Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

Federal tax credit up to $6,000 for child care and adult day care expenses

Teacher and toddlers in daycare
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Individuals who pay for day care expenses for their children or disabled adult dependents may be eligible for a federal tax credit of up to 35% percent of the cost of day care.

Who is Eligible

To qualify for the child and dependent care credit, you must have a dependent child age 12 or younger, or a dependent of any age who cannot care for himself or herself.

In order to claim this tax credit, you must meet all the following criteria:

  • Your child or dependent must meet certain qualifications,
  • Your daycare provider must meet certain qualifications,
  • You must have earned income,
  • The care provided must enable you to work or to look for work, and
  • You must reduce your eligible daycare expenses by any amounts provided by a dependent care benefits plan through your employer.

Qualifying Child or Dependent

The child must be your dependent, age 12 or younger.

If your child is age 13 or older, the child must be physically or mentally unable to care for herself or himself.

You may also claim adult daycare expenses for a dependent age 13 or older or for a spouse, if that person is physically or mentally unable to care for himself or herself.

You must provide a home for the dependent, and pay over half the costs of maintaining a home for your dependent. You cannot claim childcare or adult daycare expenses for someone who does not live with you.

Normally, the child must also be your dependent. If the child is not your dependent solely because you allow the non-custodial parent to claim the child as a dependent, then you may be able to claim the child care credit even though you aren't claiming the child as your dependent. Only the custodial parent can take the child care credit, however.

(See Publication 503 for more details about this exception.)

Qualifying Daycare Provider

The person who provides childcare or adult daycare services cannot be one of your dependents.

(For example, Jane pays her eldest daughter, Jessica, to take care of her younger brother, David. Jane cannot include these payments when calculating the child and dependent care credit. Instead, Jane will calculate her tax credit based on payments made to other day care providers.)

If the daycare provider is your son or daughter, he or she must not be your dependent and must be age 19 or older by the end of the year. 

Also, your daycare provider must provide you with his or her name, business name (if applicable), address, and either Social Security or Employer Identification Number. Additionally, you must report this information on Form 2441 in order to claim the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

Day camps may be qualified daycare providers, but overnight camps are not. "The cost of sending your child to an overnight camp is not considered a work-related expense," the IRS explains in Publication 503, "The cost of sending your child to a day camp may be a work-related expense, even if the camp specializes in a particular activity, such as computers or soccer."

How Much is the Child & Dependent Care Worth?

The child and dependent care tax credit is worth 20% to 35% of your day care expenses. The percentage of the credit depends on your adjusted gross income. A full chart of the percentage rates is found in Publication 503.

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