Raising kids in America is really expensive.
Food, clothing, insurance, educational costs and more can all take a huge bite out of your budget.
In fact, over the past decade alone, the cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 has risen nearly 40% to $226,920. And those figures don’t even include college tuition, which gets pricier every year.
At tax time, however, many parents don’t realize what a financial blessing our children can be. In other words, those same little rascals who drain our pockets all year long now actually come in pretty handy when it comes to dealing with Uncle Sam.
And thanks to the recent “fiscal cliff” deal–also called the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012–Congress and President Obama have just locked in several family-friendly tax breaks for at least five more years.
So if you’re a parent, before you file your taxes this year, here are 10 tax perks and benefits you should know. These juicy tax breaks may almost make you want to have another kid. (Well, almost.)
1. Exemptions for Dependents
In most cases, you can claim your child as a dependent on your tax return. That starts from the year in which your son or daughter was born and generally runs until he or she is under age 19 or under age 24.
According to the IRS, for each dependent you claim as an exemption on your 2012 taxes, you lower your taxable income by $3,800. This ultimately decreases your tax bill–or increases your federal income tax refund.
Here’s more detailed advice on the age limits on claiming a child as a dependent. Also, for more information, see IRS Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction and Filing Information.
2. Child Tax Credit
With the passage of the fiscal cliff agreement, for the next five years you may be able to take advantage of this special tax credit and claim up to $1,000 for each of your children under age 17. If you can’t take the full amount of the Child Tax Credit, you may qualify for the Additional Child Tax Credit.
For more information, see IRS Publication 972, Child Tax Credit.
3. Child and Dependent Care Credit
Like I mentioned, children aren’t cheap. So you may be working in order to feed those hungry mouths.
If that’s the case, and you pay someone to care for your child or children under age 13 so that you can go to work, or even just look for work, you may be able to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit. Working families scored a major victory with this tax credit under the fiscal cliff legislation. That’s because this tax credit was made permanent.
So certain taxpayers can now permanently deduct up to 35% of their childcare expenses, up to a maximum of $6,000. Check out IRS Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses, for more details on this one.
4. Earned Income Tax Credit
The Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, is a tax benefit for certain low-to-moderate income people who have earned income from wages, self-employment or farming. The EITC reduces the amount of tax you owe and may also give you a big, fat refund.
If you’re filing your federal income tax return for the 2012 tax year, the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit you can get is:
$5,891 with three or more qualifying children
$5,236 with two qualifying children
$3,169 with one qualifying child
$475 with no qualifying children
If those numbers are making your eyes pop, you should definitely read up more on the EITC. Here are three things you probably didn’t know about the EITC. Furthermore, IRS Publication 596, Earned Income Credit, has more details about this valuable tax credit.
5. Adoption credit
According to the IRS, you may be able to take a tax credit for qualifying expenses paid to adopt an eligible child.
If you claim the adoption credit, you must file a paper tax return with required adoption-related documents. For details, review the instructions for IRS Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses.
6. Children with earned income
Your child may not be bringing home serious dollars like Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s offspring. Nevertheless, if your child has income earned from working, they may be required to file a tax return. Chances are, however, that their income rate will be lower than yours–something that benefits the entire family if you own a business and pay your child a salary. For more information, see IRS Publication 501.
7. Children with investment income
Under certain circumstances a child’s investment income may be taxed at their parent’s tax rate. For more information, see IRS Publication 929, Tax Rules for Children and Dependents.
8. Higher education credits
The price tag of a college education has skyrocketed, putting the cost of higher education out of reach for many middle-class families. If you’re shelling out big bucks for your child’s college tuition and other costs, education tax credits can help offset the costs of higher education.
The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) is an education credit that can reduce your federal income tax dollar-for-dollar. This credit lets you claim this partially refundable tax credit of up to $2,500 for qualified higher education expenses. Like a few other tax breaks, the AOTC was included in the fiscal cliff agreement for five years.
For more details, consult IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.
9. Student loan interest
You know that student loan you signed or co-signed for to pay your kid’s college bill? You may be able to deduct interest paid on a qualified student loan, even if you do not itemize your deductions.
The new law also offers for 2012 and 2013 a deduction of up to $4,000 for tuition and other fees paid. For more information, see IRS Publication 970.
10. Self-employed health insurance deduction
If you were self-employed and paid for health insurance, you may be able to deduct any premiums you paid for coverage for any child of yours who was under age 27 at the end of the year, even if the child wasn’t your dependent.
Use these tax benefits to get at least some relief from the cost of raising children. And if you can’t nab any of these perks, tell those kids of yours it’s time for them to get a job! Hey, even a 10-year old can walk a neighbor’s dog, right?
This article originally appeared on AskTheMoneyCoach.com.