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taxmap/pubs/p970-019.htm#en_us_publink1000178139

Chapter 4
Lifetime Learning Credit(p31)

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previous topic occurrence Lifetime Learning Credit next topic occurrence


What's New(p31)


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Income limits increased.(p31)

The amount of your lifetime learning credit for 2009 is gradually reduced (phased out) if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is between $50,000 and $60,000 ($100,000 and $120,000 if you file a joint return). You cannot claim a credit if your MAGI is $60,000 or more ($120,000 or more if you file a joint return). This is an increase from the 2008 limits of $48,000 and $58,000 ($96,000 and $116,000 if filing a joint return). See Effect of the Amount of Your Income on the Amount of Your Credit, later, for more information.

taxmap/pubs/p970-019.htm#TXMP5b58a9aaIntroduction

For 2009, there are three tax credits available to help you offset the costs of higher education by reducing the amount of your income tax. They are the American opportunity credit, the Hope credit, and the lifetime learning credit. This chapter discusses the lifetime learning credit. The American opportunity credit is discussed in chapter 2. The Hope credit is discussed in chapter 3.
This chapter explains:
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What is the tax benefit of the lifetime learning credit.(p31)


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For the tax year, you may be able to claim a lifetime learning credit of up to $2,000 ($4,000 for students in Midwestern disaster areas) for qualified education expenses paid for all eligible students. There is no limit on the number of years the lifetime learning credit can be claimed for each student.
A tax credit reduces the amount of income tax you may have to pay. Unlike a deduction, which reduces the amount of income subject to tax, a credit directly reduces the tax itself. The lifetime learning credit is a nonrefundable credit. This means that it can reduce your tax to zero, but if the credit is more than your tax the excess will not be refunded to you.
Your allowable lifetime learning credit may be limited by the amount of your income and the amount of your tax.
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Students in Midwestern disaster areas.(p31)
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To qualify for the special rules, a student must attend an eligible educational institution in a Midwestern disaster area. See Table 4-2 at the end of this chapter for a list of qualifying disaster areas. For the expanded definition of qualified education expenses, see Students in Midwestern disaster areas, under Qualified Education Expenses, later in this chapter.
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You can choose the education benefit that will give you the lowest tax. You may want to compare the tuition and fees deduction ( chapter 7) to one or more of the education credits.
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Can you claim more than one education credit this year.(p31)


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For each student, you can elect for any year only one of the credits. For example, if you elect to take the lifetime learning credit for a child on your 2009 tax return, you cannot, for that same child, also claim the Hope credit or an American opportunity credit for 2009.
If you are eligible to claim the lifetime learning credit and you are also eligible to claim the American opportunity credit (or the Hope 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 certain credits on a per-student, per-year basis. This means that, for example, you can claim the Hope credit (or the American opportunity credit) for one student and the lifetime learning credit for another student in the same year. However, this does not apply when the choice is between the American opportunity credit and the Hope credit. See this section in chapter 2 (American opportunity credit) or chapter 3 (Hope credit).
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Differences between the American opportunity, Hope, and lifetime learning credits.(p31)


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There are several differences between these three credits. For example, you can claim the Hope credit based on the same student's expenses for no more than 2 tax years. The American opportunity credit can be claimed for the same student for no more 4 tax years, but any year in which the Hope credit was claimed counts toward the 4 years. However, there is no limit on the number of years for which you can claim a lifetime learning credit based on the same student's expenses. The differences between the three credits are shown in Appendix B near the end of this publication.
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Overview of the lifetime learning credit.(p31)


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See Table 4-1 (on the next page) for the basics of the lifetime learning credit. The details are discussed in this chapter.
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Table 4-1. Overview of the Lifetime Learning Credit

Maximum credit Up to $2,000 ($4,000 if a student in a Midwestern disaster area) credit per return
Limit on modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) $120,000 if married filling jointly;
$60,000 if single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er)
Refundable or nonrefundable Nonrefundable—credit limited to the amount of tax you must pay on your taxable income
Number of years of postsecondary education Available for all years of postsecondary education and for courses to acquire or improve job skills
Number of tax years credit available Available for an unlimited number of years
Type of degree required Student does not need to be pursuing a degree or other recognized education credential
Number of courses Available for one or more courses
Felony drug conviction Felony drug convictions are permitted
Qualified expenses Tuition and fees required for enrollment (including amounts required to be paid to the institution for course-related books, supplies, and equipment). Additional expenses allowed for students in Midwestern disaster areas.
Payments for academic periods Payments made in 2009 for academic periods beginning in 2009 and in the first 3 months of 2010
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Can You Claim the Credit(p31)


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The following rules will help you determine if you are eligible to claim the lifetime learning credit on your tax return.
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Who Can Claim the Credit(p31)


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Generally, you can claim the lifetime learning credit if all three of the following requirements are met.
Note.Qualified education expenses paid by a dependent for whom you claim an exemption, or by a third party for that dependent, are considered paid by you.
"Qualified Education Expenses" are defined on this page. "Eligible students" are defined later under Who Is an Eligible Student. A "dependent for whom you claim an exemption" is defined later under Who Can Claim a Dependent's Expenses.
You may find Figure 4-1, on the next page, helpful in determining if you can claim a lifetime learning credit on your tax return.
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Who Cannot Claim the Credit(p32)


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You cannot claim the lifetime learning credit for 2009 if any of the following apply.