What is the Benefit of Filing Married Vs. Separate for the Child Tax Credit?

When you file separately from your spouse, your eligibility to claim certain deductions and tax credits is affected. The amount you receive for the child tax credit is based on your adjusted gross income. Depending on how your total income is divided between you and your spouse, you might be able to claim more or less of the child tax credit by filing separately. In 2010, approximately 23.5 million taxpayers claimed the child tax credit.

Child Tax Credit

The child tax credit reduces the tax you owe the IRS. Depending on your needs, the credit can be as much as $1,000 per qualifying child under the age of 17. In most cases, the child tax credit is not refundable, which means that if the amount of your credit exceeds your tax, you will not get the remainder as a refund. If the child tax credit does not cover your tax bill, you might qualify for an additional child tax credit, which is refundable. If you earned more than $3,000 in income, the additional child tax credit can grant you an additional amount up to 15 percent of your earned income that exceeds $3,000.

Qualifying Child Definition

For a child to qualify for the child tax credit, the child must be a relative, including through marriage or adoption. The child must be a U.S. citizen, resident alien or national and you must provide over half the child's support. The child must live with you for more than half the year and you must claim the child as a dependent on your income tax return. If the child meets all of these requirements, you can claim the child tax credit.

Filing Separately Limitations

The IRS imposes separate limitations on the child tax credit for married couples who file jointly and separately. The amount you receive from the child tax credit depends on the amount of your tax and your adjusted gross income. As of 2013, if you file separately, to receive the entire $1,000 credit per child, your AGI must be below $55,000. The child tax credit is reduced by $50 for each $1,000 you earn over the $55,000 threshold.


To file jointly and receive the entire $1,000 per child, your income cannot exceed $110,000. The child tax credit for joint filers is also reduced by $50 for each $1,000 you earn over the $110,000 threshold. If your combined income exceeds $110,000 and one spouse's income is below the $55,000 mark, filing separately might mean you can claim more of the credit.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

About the Author

Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.

Zacks Investment Research

is an A+ Rated BBB

Accredited Business.