’t count.)

The IRS has relatively relaxed rules about care providers, according to Elaine Maag, principal research associate at the Urban Institute. However, you’ll likely have better luck claiming child care credits for people and groups operating in an official capacity, such as nursery schools and day care centers, opposed to the $40 you paid a teenager to watch your child for an afternoon.

Qualified care providers

What qualifies What doesn’t qualify
Day care expenses Your spouse
Before- and after-school care programs The dependent’s parent
Day camp Your children
Transportation to and from care providers Babysitters paid “under the table”*
Babysitters, nannies, housekeepers

*Parents who pay their babysitters cash “under the table” should know it’s risky to claim the child care tax credit since the income may not be claimed or documented by the provider.

How do I claim child care expenses on my taxes?

Make sure you have a detailed account of all child care expenses — most importantly any receipts you received from day cares or after-school programs showing your expenses. When tax day approaches, complete Form 2441 and attach it to your Form 1040 tax return. 

According to the IRS, you’ll need to report the name, address and “taxpayer identification number” or TIN (it can be a Social Security number or the employer identification number) of the care provider on your return. You can use Form W-10 to request the information you need from your care provider.

Note that the child and dependent care credit form is built into tax software such as TurboTax and H&R Block. Those programs will ask if you have a child under age 13 and if you paid for child care during the year in order to calculate your child care credit.

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You’ll need detailed records of expenses and receipts to claim the child care credit. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

What’s the maximum amount I can claim for child care expenses?

For expenses accrued in 2021, the IRS says you can claim up to $8,000 in eligible expenses for one dependent or up to $16,000 in eligible expenses for multiple dependents.

Keep in mind that the child and dependent care credit is not the same as the similarly named child tax credit. Advance child tax credit payments were disbursed on a monthly basis last year. If you’re eligible for the child tax credit and didn’t receive advance payments, you can receive between $500 and $3,600 per child as credit when you file your taxes. 

Does my income affect how much I can claim or get back?

To qualify for the child care credit, a tax filer must have earned income, such as wages from a job or unemployment. If you are married and filing a joint tax return, your spouse must also have earned income. (Exemptions apply to full-time students and people receiving disability benefits.) The IRS says that generally you may not take the child care credit if you are married and filing separately.

The maximum amount of claimable child care expenses — $8,000 for one child or $16,000 for two or more — is not affected by income level. However, the rate of return for the child care credit decreases as income increases.

For the 2021 tax year, the credit rate starts to reduce when a taxpayer’s income or household AGI (adjusted gross income), reaches $125,000. The credit rate is reduced by 1% for every $2,000 earned over $125,000, up until $183,000, where it settles at 20% for everyone earning $183,001-$400,000. For example, an AGI of $145,000 would receive a tax credit rate of 40%.

For those making more than $400,000, the credit rate again reduces by 1% for every $2,000 earned over $400,000, and becomes zero for families earning $438,000 or more. For example, an AGI of $410,000 would receive a tax credit rate of 15%.

Which dependents are eligible to be included in the child care credit?

According to the IRS, qualifying rules for dependents are fairly broad, but a dependent must fit one of the following criteria: 

  • Be under the age of 13, or
  • Be unable to care for themselves if 13 or older (for example, if you have a spouse or older dependent who is impaired and incapable of caring for themselves, and has lived with you for more than half the year, or
  • Be physically or mentally incapable of self-care — even if their income was $4,300 or more. 

In addition, the qualifying dependent must have a tax identification number, such as a Social Security number.

What should I know if I’m separated or divorced? 

Only the custodial parent can claim the child care credit on their taxes. The IRS defines the custodial parent as the parent whom the child lived with for the greater number of nights in 2021. The rules for separated or divorced parents are similar to those governing the child tax credit and shared custody.

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