Families may be able to cash in on various tax credits to offset their tax liability on a dollar-for-dollar basis – Plus, recent legislation has enhanced some of the credits for 2021.

1. Child Credit

For 2021 only, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) expands the child credit. The changes include the following for eligible parents:

  • The maximum credit increases to $3,000 for a qualifying child. Plus, you can claim another $600 for each qualifying child under age six.
  • The credit is 100% refundable.
  • The age threshold for a qualifying child increases from 17 to 18.

What’s more, you don’t have to wait until you file your 2021 return to benefit from the enhanced child credit. The IRS will begin distributing advance payments to eligible parents on July 15 and continue them through December of this year.

There’s one major downside to these changes: The phase-out ranges for the child credit in 2021 are lower than they were before the new law.

 Filing Status  2020 phase-out range  2021 phase-out range
 Single  $200,000 – $240,000  $75,000
 Married, filing jointly  $400,000 – $440,000  $150,000

However, some parents with incomes above the phase-out range for 2021 can elect to claim the child credit of up to $2,000 under the prior rules.

2. Child and Dependent Care Credit

The ARPA also includes significant changes in the child and dependent care credit for 2021.

For starters, the dependent care credit may be claimed by parents who incur costs of caring for children under age 13 (and other eligible dependents) that allow them to be gainfully employed. This covers expenses for daycare centers, babysitters and even summer day camp.

Under the ARPA, the dependent care credit is fully refundable for 2021. In addition, the maximum credit rate increases to 50% for qualified expenses of up to $8,000 for one child ($16,000 for two or more children). So, the credit ultimately is worth up to $4,000 for one child ($8,000 for two or more children).

However, the credit percentage is gradually reduced if your adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds $125,000. It bottoms out at 20% for an AGI above $183,000. Furthermore, if your AGI exceeds $400,000, the credit is gradually reduced until it zeroes out for an AGI above $438,000.

3. Higher Education Credits

Parents with children in college may be entitled to receive one of the following higher education credits:

American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). This credit is available for qualified expenses for each student in the family for up to four years. Qualified expenses include tuition, room and board, books, computer equipment and supplies. The AOTC is phased out between $80,000 and $90,000 of modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) for single people ($160,000 and $180,000 for married people who file joint tax returns).

Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC)The maximum LLC is $2,000 per taxpayer, but it is available for all years of study. Previously, the phase-out ranges were between $59,000 and $69,000 of MAGI for single people ($118,000 and $138,000 for married people who file joint tax returns). Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, the lower phase-out ranges for the LLC have been increased to match those for the AOTC.

You can claim either the AOTC or the LLC, but not both. For most parents, the AOTC remains the optimal choice for a child completing school in four years.

4. Adoption Credit

If you’ve adopted a child in 2021, or plan to adopt one, you may qualify for a tax credit. For 2021, the maximum credit is $14,440 of the qualified expenses incurred to adopt an eligible child who is under age 18 or one who needs special care. Qualified expenses include adoption agency fees, court costs, attorneys’ fees, travel costs (including meals and lodging) and re-adoption expenses for a foreign child.

The credit begins to phase out for taxpayers with a MAGI above $216,660. Once your MAGI is $256,600, you no longer qualify.

The credit is generally claimed in the year that qualified expenses are paid or incurred. However, if the adoption isn’t finalized by the end of the tax year, you may claim the credit in the following year or the year in which the adoption is finalized.

These four credits are just the tip of the iceberg for families! Under current federal income tax law, some families may qualify for other tax credits, such as the earned income tax credit or the health care premium assistance credit. Contact a R+R tax advisor to start planning for the 2021 tax year.

About Reynolds + Rowella

Reynolds + Rowella is a regional accounting and consulting firm known for a team approach to financial problem solving. As Certified Public Accountants, our partners foster a personal touch with our clients. As members of DFK International/USA, an association of accountants and advisors, our professional network is international, yet many of our clients have known us for years through the local communities we serve.

Our mission is to operate as a financial services firm of outstanding quality. Our efforts are directed at serving our clients in the most efficient and responsive manner possible, delivering services that exceed the expectations of those we serve. The firm has offices at 90 Grove St., Ridgefield, Conn., and 51 Locust Ave., New Canaan, Conn. For more information, please contact Elizabeth Bresnan at 203.438.0161 or email.




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