education credits

Tax Credit Helps Pay for Higher Education Expenses

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed in early 2009 and created the American Opportunity Credit. This educational tax credit – which expanded the existing Hope credit – helps parents and students pay for college and college-related expenses.

Here are the top nine things the Internal Revenue Service wants you to know about this valuable credit and how you can benefit from it when you file your 2009 taxes.

  1. The credit can be claimed for tuition and certain fees paid for higher education in 2009 and 2010.
  2. The American Opportunity Credit can be claimed for expenses paid for any of the first four years of post-secondary education.
  3. The credit is worth up to $2,500 and is based on a percentage of the cost of qualified tuition and related expenses paid during the taxable year for each eligible student. This is a $700 increase from the Hope Credit.
  4. The term “qualified tuition and related expenses” has been expanded to include expenditures for required course materials. For this purpose, the term “course materials” means books, supplies and equipment required for a course of study.
  5. Taxpayers will receive a tax credit based on 100 percent of the first $2,000 of tuition, fees and course materials paid during the taxable year, plus 25 percent of the next $2,000 of tuition, fees and course materials paid during the taxable year.
  6. Forty percent of the credit is refundable, so even those who owe no tax can get up to $1,000 of the credit for each eligible student as cash back.
  7. To be eligible for the full credit, your modified adjusted gross income must be $80,000 or less — $160,000 or less for joint filers.
  8. The credit begins to decrease for individuals with incomes above $80,000 or $160,000 for joint filers and is not available for individuals who make more than $90,000 or $180,000 for joint filers.
  9. The credit is claimed using Form 8863, Education Credits, (American Opportunity, Hope, and Lifetime Learning Credits), and is attached to Form 1040 or 1040A.

For more information about the American Opportunity Tax Credit visit the IRS Web site at IRS.gov/recovery.

education credits

Offsetting Your Education Costs

Education tax credits can help offset the costs of higher education for yourself or a dependent. The Hope Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit are two education credits available which may benefit you the student. Because they are credits rather than deductions, you may be able to subtract them in full, dollar for dollar, from your federal income tax.

 

graduation_cap

The Hope Credit

  • The credit applies for the first two years of post-secondary education, such as college or vocational school. It does not apply to the third, fourth, or higher years of undergraduate programs, to graduate programs, or to professional-level programs.
  • It can be worth up to $1,800 ($3,600 if a student in a Midwestern disaster area) per eligible student, per year.
  • You’re allowed a credit of 100% of the first $1,200 ($2,400 if a student in a Midwestern disaster area) of qualified tuition and related fees paid during the tax year, plus 50% of the next $1,200 ($2,400 if a student in a Midwestern disaster area).
  • Each student must be enrolled at least half-time for at least one academic period which began during the year.
  • The student must be free of any federal or state felony conviction for possessing or distributing a controlled substance as of the end of the tax year.

 

The Lifetime Learning Credit

  • The credit applies to undergraduate, graduate and professional degree courses, including instruction to acquire or improve job skills, regardless of the number of years in the program.
  • If you qualify, your credit equals 20% (40% if a student in a Midwestern disaster area) of the first $10,000 of post-secondary tuition and fees you pay during the year, for a maximum credit of $2,000 ($4,000 if a student in a Midwestern disaster area) per tax return.

You cannot claim both the Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits for the same student in the same year. You also cannot claim either credit if you claim a tuition and fees deduction for the same student in the same year. To qualify for either credit, you must pay post-secondary tuition and certain related expenses for yourself, your spouse or your dependent. The credit may be claimed by the parent or the student, but not by both. Students who are claimed as a dependent cannot claim the credit.

 

Offsetting Your Education Costs

These credits are phased out for Modified Adjusted Gross Income over $48,000 ($96,000 for married filing jointly) and eliminated completely for Modified Adjusted Gross Income of $58,000 or more ($116,000 for married filing jointly). If the taxpayer is married, the credit may be claimed only on a joint return.

For more information, see Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education, which can be obtained below or by calling the IRS at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Links:
Form 8863, Education Credits
Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education
Tax Topic 605