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Child Tax Credit: How Much Is It and Who Can Claim It?

Last year's supersized credit has expired. Here's what you need to know about this critical tax break for families.

a paper with the words Child Tax Credit on it sits on a desk next to a pair of glasses and a stack of $100 bills
The child tax credit has reverted to $2,000 per child this year, compared with a maximum of $3,600 last year.
Getty Images

This story is part of Taxes 2023, CNET's coverage of the best tax software, tax tips and everything else you need to file your return and track your refund.

The expanded child tax credit was one of the biggest economic boosts to Americans in recent history. Not only did it give families more money for each eligible child, it also broadened the age of eligible dependents, introduced advance monthly payments, made the credit refundable and allowed families that paid little or no federal income tax to receive it.

In all, the super-sized tax break lifted more than 2 million children out of poverty, according to data from the US Census.

Those enhancements expired, though, and the criteria and benefits for the child tax credit have largely returned to their pre-pandemic standards.  

Learn how the child tax credit works in 2023 and how much money you can get.

How much is the child tax credit in 2023?

The maximum tax credit available per child has reverted to its pre-expansion level of $2,000 for each child under 17 on Dec. 31, 2022

For tax year 2021, the expanded child tax credit was $3,600 for children 5 and under and $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17. That is no longer the case. (The age requirement was also temporarily extended to under 18 on Dec. 31. But that's gone, too.)  

Who is eligible for the child tax credit?

To be eligible for the tax break for tax year 2022, you and your family must meet these requirements:

  • You have a modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI, of $200,000 or less, or $400,000 or less if you're filing jointly.
  • The child you're claiming the credit for was under the age of 17 on Dec. 31, 2022.
  • They have a valid Social Security number.
  • They are your legally recognized child, stepchild, foster child, sibling, half-brother or half-sister, or a descendant of one of these categories (like a grandchild or niece or nephew).
  • They have contributed no more than half of their own financial support in the relevant tax year.
  • They have lived with you for over half the year.
  • You are claiming them as a dependent on your tax return.
  • You are a US citizen or resident alien.

Go to the IRS website for more information.

If your MAGI is higher than the income limits, the amount of child tax credit you receive will decrease $50 for every $1,000 above the limit. For example, a MAGI of $210,000 as an individual would allow you to claim $1,500 for each eligible child. 

The child tax credit is phased out completely at $240,000 for individuals and $480,000 for married couples filing jointly.

Note: If you search online for information on the child tax credit, you may come across details on the 2021 expanded tax breaks, so double-check that you're viewing the most recent information.

Mark Steber, chief tax information officer at Jackson-Hewitt, says many government sites keep historical information live "for people playing catch-up with their taxes." 

"Toward the end of last year, there was an expectation the expansion of the child tax credit would be continued. There was some surprise it didn't happen," Steber told CNET. "So you might see some discontinuity on some sites."

How do I claim the child tax credit?

You can claim the child tax credit by entering your eligible children on your Form 1040 and attaching a completed Schedule 8812, Credits for Qualifying Children and Other Dependents

What if the credit is more than what I owe in taxes?

Unlike last year, the child tax credit is once again nonrefundable. Meaning, if your tax liability exceeds what you get from the credit, you forfeit the difference.

You may still be able to claim the additional child tax credit, which refunds up to $1,500 per child. (To see if you qualify for the additional child tax credit, fill out the worksheet for IRS Form 8812.)

If you paid for childcare, you may also qualify for the child and dependent care credit. Depending on your circumstances, you can declare 20% to 35% of your childcare expenses.

The maximum you can claim is $3,000 for one child under 13 or a dependent with disabilities, or $6,000 for two or more. 

You must have some earned income to qualify for this credit, and the care can't have been provided by a spouse or family member.

Other federal income tax breaks available to families include adoption credits, education credits and the earned income tax credit.

Is there a state child tax credit?

A dozen states -- California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma and Vermont -- have some form of tax credit that benefits families, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And many others are considering implementing the tax break.

Requirements and benefits vary, so check with your state tax portal for details.

For more tax tips, find out when you can expect your refund, and get the lowdown on some surprising deductions.