Although millions of people each year earn cash refunds from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) via the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), many others, including many people with disabilities, are not taking advantage of this generous program.
In late January 2018, the IRS issued a Notice encouraging tax filers with disabilities to apply for the EITC, noting that the tax credit could put a refund of up to $6,318 into an eligible taxpayer’s pocket. According to the IRS, many eligible people miss out on the EITC because they fall below the income threshold requiring them to file taxes, even though they can still file taxes and possibly get the credit. Others incorrectly believe that receiving the EITC will jeopardize their eligibility for other government benefits.
The EITC is available to individuals making up to $15,010, a figure that rises based on the person’s tax filing status and the number of qualifying children in the person’s household. For a married couple filing jointly with three qualifying children, the maximum household income is $53,930. Married couples filing taxes separately, as opposed to jointly, are not eligible for the EITC.
Taxpayers may claim a child with a disability or a relative with a disability of any age to get the credit if the person meets all other EITC requirements. For many EITC recipients, the credit may not only result in paying no taxes, but in receiving a refund from the IRS. The maximum refund for 2017 is $6,318.
To be eligible for the EITC, people must have “earned income.” Income from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or military disability benefits is not considered “earned income,” although recipients of these programs may still end up benefiting from the EITC if other people in their household are making “earned income.”
On the other hand, income from employer-provided disability benefits is considered “earned income,” until the recipient reaches “minimum retirement age,” meaning the age the person could have begun receiving a pension or annuity from their former employer.
Refunds received via the EITC are not considered income for the purposes of means-tested government benefit programs, such as Medicaid, SSI, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Section 8 housing, or other programs with maximum income limits.
For an IRS estimate of the size of your potential refund from the EITC, click here.
For people needing assistance in filing their taxes, the IRS has a Volunteer Income Assistance Program, which provides free services for certain people making less than $54,000, including people with disabilities and limited English speakers. For the elderly, the IRS has a similar program, known as the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program.
For more from the IRS about the EITC, click here.