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What is the difference between the child tax credit and the child and dependent care tax credit?

These credits are quite different. First, the child tax credit. The purpose of this credit is simply to provide tax relief for parents, working or not, who have qualifying children under the age of 17. A qualifying child may be a dependent child, stepchild, adopted child, sibling, or stepsibling (or descendant of these individuals), or an eligible foster child. The child must be a U.S. citizen or resident and must live with you for over half the year.

If you're eligible, you may be able to take a credit on your federal income tax return of up to $1,000 per child. The child tax credit begins to phase out if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeds a certain level.

The other credit--the child and dependent care tax credit--offers relief to working people who must pay someone to care for their children or other dependents. You may qualify for a tax credit equal to 20 to 35 percent of expenses incurred when someone cares for your dependent child (under age 13), your disabled spouse, or your disabled dependent so that you (and your spouse, if married) may work or look for work. The work-related expenses you can use when figuring the credit are limited to $3,000 for one qualifying individual, and $6,000 for more than one qualifying individual.

For married persons to qualify for the credit, both spouses must work outside the home, or one must work outside the home while the other is a full-time student, is disabled, or is looking for work (provided that the spouse looking for work has earnings during the year). Married couples must also file a joint income tax return. The credit is also available if you're a single parent or a divorced custodial parent.

For more information, consult a tax professional.