The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a financial boost for workers earning $56,844 or less a year. The IRS estimates that each year one in five eligible Americans misses out on money the government owes. Here are the top things the IRS wants you to know about this valuable credit, which makes the lives of working people a little easier.

If you qualify, the credit could be worth up to $6,660 on the Federal tax return. Additional refund amounts are available from the New York State and NYC taxing agencies. The amount of your EITC is based on your earned income and whether there are qualifying children in your household. The average credit was around $2,476 last year.

As your financial, marital or parental situations change from year to year, you should review the EITC eligibility rules to determine whether you qualify. Just because you didn't qualify last year doesn't mean you won't this year.

If you are eligible for the EITC, you must file a Federal income-tax return and specifically claim the credit, even if you are not otherwise required to file. Remember to include Schedule EIC, Earned Income Credit, when you file your Form 1040.

You do not qualify for EITC if your filing status is Married Filing Separately.

You must have a valid Social Security number. You, your spouse, and any qualifying children listed on Schedule EIC must have a valid SSN.

You must have earned income. You have earned income if you work for someone who pays you wages, you are self-employed, or in some cases, disability income.

Married couples and single people without children may also qualify. You must meet the age, income and residency requirements. Single taxpayers whose earned income is less than $15,820, and married taxpayers' is less than $21,710, are eligible for the EITC.

Special rules apply to members of the U.S. Armed Forces in combat zones. Members of the military can elect to include their nontaxable combat pay in earned income for the EITC.

If qualified, same-sex married couples are now eligible for claiming the earned-income credit.

For additional information, please refer to IRS Publication 596, "Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)."

Caution: You cannot have more than $3,650 of investment income or you will lose the entire Earned Income Tax Credit. Investment income includes the following items: interest, dividends, income from rentals, royalties and net capital gains.

Barry Lisak is an IRS Enrolled Agent, meaning that he has passed special U.S. Treasury Department exams that qualify him to represent clients dealing with audits or tax-resolution cases. Any questions can be directed to him at (516) TAX-SAVE, or

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