Can You Claim the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit?

You may be eligible for a tax credit of up to 35%

A person typing on a laptop, filling out a tax form, while children play, illustrating a headline that reads, "Do I Qualify for the Child- / Dependent-Care Tax Credit?" and body text that reads, "You must claim child as a dependent on a tax return," "Child or adult in your care must live with you at least half the year," "Child must be either younger than age 13, or unable to care for themselves because of a disability," "You must pay more than half the costs of maintaining your home," "Professional care for your child or adult dependent must be intended to allow you to work, look for work, or attend school full time," and "If married, your spouse must also be working, looking for work, or in school - or else disabled and thus not able to provide care."

The Balance / Joshua Seong

Paying for child care or adult dependent care so they can leave home to go to work is one of the steepest monthly expenses many families face. But without care, parents may not be able to earn a living or go to school. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers the Child and Dependent Care tax credit to help defray some of these costs, but various rules and exceptions make the credit a bit complicated.

Key Takeaways

  • Your 2022 Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit ranges from 20% to 35% of what you spent on daycare up to $3,000 for one dependent or up to $6,000 for two or more dependents.
  • Your applicable percentage depends on your adjusted gross income (AGI) and decreases with the more you earn.
  • The credit applies to care for dependent children under age 13 and adults who are incapable of self-care.
  • The American Rescue Plan temporarily increased these benefits in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they've reverted back to the $1,050 (for one dependent) or $2,100 (for two or more dependents) maximum for the 2022 tax year. This is the tax return you'll file in 2023.

How Much Is the Child and Dependent Care Credit?

The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) is a tax credit of up to 35% of what you pay someone to take care of your children or adult dependents who can't provide their own care. Any children whose care you claim must have been under the age of 13 at the time the care was provided.

The rate used to calculate the credit is 35% if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is at least $15,000 but less than $45,000 as of 2022. It drops to 20% for those with AGIs of $45,000 to $438,000. There's no credit eligibility for those with AGIs exceeding $438,000 or below $15,000.


These income thresholds apply to your combined household income if you're married.

These percentages apply to up to $3,000 in care expenses for one dependent, or $6,000 for two or more dependents.

The Effect of the American Rescue Plan

The American Rescue Plan temporarily increased the CDCTC in 2021 to help working caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The limit on expenses that could be claimed was increased to $8,000 for one dependent and $16,000 for two or more dependents. The maximum credit rate was also raised to 50%.

This meant a maximum benefit of $4,000 for one individual receiving care and $8,000 for two or more. Families with incomes of up to $125,000 were eligible for the full credit, after which the percentage of expenses you could claim gradually decreased until it phased out.

There was some hope for a while that these terms would be extended into tax year 2022, but that didn't happen. The maximum Child and Dependent Care Credit has reverted to $2,100 in 2022, down from $8,000 in 2021.

How To Qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit

You must have a dependent child or an adult dependent who can't be left alone while you work, look for work, or go to school full time. An adult dependent must be incapable of self-care. You must also have earned income during the tax year from a job or self-employment.

Your spouse must also be working, looking for work, or attending school if you're married, and must be thus unable to stay home and provide care. Your spouse must have earned income as well, but an exception exists if your spouse is disabled and incapable of caring for another person.

You can't claim this credit if you're married and file a separate tax return except under certain rare circumstances. 


You may be able to get the Child and Dependent Care Credit even if your employer provides or subsidizes the cost of care.

Rules for Your Qualifying Dependents

Your child must have been younger than age 13 when the care was provided, or they must have been physically or mentally incapable of self-care if they were 13 or older. You can claim adult daycare expenses for a dependent age 13 or older or for your spouse if they're physically or mentally unable to care for themselves.

You can claim child care or adult daycare expenses for someone who lives with you for at least half the year if you're married but living apart from your spouse. You must pay more than half the costs of maintaining your home to qualify.

Divorced or separated parents sometimes agree to allow the noncustodial parent to claim their child as a dependent on their tax return. You can claim the credit if you don't claim the child as a dependent, and they lived with you for more nights during the year than with their noncustodial parent and you paid for child care.

Adult dependents qualify if they lived with you for more than half the year and were not physically or mentally able to care for themselves.


The IRS defines someone who can't physically or mentally take care of themselves as "persons who can't dress, clean or feed themselves because of physical or mental problems" and those who require constant attention because they're at risk of injuring themselves.

Rules for Qualifying Day Care Providers

You can't claim the expenses if you make child care payments to a dependent who takes care of your children. For example, you can't claim payments you make to your dependent child to take care of their brother.

But the tax code does allow you to claim these expenses if you don't claim your child as a dependent and they're 19 or older by the end of the year. The IRS won't allow you to claim a tax credit for the money you pay to your spouse to take care of your qualifying child.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do summer camp programs or private schools qualify as child care?

Summer day camps are qualifying providers if they specialize in one activity, such as computers or soccer, but overnight camps don't qualify. Private school costs only qualify if they're for nursery school or preschool below the level of kindergarten.

How can I be sure that I meet all these rules to claim the credit?

The IRS provides an interactive tool on its website to help you determine if you and your dependent qualify. It takes about 10 minutes to complete. But it only applies to taxpayers who are U.S. citizens or resident aliens throughout the entire tax year.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. IRS. "Here’s Who Qualifies a Taxpayer for the Child and Dependent Care Credit."

  2. Financial Solutions Advisors, PLLC. "Your At-a-Glance Guide to Child and Dependent Care Tax Credits in 2022."

  3. Democratic Policy & Communications Committee. "American Rescue Plan Expanding Tax Relief for Working Families."

  4. IRS. "Get Ready for Taxes: What's New and What To Consider When Filing in 2023."

  5. IRS. "Topic No. 602 Child and Dependent Care Credit."

  6. IRS. "Publication 503: Child and Dependent Care Expenses."

  7. IRS. "Publication 503: Child and Dependent Care Expenses."

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