Publication 972: Child Tax Credit

What Was Publication 972: Child Tax Credit?

Publication 972 was a document published by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that provided guidance on determining the exact amount of the child tax credit that taxpayers can claim.

It was used for information about the child tax credit from tax years 2020 and earlier. For tax years 2021 and later, you will no longer use Publication 972 to figure your child tax credit and credit for other dependents. Instead, use Schedule 8812 in conjunction with Form 1040. 

The document included an update on any changes in the tax credit for the year, a worksheet to help taxpayers calculate their child credits in certain unusual cases, as well as instructions for determining the child tax credit to claim.

Key Takeaways

  • Publication 972 was used to calculate one of America's most popular tax credits, the Child Tax Credit.
  • The form is no longer in use from tax years 2021 and onward.
  • There are upper-income limits on eligibility for the credit.

Understanding Publication 972: Child Tax Credit

Most parents, foster parents, and guardians of children under age 17 can use the child tax credit to lower their taxable income for the year. This benefit can be claimed using Form 1040 or 1040NR.


IRS Publication 972 was used in tax years 2020 and prior to determine if a child was eligible. According to the document, a qualifying child or dependent must have been:

  • under the age of 17 by the end of the tax year;
  • claimed as a dependent on the taxpayer's federal tax return;
  • a U.S. citizen, resident alien, or national—more information on residency requirements can be found in IRS Publication 519;
  • lived with the taxpayer for more than half of the tax year; and
  • Not have provided more than half of their own financial support.

Credit Amount

Publication 972 also disclosed how much credit a taxpayer can receive. In the 2020 tax year, the maximum amount that could be requested for a qualifying child was $2,000. That limit has been in effect since 2018, when the IRS doubled the $1,000 credit available on 2017 tax returns.

IRS Publication 972 provided a worksheet that can be used to determine the amount of child tax credit that can be claimed.


Publication 972 provided guidance on potentially getting a portion of any unused credit refunded, too. Following changes to the law in 2017, the refundable portion of the child tax credit, known as the additional child tax credit (ACTC), increased to $1,400 from $1,000. This meant low-income taxpayers whose credits exceed their tax liabilities could get refunded up to $1,400.

The IRS allows families with an annual income of more than $2,500 to request a refund using the ACTC. To make a claim for a refund, filers must complete Schedule 8812.

Special Considerations

The child tax credit has limits and is not available to taxpayers at certain high-income levels.

In 2020, the tax credit was phased out for this with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $200,000, or $400,000 if married filing jointly.

Article Sources
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  1. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 972 (2020), Child Tax Credit and Credit for Other Dependents."

  2. Internal Revenue Service. "About Publication 972, Child Tax Credit."

  3. Internal Revenue Service. "2022 Publication 972."

  4. Internal Revenue Service. "Child Tax Credit 3."

  5. Internal Revenue Service. "Get Ready for Taxes: Here's how the New Tax Law Revised Family Tax Credits."

  6. Internal Revenue Service. "IRS: Expanded Credits for Families Highlight Tax Changes for 2021; Many People Who Don’t Normally File Should File This Year."

  7. Internal Revenue Service. "What's New With the Child Tax Credit After Tax Reform."

  8. Internal Revenue Service. "Instructions for Schedule 8812."

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