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Tax Credits That Can Increase Your Refund

The IRS recently issued their Tax Tip 2012-41, which lists out some of the tax credits that are refundable.  Most tax credits are not refundable, meaning that if the amount of the credit is more than your tax for the year, the credit is limited only to the amount of your tax.

For example, if you had tax payable of $1,500 and then had Education Credits, Energy Credits, and/or Foreign Tax Credits amounting to more than $1,500.  Your credits will be limited to $1,500 since that’s your tax payable and the credits are not refundable.

On the other hand, there are a few credits that are refundable, as listed below in the actual text from Tax Tip 2012-41.

Four Tax Credits that Can Boost Your Refund

A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of taxes owed.  Some tax credits are refundable meaning if you are eligible and claim one, you can get the rest of it in the form of a tax refund even after your tax liability has been reduced to zero.

Here are four refundable tax credits you should consider to increase your refund on your 2011 federal income tax return:

1.  The Earned Income Tax Credit is for people earning less than $49,078 from wages, self-employment or farming.  Millions of workers who saw their earnings drop in 2011 may qualify for the first time.  Income, age and the number of qualifying children determine the amount of the credit, which can be up to $5,751.  Workers without children may qualify as well.  For more information, see IRS Publication 596, Earned Income Credit.

2.  The Child and Dependent Care Credit is for expenses paid for the care of your qualifying children under age 13, or for a disabled spouse or dependent, while you work or look for work.  For more information, see IRS Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.

Note: this credit was incorrectly identified in the IRS Tax Tip as refundable.  It is not refundable – sorry for the confusion.

3.  The Additional Child Tax Credit is for people who have a qualifying child.  The maximum credit is $1,000 for each qualifying child.  You can claim this in addition to the Child and Dependent Care Credit.  The Child Tax Credit is non-refundable, but if you qualify you can utilize the Additional Child Tax Credit to receive the remainder of the non-refundable credit as a refund.  See IRS Publication 972, Child Tax Credit for more details.

4.  The Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, also known as the Saver’s Credit, is designed to help low-to-moderate income workers save for retirement.  You may qualify if your income is below a certain limit and you contribute to an IRA or workplace retirement plan, such as a 401(k) plan.  The Saver’s Credit is available in addition to any other tax savings that apply.  For more information, see IRS Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs).

Note: this credit was incorrectly identified in the IRS Tax Tip as refundable.  It is not refundable – sorry for the confusion.

There are many other tax credits that may be available to you depending on your facts and circumstances.  Since many qualifications and limitations apply to various tax credits, you should carefully check your tax form instructions, the listed publications and additional information available at IRS forms and publications are available on the IRS website at and by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).


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  2. Andy Hough says:

    The IRS messed up on this article. Neither the Child and Dependent Care credit nor the Saver’s Credit are refundable. This is easily verifiable by further reading at the IRS website.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Holy cow Andy, thanks for the note. I don’t know how I let that slip by me – I’m in total agreement, neither of those credits are refundable. I’ve updated the post to reflect those facts.

      Thanks again for pointing it out – jb

  3. ron says:

    Thanks for the article. Anything for those in retirement without earned income age 77? Only SS and IRA RMD but in 10- 15% tax bracket?

    1. jblankenship says:


      Unfortunately nothing comes to mind. Perhaps if you’ve done some home improvements there could be credit for energy efficient improvements, but that’s about all I can come up with off the top of my head.


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