Earned income credit (EIC) was put in place as a financial boost for hard-working Americans doing their best to make ends meet. Millions of people might be able qualify for the first time this year because their marital, parental or financial status has changed. This is not the same as the child tax credit.

The IRS would like to see all citizens earning $49,078 or less from wages, self-employment or farming in 2011 to check their qualifications. This is done by using the EITC Assistant on IRS.gov. To get the credit you start by filing a return with a specific claim for the EIC. Do this even if you aren’t required to file.

The EIC is a refundable tax credit you can get by mailing your tax return or by online tax filing. The bottom line is you might get money back, even if you have no tax withheld throughout the year. Across the nation last year, nearly 26.8 million eligible individual people and families received over $59.5 billion total.

There are special rules applying to this credit. So if you think you want to claim it, either on a return you prepare or prepared by an instant tax service, review the rules with attention to detail. Besides filing a tax return, people must meet various requirements. A certain number of these requirements apply to everyone. In addition, there are requirements that only apply to families. The IRS has a whole other set of earned income credit requirements that only apply to people without children.