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Can I claim the Child Tax Credit if I have not filed a tax return?

American taxpayers with qualifying children can claim up to $2,000 for each of them when filing a 2022 tax return this year. Here’s what you need to know…

How to claim the Child Tax Credit in 2023

The 2023 tax season is well underway, starting 23 January this year. The official deadline for most taxpayers to file 2022 tax returns is 18 April 2023, but those filers who need some extra time can file for an extension to get six extra months to pull papers together, but they will still need to pay any outstanding taxes owed by Tax Day. Already, millions of Americans have submitted their declarations and refunds are going out.

While refunds are expected to be smaller this year, as the covid-era financial assistance doled out through the IRS through beefed up tax credits and stimulus payments have ended. But there are still thousands of dollars that Americans may be eligible for this tax season to reduce their tax burden or even increase their refund. However, you can only claim a tax refund if you file a tax return, and meet the qualifications of course.

One such credit for taxpayers that can be worth up to $2,000 per eligible child is the Child Tax Credit. Here’s a look at how to claim the credit.

The 2022 Child Tax Credit can only be claimed by filing a tax return

Americans that do not normally file a tax return because they are exempt, might still be paying taxes in excess of what they owe, which by submitting a tax declaration would result in a refund. Through the IRS, these taxpayers would generally be eligible to use Free File programs to send in a tax return at no cost electronically. The online programs walk filers through what tax credits they have available to them. In order to have their tax returns processed faster, the IRS encourages taxpayers to file electronically, as well as using direct deposit to get your refund faster.

Even if you are not required to file a tax return, you may be able to claim the Child Tax Credit, but you have to file a tax return to do so. The credit is partially refundable, i.e. even if you don’t have an outstanding tax debt with the government, you may be able to claim that part of the credit and receive it as a tax refund.

Other credits that could result in lowering your tax burden or even a larger refund include the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

2022 Child Tax Credit

There have been some changes to the Child Tax Credit for the 2022 fiscal year, as the expansion under the 2021 American Rescue Plan which included advanced payments are no longer in effect, but that should make claiming the credit somewhat less complicated this year. The amount of the credit is smaller, a maximum of $2,000 per qualifying child, and eligibility is more restricted reverting back to prior eligibilty rules established through the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). These changes will be in effect through the 2025 fiscal year if Congress does not modify the credit before then.

This year the credit is partially refundable, and there is an earnings threshold to start claiming that portion known as the “Additional Child Tax Credit” which is worth up to $1,500, for the 2023 tax year the amount increases to $1,600. Taxpayers who owe less in taxes than the refundable amount will have it added to their tax refund, and the non-refundable portion will reduce taxes owed dollar-for-dollar. To claim a refund, filers must complete Schedule 8812.

The 2022 fiscal year Child Tax Credit is available to parents with dependents under 17 as of 31 December 2022 and who meet certain eligibility requirements. For tax years 2022 through 2025, the child must be eligible to be claimed as a dependent on the taxpayer’s return and live at the same residence as the taxpayer for more than half the year. The child cannot provide more than half of their own financial support during the tax year.

The child must have a valid taxpayer identification number in the form of a work-authorized Social Security number (SSN). One change to the 2021 Child Tax Credit, which was made permanent, gave Puerto Ricans with one or more children access to the tax credit. If they didn’t receive the enhanced 2021 Child Tax Credit, they may still be able to claim the $3,600 for that year through 15 April 2025 and should consult with the IRS.

Taxpayer income requirements to claim the 2022 Child Tax Credit

Parents of eligible children must have an adjusted gross income (AGI) of less than $200,000 for single filers and $400,000 for married filing jointly to claim the full credit. For every $1,000, or fraction thereof, over those thresholds, the credit is reduced by $50.

For lower-income Americans, they must have an income of at least $2,500 to be eligible for the refundable portion of the credit. The amount that can be claimed is a portion of earnings above that threshold. To calculate how much can be claimed, you need to subtract $2,500 from your “earned income”, for example, Social Security benefits and unemployment compensation do not count, and then multiply that number by 15 percent.