What Is an Education Tax Credit?
Taxpayers who pay qualifying higher education expenditures for an eligible student to an approved educational institution, such as a college or university, are eligible for education tax credits. The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit are the two forms of education tax credits.
- The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) is for students who have not finished their first four years of higher education and are qualified.
- The Lifetime Learning Credit may be used to defray the price of an undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree.
- In the same tax year, you cannot claim both the AOTC and the lifelong learning credit for the same student.
How Education Tax Credits Work
Those who incur eligible educational costs, such as tuition and fees, may claim education tax credits. Subject to certain income constraints, parents who pay these costs for their children may be entitled to claim this sort of credit on their tax returns.
The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit are the two forms of education tax credits. With limited exceptions, the AOTC applies to the first four years of tertiary study. The Lifetime Learning Credit is available to all undergraduate and graduate students. In the same tax year, you cannot claim both the AOTC and the Lifetime Learning Credit for the same student.
Requirements for the Education Tax Credit
Both credits have their own qualifying standards, however a taxpayer must fulfill all three of the following:
- Qualified higher education expenditures must be paid by you, a dependant, or a third party.
- An qualified student is you, your spouse, or a dependent stated on your tax return.
- The above-mentioned qualified student must be enrolled in an appropriate educational institution.
American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC)
The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) is for students who have not finished their first four years of higher education and are qualified. They must not have claimed the AOTC or the old Hope credit in the previous four tax years. During the tax year, the student must be enrolled at least half-time for one academic quarter as decided by the institution. They must also not have a felony drug conviction as of the conclusion of the tax year.
The AOTC is subject to income constraints. For a complete credit, the credit starts to phase out at a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $80,000 for single filers and $160,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly (MFJ). The credit is not available to single taxpayers with a MAGI of more than $90,000 or MFJs with a MAGI of more than $180,000. Income in this range enables you to claim a reduced credit.
Eligible students may recover 100% of the first $2,000 spent on school costs and 25% of the following $2,000 spent on school expenditures. As a result, the maximum amount that an eligible student may receive is $2,500: (100% $2,000) + (25% $2,000). In other words, the maximum AOTC of $2,500 may offset $4,000 in eligible higher education costs.
The AOTC is a tax credit that is partly refundable. This implies that if the credit lowers your tax liability to less than zero, the IRS will give you a check for up to 40% of the remaining credit. As a result, the maximum refundable component of the credit is $1,000 (40% $2,500).
Lifetime Learning Credit
Because it is designed for taxpayers of all educational levels, the Lifetime Learning Credit has greater qualifying restrictions than the AOTC. The Lifetime Learning Credit may be used to a variety of schools, including vocational training or professional degree programs, as well as tuition at more typical four-year undergraduate and graduate institutions.
A student must be enrolled in a course to earn education credits or enhance employment skills at an authorized educational institution for at least one academic period, as decided by the school, to be eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit. If the educational institution is a qualifying school as determined by the IRS, the student will get a Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement.
The MAGI used by joint filers for the Lifetime Learning Credit is not increased for inflation beyond December 31, 2020. The benefit is tapered out for taxpayers with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of more than $80,000 for single filers and $160,000 for joint returns.
Students who qualify may deduct 20% of the first $10,000 in eligible school costs. As a result, the highest amount that an eligible student may receive is $2,000 (20% of $10,000). The Lifetime Learning Credit cannot be refunded. This implies that although the credit may decrease your tax bill to zero, it cannot be repaid to you beyond that time.
Criticisms of Education Tax Credits
Critics of higher education subsidies have long claimed that education tax credits are one of the reasons why the cost of higher education has risen several times faster than inflation. These opponents argue that education tax credits just boost the total expense of college without increasing access to it. Tax credits enhance the amount of money available for education expenditure, but they do little to boost the availability or quality of education.
What Are the Major Differences Between the AOTC and the Lifetime Learning Credit?
The AOTC has a $2,500 limit, while the Lifetime Learning Credit has a $2,000 maximum. Both credits cannot be claimed for the same student in the same tax year.
The AOTC is only available for undergraduate fees, but the Lifetime Learning Credit is more versatile. The AOTC is only available for four tax years; the Lifetime Learning Credit is available indefinitely.
The AOTC requires students to be enrolled at least half-time for an academic term, but the Lifetime Learning Credit is accessible to students who are engaged in at least one course for that period.
Students who have a felony drug conviction are not eligible for the AOTC. The Lifetime Learning Credit does not need this.
Is My Vocational School an Eligible Educational Institution for the Lifetime Learning Credit?
Yes, your vocational school may qualify for the Lifetime Learning Credit as an approved educational institution. If your school is qualified, you will get a Form 1098-T in the mail before filing your taxes.
What If I Don’t Receive a Form 1098-T From My School?
Contact your school if you did not get a Form 1098-T. Likewise, if you feel the amount indicated on your 1098-T is wrong, please notify your school.
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