Understanding Tax Credits Versus Deductions

July 29th, 2022

Tax credits are some of the most valuable tools to help cut your tax bill. But figuring out how to use these credits on your tax return can get complicated very quickly. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding the difference

To help illustrate the difference between a credit and a deduction, here is an example of a single taxpayer making $50,000 in 2022.

  • Tax Deduction Example: Gee I. Johe earns $50,000 and owes $5,000 in taxes. If you add a $1,000 tax deduction, he’ll decrease his $50,000 income to $49,000, and owe about $4,800 in taxes.

    Result: A $1,000 tax deduction decreases Gee’s tax bill by $200, from $5,000 to $4,800.

  • Tax Credit Example: Now, let’s assume G.I. Johe has a $1,000 tax credit versus a deduction. Mr. Johe’s tax bill decreases from $5,000 to $4,000, while his $50,000 income stays unchanged.

    Result: A $1,000 tax credit decreases your tax bill from $5,000 to $4,000.

Your tax credit is five times as valuable as a tax deduction in this example.

Too good to be true?

Credits are generally worth much more than deductions. However, there are several hurdles you have to clear before being able to take advantage of credit.

To illustrate, consider the popular child tax credit.

Hurdle #1: Meet basic qualifications

You can claim a $2,000 tax credit for each qualifying child you have on your 2022 tax return. The good news is that the IRS’s definition of qualifying a child is pretty broad, but there are enough nuances to the definition that Hurdle #1 could get complicated. And then, to make matters more complicated…

Hurdle #2: Meet income qualifications

If you’re single, head of household, or married filing separately, the child tax credit goes away if you exceed $240,000 of taxable income. The credit disappears above $440,000 of income if you’re married and filing jointly. If you make too much money, you can’t claim the credit. And then, to make matters more complicated…

Hurdle #3: Meet income tax qualifications

To claim the entire $2,000 child tax credit, you must owe at least $2,000 in income tax. For example, if you owe $3,000 in taxes and have one child that qualifies for the credit, you can claim the entire $2,000 credit. But if you only owe $1,000 in taxes, the maximum amount of the child tax credit you could claim is $1,400.

Take the tax credit… but get help!

The bottom line is that tax credits are usually more valuable than tax deductions. But tax credits also come with lots of rules that can be confusing. Please call to schedule a tax planning session to make sure you make the most of the available tax credits for your situation.


If you have any questions or concerns regarding your tax situation, please feel free to call.