Are we eligible for past tax credits for our children if they’ve been in the United States for three years but only recently received Social Security numbers?

Jun 27, 2019

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We have been in the United States for three years, but only recently got our children's Social Security numbers. Can we file for the tax credits of the children for the past three years even though they just recently received their Social Security cards?

Two IRS publications are good resources for you to review: Publication 501 (Dependents) and Publication 972 (Child Tax Credit). I will presume the following for purposes of providing an answer:

  • Your children pass the tests to be considered a “Qualifying Child” or a “Qualifying Relative.”
  • Your children are U.S. citizens, U.S. resident aliens, U.S. nationals, or residents of Canada or Mexico.
  • You have filed your tax returns showing your children with Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITINs).
  • You have timely filed, by the due date, all your returns for 2016-2018.
  • You have received the Credit for Other Dependents (ODC) for 2018 for your children with ITINs.
  • You received the Social Security numbers after the 2018 return was filed and before the extension deadline.

You are not eligible to claim the Child Tax Credit (CTC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) without a Social Security number (SSN). Also, you may not claim the credits on either your original or an amended return for a child who doesn’t have an SSN by the due date of your return (including extensions), even if the child later gets an SSN. Therefore, you are not eligible for the CTC or the ACTC prior to 2018. However, you may amend your 2018 return before Oct. 15, 2019, to claim these credits using the issued SSNs.

As always, please seek competent professional advice for preparing a complete and accurate tax return.

For more resources, check out PICPA’s Money & Life Tips, Ask a CPA, or CPA Locator.

Answered by: Gregory Paulding, CPA, is president of Paulding & Associates PC in Erie, Pa.

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