Unemployed workers typically have difficulty generating a significant tax refund because most refundable tax credits require minimum earned income levels. Unemployment benefits don't count towards earned income, and support from other family members may disqualify you from claiming your children as dependents. However, recently unemployed mothers and mothers with occasional work may receive significant refunds if they maximize their deductions before applying tax credits.
File as head of household if your children live with you more than half the year, provide less than half their upkeep and you pay more than half the home's value. File as a qualifying widow with dependents if the same conditions are true and you have not remarried after the death of your spouse.
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Claim a dependent exemption for each child you support; the deduction is $3,650 per exemption at the time of publication.
Focus on claiming refundable tax credits after you've maximized your deductions. Claim the refundable Additional Child Tax Credit if you are recently unemployed and earned more than $3,000 during the tax year. This credit offers a refund of 15 percent of all income beyond $3,000; any credit beyond your tax liability becomes a refund.
Apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit on Form 1040 if you earned a small income before becoming unemployed or you earned money performing irregular jobs: the credit varies from $3,050 to $5,666 at the time of publication, depending on the number of dependent children.