Work earned income includes a broad range of income types including wages, commissions, bonuses received, tips, and any income earned by someone who is self-employed. For self-employed individuals, this refers to the net income calculated, after factoring in eligible business expenses. Earned income is a broader tax term that also includes not only work earned income but also amounts received for disability benefits before retirement or union strike benefits.
As work earned income includes amounts received that may not be tracked carefully during the year, such as commissions and tips, it can be a difficult number for some tax filers to determine at the end of the year. As a result, most accountants and tax preparers will recommend people set up a process during the year to track these amounts and save themselves from a year-end headache.
Two unique areas where individuals may need special guidance in determining work earned income are for ministers and members of religious orders as well as those deemed to be statutory employees. There are specific guidelines for individuals that fall into these categories, so some research or consultation with a tax expert may be necessary.
The determination of work earned income and earned income is important, as when you have earned income you may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a tax credit available for people in the low to moderate range.
There are also family considerations that impact the determination of an individuals' eligibility for the EITC. The more children an individual has, the more they can earn before they would be considered to earn too much to be eligible for the credit. Additionally, when filing with a spouse, the amount that can be earned before losing eligibility increases further. Reviewing eligibility for the EITC each year is important as the ability to claim the credit will vary from year to year, and not being eligible one year doesn't necessarily mean an individual can't use the credit the next year.