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Dependent Tax Deductions and Credits for Families

Written by a TurboTax Expert • Reviewed by a TurboTax CPAUpdated for Tax Year 2023 • January 27, 2024 2:33 PM
OVERVIEW

Since 2017, there have been changes to many areas of taxation, including claiming dependents and the deductions and credits that go along with claiming them. Here's what to know about the dependent tax deduction and related credits to better navigate your family's taxes.

 

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Key Takeaways

• The Child Tax Credit can reduce your taxes by up to $2,000 per qualifying child age 16 or younger. If you do not owe taxes, up to $1,600 of the child tax credit may be refundable through the Additional Child Tax Credit for 2023.

• If you adopt a child, you may qualify for the Adoption Tax Credit, a nonrefundable tax credit that allows you to claim a credit of up to $15,950 for qualifying adoption expenses in 2023 and up to $15,950 in 2024.

• If you or your dependent is pursuing a degree at a school, you may qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, a partially refundable tax credit of up to $2,500.

• If you paid interest on qualifying student loans during the tax year, you might be eligible to deduct up to $2,500 of that interest with the student loan interest deduction.

You may have heard about a possible change to the Child Tax Credit, but don’t worry. TurboTax has you covered. We are up to date with the latest tax laws so you can file your taxes with confidence and accurately claim the Child Tax Credit, if you are eligible. There is no need to delay. File now to get your max refund as soon as possible.

If lawmakers expand the Child Tax Credit, the IRS has stated that they will automatically adjust your return and notify you of the update, including any additional refund. No extra steps are required on your part.

Family matters

As a family with children, you may have access to more tax deductions and credits than taxpayers without children. If you're not aware of these deductions and credits, you may be missing out on some tax savings.

If this is the first year you're filing your taxes, you may not be aware of some of the recent tax changes that have affected taxes and deductions for families. Here's what you need to know so you can file your taxes while claiming the deductions you're entitled to.

And if you don't want to go it alone, TurboTax can help by asking specific questions to make sure you get every deduction you qualify for.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed how families get deductions and exemptions

In December 2017, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It made significant changes regarding how some tax deductions and credits work for families. Most of these changes took effect in the 2018 tax year. Here are some of the key changes to be aware of and understand.

Removal of exemptions

The removal of personal exemptions is one of the largest changes. Before the 2018 tax year, you likely received a personal exemption for each qualifying member of your household. This may have included yourself, your spouse and any qualifying dependents.

In the 2017 tax year, the exemption typically resulted in a $4,050 reduction of taxable income for each one you qualified for. For a family that qualified for four exemptions, the total reduction of taxable income ended up being $16,200.

Starting in the tax year 2018, you could no longer claim personal exemptions. The removal of this popular reduction of taxable income may be partially or completely offset by the act's other changes, depending on your particular circumstances.

Standard deduction increase

While the new tax law removed personal exemptions, it also increased the typical standard deduction amounts.

In the tax year 2017, standard deduction amounts were:

  • Single: $6,350
  • Married Filing Separately: $6,350
  • Head of Household: $9,350
  • Married Filing Jointly: $12,700
  • Surviving Spouse: $12,700

For tax year 2023, the standard deduction amounts are:

  • Single: $13,850
  • Married Filing Separately: $13,850
  • Head of Household: $20,800
  • Married Filing Jointly: $27,700
  • Surviving Spouse: $27,700

And for tax year 2024, the amounts increase to:

  • Single: $14,600
  • Married Filing Separately: $14,600
  • Head of Household: $21,900
  • Married Filing Jointly: $29,200
  • Surviving Spouse: $29,200

For some families, these higher standard deductions offset the loss of exemptions. For others, these higher standard deductions didn't completely offset the loss of personal exemptions. In those cases, the next change may have helped recoup part of the loss of exemptions.

Child tax credit and credit for other dependents

The Child Tax Credit

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increased the child tax credit from the old $1,000 limit. The new child tax credit results in up to a $2,000 credit per qualifying child age 16 or younger. If you owe no tax, up to $1,600 of the child tax credit may be refundable using the Additional Child Tax Credit for 2023.

Children over age 16 aren't eligible for the child tax credit. However, these older children and other qualifying dependents may be eligible for a new tax credit of up to $500 called the credit for other dependents. Dependents must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or U.S. resident alien. They must also be a qualifying child or qualifying relative.

A qualifying child must meet the relationship, age, residency, support and joint return tests. A qualifying relative must meet the "not a qualifying child, member of household or relationship" test, gross income test and support tests. TurboTax asks questions to determine whether a person is a qualifying child or relative when you complete your tax return.

Both credits start phasing out, or being reduced, if your adjusted gross income exceeds $400,000 for married filing jointly filers or $200,000 for other filing statuses.

Stimulus impact on the Child Tax Credit for 2021

Child Tax Credit Changes

The American Rescue Plan raised the maximum Child Tax Credit in 2021 to $3,600 for qualifying children under the age of 6 and to $3,000 per child for qualifying children ages 6 through 17. In years other than 2021, the credit was worth up to $2,000 per eligible child, and 17 year-olds were not eligible for the credit.

The Child Tax Credit changes for 2021 have lower income limits than the original Child Tax Credit. Families that do not qualify for the credit using the revised income limits are still eligible for the $2,000 per-child credit using the original Child Tax Credit income and phase-out amounts.

In addition, the entire credit is fully refundable for 2021. This means that eligible families can get the entire credit, even if they owe no federal income tax.

New, Temporary Advance Child Tax Credit Payments

The Child Tax Credit for 2021 has been expanded by the American Rescue Plan Act. Part of this expansion is to advance the 2021 tax credit to families by sending them direct payments during 2021 rather than having them wait until they prepare their 2021 taxes in 2022.

The amount received is reconciled to the amount that you are eligible for when preparing your 2021 tax return. Most families received about one-half of their tax credit through the advance payments. If you received too little, an additional amount is credited on your tax return. In the unlikely event that you received too much, you might have to pay the excess back, depending on your income level.

For updates and more information, please visit our 2021 Child Tax Credit blog post.

 


 

TurboTax Tip: If you own a business, employing your child might enable you to take a business expense for the wages that you pay your child. The child's income usually is taxed at a relatively low rate when the wages stay under the 2023 standard deduction of $13,850 and $14,600 for 2024.

 


 

Adoption tax credit

If you have adopted or plan to adopt a child, you may be able to take advantage of the adoption tax credit. This nonrefundable tax credit allows you to claim a credit of up to $15,950 for qualifying adoption expenses for adoptions finalized in 2023 and increases to $16,810 for 2024.

The credit starts being reduced if your 2023 modified gross adjusted income exceeds $239,230 and completely phases out at $279,230. This range increases to $252,150 through $292,150 for 2024. If you don't use the entire credit in the first year, you may be able to carry forward any remaining balance to future tax returns for up to five years.

Qualifying adoption expenses for eligible children include necessary and reasonable adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, eligible travel expenses and other direct expenses in relation to adopting a child.

Eligible children must be under the age of 18 or be incapable of self-care due to physical or mental reasons. This credit does not apply to adopting a spouse's child.

Education can be expensive. Tax deductions and credits may offset some of the costs.

American Opportunity Tax Credit

The American Opportunity Tax Credit is a partially refundable tax credit of up to $2,500. It can be claimed for qualifying education expenses for eligible students during the first four years of higher education. You get a 100% tax credit for the first $2,000 in eligible expenses. You also get a 25% tax credit for the next $2,000 of eligible expenses.

This credit is reduced if your modified adjusted gross income exceeds $80,000 for those filing single or $160,000 for those filing married filing jointly. There are other requirements to claim this credit. You can claim the credit for each qualifying student on a tax return.

Lifetime Learning Credit

The Lifetime Learning Credit is another option if you aren't eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit. You can't claim both this credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit for the same student in the same year.

This credit is for up to $2,000 per tax year but starts phasing out when your modified adjusted gross income exceeds $80,000 for single filers and $160,000 for married filing jointly filers. The credit isn't refundable. It's calculated by taking 20% of up to the first $10,000 in qualified education expenses for qualifying students. You can only claim one Lifetime Learning Credit per tax return per year.

Tuition and fees deduction (2020 and earlier)

If you can't take the American Opportunity Tax Credit or Lifetime Learning Credit, you may qualify for the tuition and fees deduction. As a deduction, this reduces taxable income rather than directly reducing your tax the way a tax credit does.

You can deduct qualified education expenses as an adjustment to income on Form 8917. Up to a $4,000 deduction is available if your modified adjusted gross income is up to $65,000 for single filers or up to $130,000 for married filing jointly filers.

You can take up to a $2,000 deduction if your modified adjusted gross income is over $65,000 up to $80,000 for single filers or is over $130,000 up to $160,000 for married filing jointly filers. You can't take this deduction if your modified adjusted gross income exceeds $80,000 if you file single or $160,000 if you file married filing jointly.

This deduction is only for qualified education expenses incurred by eligible people including yourself, your spouse or a qualifying dependent. This deduction expired at the end of 2020.

Student loan interest deduction

You might be eligible for the student loan interest deduction if you paid interest on student loans during the tax year. This deduction can be up to $2,500 for qualifying student loan interest paid.

The deduction starts phasing out at a 2023 modified adjusted gross income of $75,000 for single filers and $155,000 for married filing jointly filers. If your modified adjusted gross income exceeds $90,000 for single filers or $185,000 for married filing jointly filers, the deduction isn't allowed at all. These ranges increase for 2024 to $80,000 through $95,000 for single filers and $165,000 through $195,000 for joint filers.

Itemized deduction opportunities and changes

Itemized deductions could help your family claim more money in deductions than the standard deduction offers. The medical expense itemized deduction may be especially useful for families with many qualifying medical expenses. Qualifying medical and dental expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income can be claimed as an itemized deduction.

Suppose your family had high medical and dental expenses due to you, your spouse or a qualifying dependent's accidental injury or medical treatment. In that case, this could help you claim extra deductions if you already itemize deductions. Unfortunately, if you don't have enough itemized deductions to exceed the standard deduction, you won't benefit from the medical and dental expenses deduction.

Before the 2018 tax year, itemized deductions could be limited if your income exceeded certain limits. That limitation was removed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

In March of 2021, the IRS began sending out a third round of Economic Impact Payments to help ease the financial burden of the coronavirus pandemic. The payments are an advance of a tax credit on your 2021 tax returns that are typically filed in 2022.

The stimulus check calculations were typically based on 2020 tax return data. Your 2021 tax year numbers may vary from these amounts and if you qualify for a larger credit than you received in your stimulus check, you may be able to claim the difference on your 2021 tax return. If it turns out that you're eligible for less based on your 2021 tax return, you don't have to pay back the difference.

Additionally, your situation may have changed resulting in being eligible for a larger tax credit than the stimulus checks received. For instance, you may qualify for a larger credit if you have a child born in late 2021 and you did not receive a credit for the child. Thankfully, you may be able to still claim whatever credit you're owed on your 2021 tax return, less any stimulus check amounts you received.

The stimulus check amount starts decreasing as your adjusted gross income goes over the following limits based on your filing status:

  • Single: $75,000
  • Head of household: $112,500
  • Married filing jointly: $150,000

2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act

The Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) was signed into law on December 27, 2020 as a stimulus measure to provide relief to those affected by the pandemic. For tax year 2020, the CAA allows taxpayers to use their 2019 earned income if it was higher than their 2020 earned income in calculating the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For 2021, taxpayers can use either their 2019 or 2021 earned income amounts depending upon which one provides the higher credit.

Annual increases due to inflation adjustments

Each year, the IRS makes annual inflation adjustments to certain items. These can help reduce your taxes owed compared to a scenario where the IRS didn't make inflation adjustments.

For instance, the IRS increased the standard deduction amounts from 2022 to 2023. The married filing jointly and qualifying widow(er) standard deduction increased by $1,800. The standard deduction for married filing separately and single taxpayers increased by $900. For those filing as a head of household, the standard deduction increased by $1,400. These amounts increased in 2024 by $1,500, $750, and $1,100, respectively.

While tax rates generally remain the same, the tax brackets increase slightly each year due to inflation. The particular tax brackets differ depending on your filing status.

Other ideas to save on your taxes

Families have other ways they may be able to save on their taxes. For instance, business owners could employ their children within their businesses. If you do, you may be able to take a business expense for the wages that you pay your child. Your child's income may also receive a relatively low overall tax burden as long as the wages stay under the $13,850 standard deduction for 2023 and $14,600 for 2024.

If your children are in college, you may want to consider purchasing a second home in their college town. This may allow you to take advantage of the mortgage interest and real estate tax deductions for second homes on your tax return. You would have to itemize to take these deductions, and they may not provide much benefit depending on your situation. Make sure to run the numbers before doing so.

Family life can be hectic. Don't let your taxes add to your stress level. TurboTax can help you efficiently file your tax returns and ensure you claim all of the credits and deductions your family qualifies for so you can get every dollar you deserve.

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  • Tax Return Access: Included with all TurboTax Free Edition, Deluxe, Premium, TurboTax Live, TurboTax Live Full Service customers and access to up to the prior seven years of tax returns we have on file for you is available through 12/31/2024. Terms and conditions may vary and are subject to change without notice.

  • Easy Online Amend: Individual taxes only. Included with TurboTax Deluxe, Premium, TurboTax Live, TurboTax Live Full Service, or with PLUS benefits. Make changes to your 2023 tax return online for up to 3 years after it has been filed and accepted by the IRS through 10/31/2026. Terms and conditions may vary and are subject to change without notice. For TurboTax Live Full Service, your tax expert will amend your 2023 tax return for you through 11/15/2024. After 11/15/2024, TurboTax Live Full Service customers will be able to amend their 2023 tax return themselves using the Easy Online Amend process described above.

  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2022 TurboTax products.

  • #1 online tax filing solution for self-employed: Based upon IRS Sole Proprietor data as of 2023, tax year 2022. Self-Employed defined as a return with a Schedule C tax form. Online competitor data is extrapolated from press releases and SEC filings. “Online” is defined as an individual income tax DIY return (non-preparer signed) that was prepared online & either e-filed or printed, not including returns prepared through desktop software or FFA prepared returns, 2022.

  • CompleteCheck: Covered under the TurboTax accurate calculations and maximum refund guarantees. Limitations apply. See Terms of Service for details.
  • TurboTax Premium Pricing Comparison: Cost savings based on a comparison of TurboTax product prices to average prices set forth in the 2020-2021 NSA Fees-Acct-Tax Practices Survey Report.

  • 1099-K Snap and Autofill: Available in mobile app and mobile web only.

  • 1099-NEC Snap and Autofill: Available in TurboTax Premium (formerly Self-Employed) and TurboTax Live Assisted Premium (formerly Self-Employed). Available in mobile app only. Feature available within Schedule C tax form for TurboTax filers with 1099-NEC income.

  • Year-Round Tax Estimator: Available in TurboTax Premium (formerly Self-Employed) and TurboTax Live Assisted Premium (formerly Self-Employed). This product feature is only available after you finish and file in a self-employed TurboTax product.

  • **Refer a Friend: Rewards good for up to 20 friends, or $500 - see official terms and conditions for more details.

  • Refer your Expert (Intuit’s own experts): Rewards good for up to 20 referrals, or $500 - see official terms and conditions for more details.

  • Refer your Expert (TurboTax Verified Independent Pro): Rewards good for up to 20 referrals, or $500 - see official terms and conditions for more details

  • Average Refund Amount: Sum of $3140 is the average refund American taxpayers received based upon IRS data date ending 2/17/23 and may not reflect actual refund amount received.

  • Average Deduction Amount: Based on the average amount of deductions/expenses found by TurboTax Self Employed customers who filed expenses on Schedule C in Tax Year 2022 and may not reflect actual deductions found.

  • More self-employed deductions based on the median amount of expenses found by TurboTax Premium (formerly Self Employed) customers who synced accounts, imported and categorized transactions compared to manual entry. Individual results may vary.

  • TurboTax Online Business Products: For TurboTax Live Assisted Business and TurboTax Full Service Business, we currently don’t support the following tax situations: C-Corps (Form 1120-C), Trust/Estates (Form 1041), Multiple state filings, Tax Exempt Entities/Non-Profits, Entities electing to be treated as a C-Corp, Schedule C Sole proprietorship, Payroll, Sales tax, Quarterly filings, and Foreign Income. TurboTax Live Assisted Business is currently available only in AK, AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, MI, MO, NC, NV, NY, OH, PA, SD, TX, UT, VA, WA, and WY.

  • Audit Defense: Audit Defense is a third-party add-on service provided, for a fee, by TaxResources, Inc., dba Tax Audit. See Membership Agreements at https://turbotax.intuit.com/corp/softwarelicense/ for service terms and conditions. 

TURBOTAX DESKTOP GUARANTEES

TurboTax Desktop Individual Returns:

  • 100% Accurate Calculations Guarantee – Individual Returns: If you pay an IRS or state penalty or interest because of a TurboTax calculation error, we’ll pay you the penalty and interest. Excludes payment plans. This guarantee is good for the lifetime of your personal, individual tax return, which Intuit defines as seven years from the date you filed it with TurboTax Desktop. Excludes TurboTax Desktop Business returns. Additional terms and limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

  • Maximum Refund Guarantee / Maximum Tax Savings Guarantee - or Your Money Back – Individual Returns: If you get a larger refund or smaller tax due from another tax preparation method by filing an amended return, we'll refund the applicable TurboTax federal and/or state software license purchase price you paid. This guarantee is good for the lifetime of your personal, individual tax return, which Intuit defines as seven years from the date you filed it with TurboTax Desktop. Excludes TurboTax Desktop Business returns. Additional terms and limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

  • Audit Support Guarantee – Individual Returns: If you receive an audit letter from the IRS or State Department of Revenue based on your 2023 TurboTax individual tax return, we will provide one-on-one question-and-answer support with a tax professional, if requested through our Audit Report Center, for audited individual returns filed with TurboTax Desktop for the current 2023 tax year and, for individual, non-business returns, for the past two tax years (2021, 2022). Audit support is informational only. We will not represent you before the IRS or state tax authority or provide legal advice. If we are not able to connect you to one of our tax professionals, we will refund the applicable TurboTax federal and/or state license purchase price you paid. This guarantee is good for the lifetime of your personal, individual tax return, which Intuit defines as seven years from the date you filed it with TurboTax Desktop. Excludes TurboTax Desktop Business returns. Additional terms and limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

  • Satisfaction Guarantee/ 60-Day Money Back Guarantee: If you're not completely satisfied with TurboTax Desktop, go to refundrequest.intuit.com within 60 days of purchase and follow the process listed to submit a refund request. You must return this product using your license code or order number and dated receipt.

TurboTax Desktop Business Returns:

  • 100% Accurate Calculations Guarantee – Business Returns: If you pay an IRS or state penalty or interest because of a TurboTax calculation error, we’ll pay you the penalty and interest. Excludes payment plans. You are responsible for paying any additional tax liability you may owe. Additional terms and limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

  • Maximum Tax Savings Guarantee – Business Returns: If you get a smaller tax due (or larger business tax refund) from another tax preparation method using the same data, TurboTax will refund the applicable TurboTax Business Desktop license purchase price you paid. Additional terms and limitations apply. See License Agreement for details.

  • Satisfaction Guarantee/ 60-Day Money Back Guarantee: If you're not completely satisfied with TurboTax Desktop, go to refundrequest.intuit.com within 60 days of purchase and follow the process listed to submit a refund request. You must return this product using your license code or order number and dated receipt.

TURBOTAX DESKTOP

  • Installation Requirements: Product download, installation and activation requires an Intuit Account and internet connection. Product limited to one account per license code. You must accept the TurboTax License Agreement to use this product. Not for use by paid preparers.

  • TurboTax Desktop Products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees may apply for e-filing state returns. E-file fees may not apply in certain states, check here for details. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase. Software updates and optional online features require internet connectivity.

  • Fastest Refund Possible: Fastest federal tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary. The IRS issues more than 9 out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days.

  • Average Refund Amount: Sum of $3140 is the average refund American taxpayers received based upon IRS data date ending 02/17/23 and may not reflect actual refund amount received.

  • TurboTax Product Support: Customer service and product support hours and options vary by time of year.

  • #1 Best Selling Tax Software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2022 TurboTax products.

  • Deduct From Your Federal or State Refund (if applicable): A $40 Refund Processing Service fee may apply to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.

  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies; Requires Intuit Account. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2021 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2021 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Desktop Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.

  • Audit Defense: Audit Defense is a third-party add-on service provided, for a fee, by TaxResources, Inc., dba Tax Audit. See Membership Agreements at https://turbotax.intuit.com/corp/softwarelicense/ for service terms and conditions.

All features, services, support, prices, offers, terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.

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