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Early Learning Tax Credit Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the Early Learning Tax Credit?

The District of Columbia Early Learning Tax Credit (ELC) is a refundable income tax credit that was enacted in the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Support Act, effective October 30, 2018 (D.C. Law 22-0168) and is codified in D.C. Official Code § 47-1806.15. ELC is available to taxpayers based on the amount of eligible child care expenses paid by the taxpayer, up to $1,000, per eligible child. The ELC currently is only available for tax year 2018.

2. Who qualifies as an “eligible child?”

An eligible child must --

  • Be a dependent of the taxpayer; and
  • Meet the following age requirements:
    • A child under the age of 4 (age 0-3) as of December 31, 2018; or
    • A child who reached the age of 4 between October 1 and December 31, 2018. See the chart below for further information
  • A child who reached the age of 4 between January 1 and September 30, 2018 is not an eligible child.

3. What are “eligible child care expenses?”

Eligible child care expenses are payments that you make to a qualified child development facility for child care services provided to an eligible child during the following time periods:

  • For children born on or after October 1, 2015, the payments may be for child care services provided at any time during 2018.
  • For children born between January 1 and September 30, 2015, the payments must be for child care services provided from January 1-August 31, 2018. (Payments for child care services provided from September 1-December 31, 2018 are not eligible child care expenses.)
  • For children born between January 1, 2014 and September 30, 2014, payments for child care services provided at any time during 2018 are not eligible child care expenses.
  • For children born between October 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014, the payments must be for child care services provided from January 1-August 31, 2018. (Payments for child care services provided from September 1-December 31, 2018 are not eligible child care expenses.)

For specific information, see the following chart:

Age of Child as of 12/31/2018 Date of Birth of Child Eligible Child for Tax Year 2018? Date(s) of Child Care Services Provided Eligible Child Care Expenses for Tax Year 2018?
Under 1 1/1/2018-12/31/2018 Yes 1/1/2018-12/31/2018 Yes
1 1/1/2017-12/31/2017 Yes 1/1/2018-12/31/2018 Yes
2 1/1/2016-12/31/2016 Yes            1/1/2018-12/31/2018 Yes
3 1/1/2015-9/30/2015 Yes 1/1/2018-8/31/2018 Yes
3 1/1/22015-9/30/2015 Yes 9/1/2018-12/31/2018 No
3 10/1/2015-12/31/2015 Yes 1/1/2018-12/31/2018 Yes
4 1/1/2014-9/30/2014 No 1/1/2018-8/31/2018 No
4 10/1/2014-12/31/2014 Yes 1/1/2018-8/31/2018 Yes
4 10/1/2014-12/31/2014 Yes 9/1/2018-12/31/2018 No
5+ 1/1/2013 or earlier No 1/1/2018-12/31/2018 No

4. Why are expenses for child care services delivered to a three-year-old eligible child after September 30 not eligible child care expenses?

A child is eligible for enrollment in the District’s pre-K program if that child becomes 3 years of age on or before September 30 of the program year. Accordingly, the statute provides that expenses for child care services delivered beginning in September of the program year to a child who became 3 years of age on or before September 30 are not eligible childcare expenses.

5. What is a “qualified child development facility?”

A child development facility is a center, home, or other structure that provides care and other services, supervision, and guidance for children, infants, and toddlers on a regular basis, regardless of its designated name. Child development facilities must be located in the District of Columbia and either be licensed by the District of Columbia or operated by either the federal government or by a private provider on federal property. child development facility does not include a public or private elementary or secondary school engaged in legally required educational and related functions or a licensed pre-kindergarten education program (list of facilities licensed by the District of Columbia can be found at http://childcareconnections.osse.dc.gov/MyChildCare/ProviderSearch).

6. I paid for my one-year-old daughter’s child care expenses in 2018, but I did not claim her as a dependent on my federal or District income tax return. Am I eligible to claim the ELC?

No. You must claim that child as a dependent on your 2018 federal and District income tax returns to claim the ELC for your child.

7. My ex-husband claimed our two-year-old son as a dependent on his federal income tax return even though our son lived with me in 2018, and I paid all his support including his child care expenses. Am I eligible to claim the ELC?

No. You are not eligible to claim the ELC if another person claimed your child as a dependent on his or her federal or District income tax return.

8. My ex-wife and I both contributed towards the payment of child care expenses for our three-year-old daughter in 2018. My ex-wife filed her District income tax return for tax year 2018 before I did and claimed the ELC for her portion of the child care expenses she paid for our daughter. Am I eligible to claim the ELC for my portion of the child care expenses?

No. You are not eligible to claim the ELC if another person received an ELC for your child.

9. My girlfriend and I have one-year-old twins. I paid the child care expenses for one child and my girlfriend paid the child care expenses for the other child. Are we both eligible to claim the ELC?

Yes. Assuming you and your girlfriend each claim a different child as a dependent on your federal and District income tax returns, you are each eligible to claim the ELC for child care expenses for that child.

10. I have custody of my two-year-old grandson and claimed him as a dependent on both my federal and District tax returns for tax year 2018. Am I eligible to claim the ELC for the eligible child care expenses I paid for him?

Assuming you paid eligible child care expenses and otherwise qualify for the ELC, you may claim the ELC for your grandson.

11. Do I have to apply for the ELC with the Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) or another District agency?

No. You may claim the ELC before or after you file your District Income Tax Return (D-40). In order to claim the ELC you must complete the following:

  • File the ELC Schedule and Schedule S (Supplemental Information and Dependents)
  • List the eligible child, as well as the eligible child’s date of birth and social security number and file them with your District Income Tax Return (D-40).
  • Complete the Schedule U, Additional Miscellaneous Credit and Contributions.

12. I had no District taxable income in 2018. Can I still claim the ELC?

Yes. To the extent the amount of the ELC exceeds your income tax liability for 2018, that amount will be refunded to you.

13. I paid $24,000 in eligible child care expenses for my one-year old child in 2018. Can I claim the ELC for the full $24,000 I paid?

No. The amount of the ELC is capped at $1,000 per child per tax year.

14. I had five children under the age of 3 enrolled in a licensed child development facility in 2018 and I paid more than $1,000 in eligible child care expenses for each child. Can I claim a $5,000 ELC ($1,000 x 5 children) for each of my children?

Yes. Assuming you otherwise qualify for the ELC, you may claim a $1,000 per eligible child for that tax year.

15. I had five children under the age of 3 but only one is enrolled in a licensed child development facility in 2018 and I and paid more than $10,000 in eligible child care expenses for that one child. Can I allocate the eligible child care expenses I paid for the one child among all my children and claim a $5,000 ELC ($1,000 x 5 children)?

No. You may not claim an ELC for your children who were not enrolled in a child development facility.

16. My daughter turned 3 years old on August 15, 2018 and was enrolled in a qualified childcare facility during 2018. Can I claim an ELC for child care expenses services provided to my daughter?

Maybe. Payments for child care services provided to your daughter on or before August 31, 2018 are eligible child care expenses and you may receive an ELC credit, up to $1,000. Payment for child care services provided to your daughter after August 31, 2018 are not eligible child care expenses and may not be included in computing the ELC.

17. My son turned 4 years old on August 15, 2018 and was enrolled in a qualified child care facility during 2018. Can I claim the ELC for childcare expenses for services provided to my son in 2018?

No. Your son is not an eligible child because he reached the age of 4 before September 30, 2018.

18. My three-year-old daughter was enrolled in two different qualified child care facilities in 20 Can I claim two separate ELC’s for childcare expenses payments I made to both facilities?

No. The amount of the ELC is the lesser of the total amount of all eligible child care expenses you paid in 2018 or $1,000. You may, however, add the payments you made to both child care facilities in computing the total amount of eligible child care expenses you paid.

19. I was a resident of the District of Columbia for only part of 2018. Can I claim the ELC for my three-year-old daughter?

Yes, assuming you otherwise qualify for the ELC. However, the amount of the ELC must be prorated for the number of months that you lived in the District of Columbia. For example, if the total eligible child care expenses you paid for the taxable year were $5,000 and you were a resident of the District from January 1 through April 30, 2018, you would be entitled to an ELC in the amount of $333 ($1,000 divided by 1/4). If, however, the total eligible child care expenses you paid for the taxable year were $600 and you were a resident of the District from January 1 through September 30, 2018, you would be entitled to an ELC of $450 ($600 divided by 3/4).

20. Is there an income limit for taxpayers who are eligible to claim the ELC?

Yes. A taxpayer is not eligible to claim the ELC if the taxpayer’s District taxable income exceeds the following amounts for tax year 2018 (adjusted for inflation thereafter):

Filing Status: Limit:
Single $750,000
Head-of-Household $750,000
Married/Registered Domestic Partner Filing Jointly $750,000
Married/Registered Domestic Partner Filing Separately on the Same Return $750,000
Married/Registered Domestic Partner Filing Separately  $375,000

21. My child’s child care provider was paid or received subsidies from the District of Columbia. Am I eligible to claim the ELC for the portion of my child’s child care that I pay myself?

You are not eligible to claim the ELC if any child care subsidies authorized under Chapter 4 of Title 4 of the D.C. Code during the taxable year are received or paid on behalf of your child. If you have questions about the child care subsidy program or whether child care subsidies were received or paid on behalf of your child, you may contact the Division of Early Learning of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) at (202) 727-5045 or visit https://osse.dc.gov/service/child-care-subsidyvoucher-program.

22. I still have questions about the ELC. How can I get more information?

You may contact OTR ‘s Customer Service Center by calling (202) 727- 4TAX (727-4829) or by visiting the Walk-In Center at 1101 4th Street, SW, Suite W270, Washington, D.C. 20024 between the hours of 8:15 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.