Two Tax Credits to Help Pay Higher Education Costs

April 4th, 2011

There are two federal tax credits available to help individuals offset the costs of higher education for themselves or their dependents.  They are the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit.

To qualify for either credit, a taxpayer must pay post-secondary tuition and fees for themselves, their spouse or their dependent.  The credit is claimed by the individual who claims the student as a dependent, even if someone else pays the tuition including the student.  However, if the student is not claimed as a dependent of another, then the student will claim the credit.

For each student, only one of the credits can be claimed in a single tax year.  For example, the American Opportunity Credit cannot be claimed to pay for part of a student’s tuition charges and then the Lifetime Learning Credit claimed for $2,000 more of the school costs.

However, if college expenses are paid for two or more students in the same year, a taxpayer can choose to take credits on a per-student, per-year basis.  Thus, for example, the American Opportunity Credit can be claimed for one child and the Lifetime Learning Credit for the other.

Here are some key facts you should know about these valuable education credits:

American Opportunity Credit

  • The credit can be up to $2,500 per eligible student.
  • It is available for the first four years of post-secondary education.
  • Forty percent of the credit is refundable, which means that a claimant may be able to receive up to $1,000, even if they owe no taxes.
  • The student must be pursuing an undergraduate degree or other recognized educational credential.
  • The student must be enrolled at least half-time for at least one academic period.
  • Qualified expenses include tuition and fees, course-related books, supplies and equipment.
  • The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers who make less than $80,000 or $160,000 for married couples filing a joint return.  Above those amounts, the credit quickly begins to phase out.

Lifetime Learning Credit

  • The credit can be up to $2,000 per eligible student.
  • It is available for all years of post-secondary education and for courses to acquire or improve job skills.
  • The credit is non-refundable; thus, the maximum amount credited is limited to the amount of tax that must be paid on your return.
  • The student does not need to be pursuing a degree or other recognized education credential.
  • Qualified expenses include tuition and fees, course-related books, supplies and equipment.
  • The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers who make less than $60,000 or $120,000 for married couples filing a joint return.  Above those amounts, the credit quickly begins to phase out.

There is also an above-the-line tuition and fees tax deduction available, but you cannot claim the tuition and fees tax deduction in the same year the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit is claimed.  Choose to take either the credit or the deduction and consider which is more beneficial for you. Generally, the credits provide the greater benefit.

Comments are closed.

 
-->

« | Home | »

  1. Share This Article With A Friend!
  2. (valid email required)
  3. (valid email required)
  4. Captcha
 

cforms contact form by delicious:days

Tools

Tax Updates & Business e-Newsletter

January 25, 2010
by: James • Tools

Free Online Personal Financial Software

October 17, 2008
by: James • Tools