Education Tax Help
As a community college student, you are eligible to receive education tax credits that can reduce the expense of your education. There are two education tax credits available, the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. The credits are based on educational expenses paid for you, your spouse, or your dependents.
The American Opportunity Credit
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more parents and students qualify for a tax credit, the American opportunity credit, to pay for college expenses.
The American opportunity credit originally modified the existing Hope credit for tax years 2009 and 2010. The American opportunity credit was later extended through 2017, making the benefit available to a broader range of taxpayers, including many with higher incomes and those who owe no tax. It also adds required course materials to the list of qualifying expenses and allows the credit to be claimed for four post-secondary education years instead of two. Many of those eligible qualify for the maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student.
The full credit is available to individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less, or $160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels. These income limits are higher than under the prior Hope and existing lifetime learning credit.
If you have questions about the American opportunity credit, please refer to www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Benefits-for-Education-Information-Center for more information.
Lifetime Learning Credit
The lifetime learning credit helps parents and students pay for post-secondary education. For the tax year, you may be able to claim a lifetime learning credit of up to $2,000 for qualified education expenses paid for all students enrolled in eligible educational institutions. There is no limit on the number of years the lifetime learning credit can be claimed for each student. However, a taxpayer cannot claim both the American opportunity credit and lifetime learning credits for the same student in one year. Thus, the lifetime learning credit may be particularly helpful to graduate students, students who are only taking one course and those who are not pursuing a degree.
Generally, you can claim the lifetime learning credit if all three of the following requirements are met:
- You pay qualified education expenses of higher education.
- You pay the education expenses for an eligible student.
- The eligible student is either yourself, your spouse or a dependent for whom you claim an exemption on your tax return.
If you're eligible to claim the lifetime learning credit and are also eligible to claim the American opportunity credit for the same student in the same year, you can choose to claim either credit, but not both.
If you pay qualified education expenses for more than one student in the same year, you can choose to take credits on a per-student, per-year basis. This means that, for example, you can claim the American opportunity credit for one student and the lifetime learning credit for another student in the same year.
For some answers to frequently asked questions, refer to http://www.irs.gov/faqs and for additional information on education credits, refer to Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.