No matter where you are, taxes are a nebulous yearly commitment with seemingly endless secrets to uncover for ultimate savings. The U.S. federal government institutes tax credits to help Americans ease their burdens. Eligible benefits cut taxable income and provide other incentives that invest in the nation’s betterment.
It helps to understand what’s out there and what taxpayers must do to get the rewards. New credits are added and taken away seemingly every year, but some have remained staples. Here are the requirements for each tax credit and how much they’ll save you on your returns.
What Are Tax Credits and Why Should You Use Them?
Tax credits reduce liability. Federal and local governments award them to lessen financial burdens, especially for lower- to middle-income households. Tax credits are not the same as deductions, which reduce what’s considered taxable income.
For example, if you made $35,000 in a year but had deductions equalling $12,000, you will be taxed on $23,000. Tax credits work slightly differently, as they decrease the amount of taxes filers owe. They eliminate what you must pay, which varies depending on your tax bracket.
Everyone should take advantage of tax credits — some intentionally seek them throughout the year to maximize their returns. Credits ensure a more considerable return, especially if you consciously progress toward earning them. However, more diverse and niche deductions can be used to get the most out of your tax year.
Their strict requirements reflect their value. Not every family can qualify for credits related to their dependents, especially if they’re higher-earning. Governments designed tax credits to empower lower-income households in a financially stressful time of year, leveling out class disparities as much as possible. Eligibility criteria allow awards to hit homes in greatest need.
States offer credits depending on current legislation and initiatives. For example, a state may offer more diverse sustainability benefits than the federal government if it has metrics to meet by a specific date. These are the available credits for varying situations and stages of life.
Are There Tax Credits for Students?
Despite myths surrounding student tax responsibilities, they should still file taxes if they work, regardless of their tuition or loan situation, or if their parents claim them as dependents on their tax return. Every worker must report income. Nevertheless, being a student has its benefits come tax season because there are educational credits and other perks to note when filing.
Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC)
The LLC helps students pay for tuition — no supplies, room and board, or transportation. There is a predetermined list of eligible institutions, so ensure your university is included. It could exclude smaller or private schools. However, it can reduce tax liability by $2,500 for four years of higher education, encompassing associate or graduate degrees and professional development courses like trades. Using credit for job skills reduces the benefit to $2,000, but there’s no time restriction.
American Opportunity Credit (AOTC)
The AOTC also rewards students pursuing post-secondary education, specifically undergraduate. It has a price tag similar to the LLC — $2,500 at max — but students must qualify for part-time enrollment at a minimum. The AOTC also covers course materials, like books and supplies, alongside tuition, but only for up to four years. Trade education or professional development does not qualify.
Other Important Notes
These credits are subject to income limits, and students can’t obtain both. The income limit for a household must be under $80,000 for single filers and $160,000 for joint payers. Enhance benefits from educational tax credits to make the value skyrocket:
- Student loan interest
- Educational savings plans
- Employer debt repayment
- Tuition reimbursement
Are There Tax Credits for National Betterment?
The federal government wants citizens to obtain tax credits because it incentivizes them to achieve national goals.
Incentives for Energy Efficiency
The nation has sustainability benchmarks to meet to mitigate climate change and as a current signer of the Paris Agreement. It’s vital to note that additional legislation, like the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, can boost or reduce existing tax credits — lucky for environmentalists, this tax credit got more appealing for Americans. There are multiple ways to bank on it.
First, Americans can switch to energy-efficient appliances. The credit will cover 10% of the cost of every eligible expense up to $3,200, including:
- Heat pumps
- Electrical upgrades
- Energy Star appliances
Another way is switching to renewable energy generation, also known as the Residential Clean Energy credit. Installing geothermal, wind, biomass or solar systems could net households a 30% tax credit on eligible clean energy improvements. The benefit will reduce to 22% after 2033, providing a sense of urgency for citizens wanting to get the most out of their dollars.
There is also an electric vehicle tax credit, subject to specific cars set forth by the Department of Energy of up to $7,500.
Those impacted by disasters, like hurricanes and wildfires, will receive federal assistance to promote healing and growth in affected communities. It’s advantageous for governments to care for these areas to maintain economic stability. FEMA will declare areas as federally declared disaster areas, and if your site is on the list, ensure to file taxes accordingly. The credits for disasters are different from an outright dollar amount.
The first benefit is a tax extension. Many in disaster situations do not want to worry about taxes when rebuilding their livelihoods. The government understands how much natural incidents uproot lives and included that consideration as part of the credit. People can also file an amended return for the previous year to expedite federal aid instead of waiting a year after the disaster happened to get assistance. This is called casualty loss deduction.
Businesses can assist employees by providing tax-free gifts to help them get back on their feet.
Are There Tax Credits for Parents and Guardians?
Most countries award adults for starting families, as increasing populations indicate healthy national progress and advancing economies. Families have multiple avenues for federal credits.
Child and Dependent Care Credit (CDCC)
Child care is a national issue, causing parents to scramble weekly for outsourced help so they can return to work. The CDCC hopes to solve some of these concerns by helping pay for day care for dependents under 13. It also includes caring for family members and partners who are ill or cannot care for themselves anymore, so keep track of related expenses. You should get 35% back from $3,000 in eligible costs for one dependent and $6,000 for two or more.
Child Tax Credit
Families with children under 16 can bank $2,000 per eligible child, but only $1,500 may be refundable. Not all tax credits will result in cashback, so read the fine print. Parents and guardians claiming half of the individual’s care can file for this credit, assuming they fall under the $200,000 income limit for single filers and the $400,000 limit for joint filers.
The credit is another example of an amendment triggered by legislation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it assisted families faster through the American Rescue Plan of 2021 by giving households advances, increasing the credit amount significantly.
Adoption fees are expensive, and the process is labor-intensive. The adoption credit helps families by offering a nonrefundable $14,890 per child in assistance with anything related to the adoption process. Families cannot earn more than $223,410 if they want the entire award.
Are There Tax Credits Based on Spending?
Sometimes putting money in the right places or earning the proper income helps net your tax credits. Here are some of the most popular circumstances.
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
The EITC exists to help low earners with or without children. Earned income refers to wages, self-employment or other taxable income from other sources. These are the current requirements for obtaining this tax credit according to the IRS, though special rules apply for military, clergy and people with disabilities:
- For zero children, have an AGI between $17,640 and $24,210, single and joint, respectively
- For one child, have an AGI between $46,560 and $53,120, single and joint, respectively
- Have less than $10,300 in investment income
- Prove citizenship or resident alien status
Qualifications are subject to change and fluctuate depending on the number of children.
Are you over 18, claim yourself and are not in school? Then you qualify for this credit if you’re contributing toward retirement. The percentage of your contribution you receive as a credit depends on household income, but it applies to most accounts, including 401(k)s and IRAs. Here is the breakdown for joint filers:
- 50% if AGI is less than $43,500
- 20% if AGI is between $43,501 and $47,500
- 10% if AGI is between $47,501 and $73,000
These amounts regularly change from year to year.
Foreign Tax Credit
Take the foreign tax credit if you earn foreign income or invest in international mutual funds. The federal government offers this if your salary is subject to multiple countries’ taxes, so you don’t have to pay twice. The tax credit also applies to investments, so speak with brokers on the fine details.
Premium Tax Credit
The premium tax credit was born after the Affordable Care Act catalyzed former President Obama’s health care initiatives. Those receiving insurance through this program can receive tax credits toward premiums based on income. These are refundable, but the amount varies by state because premiums are standardized nationwide.
Getting the Most Out of Credits This Tax Season
Credits are one of the ways to get the most out of every tax season. Some guide their financial decisions by available credits alongside clever deductions, whereas others take what they can get. Now that you know the requirements, you can maximize your savings and lower your tax bill to more realistic amounts.
Though some of these benefits seem too good to be true, they are instances where the government is attempting to help its citizens. Take advantage of as much as possible, and stay updated with national events and sweeping legislation that might increase your tax credits in subsequent years.