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IRS.gov Website

Frequently Asked Tax Questions

Child Care Credit, Other Credits - Hope & Life Time Learning Educational Credits

  1. How is the amount of an education credit determined?
  2. What expenses qualify for an education credit?
  3. Do tuition and related expenses paid to attend a private high school qualify for an education credit?
  4. May I claim an education credit if I am married but file a separate return?
  5. If I pay college tuition and fees with a tax-free scholarship, can I claim an education credit on Form 8863 for those payments?
  6. If the amount of my qualified tuition and related expenses is greater than the amount of my scholarship, may I claim the excess expenses on Form 8863?
  7. Can I claim an education credit for higher education expenses paid by a government-subsidized loan?
  8. Who can claim the Hope Credit or the American Opportunity Credit?
  9. What is a Lifetime Learning Credit?
  10. Who can claim the Lifetime Learning Credit?
  11. Is an education credit available for the cost of a high school student taking college classes before graduation from high school?

Rev. date: 08/22/2012

How is the amount of an education credit determined?

The amount of an education credit is determined on the basis of the following: 
The amount of qualified tuition and related expenses used to figure an education credit for each eligible student is subject to a ceiling.   
You must use Form 8863, Education Credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits), to figure and claim an education credit. 

Rev. date: 08/22/2012

What expenses qualify for an education credit?

Expenses that qualify for an education credit are qualified tuition and related expenses paid by the taxpayer during the taxable year.  Qualified tuition and related expenses are tuition and fees required for the enrollment or attendance of the taxpayer, the taxpayer's spouse or the taxpayer's dependent at an eligible educational institution for courses of instruction.  An eligible educational institution means a college, university, vocational school or other postsecondary educational institution that is accredited and eligible to participate in the student aid programs administered by the Department of Education.
Qualified tuition and related expenses do not include the following types of expenses:
In general, qualified tuition and related expenses generally do not include the costs of books, supplies and equipment, because eligible educational institutions usually do not require payment of those costs to the institution as a condition of the student's enrollment or attendance.  For taxable years 2009 through 2012, however, qualified tuition and related expenses include costs of course materials, as well as tuition and fees, required for the student's enrollment or attendance at an eligible education institution. 

Rev. date: 08/04/2012

Do tuition and related expenses paid to attend a private high school qualify for an education credit?

No. Expenses paid to attend a private high school do not qualify for an education credit because a high school is not an eligible educational institution. 
In general, an eligible educational institution is an accredited college, university, vocational school, or other postsecondary educational institution.  In addition, in order to be an eligible educational institution, the school must be eligible to participate in a student aid program administered by the Department of Education.

Rev. date: 08/04/2012

May I claim an education credit if I am married but file a separate return?

No, a married individual filing a separate return may not claim an education credit.

Rev. date: 08/04/2012

If I pay college tuition and fees with a tax-free scholarship, can I claim an education credit on Form 8863 for those payments?

No, you can not claim a credit for the amount of higher education expenses paid by a tax-free scholarship.

Rev. date: 08/04/2012

If the amount of my qualified tuition and related expenses is greater than the amount of my scholarship, may I claim the excess expenses on Form 8863?

Yes, fill out Form 8863 (PDF), Education Credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits).

Rev. date: 08/04/2012

Can I claim an education credit for higher education expenses paid by a government-subsidized loan?

Higher education expenses paid by the proceeds of a government-subsidized loan may qualify for the credit if you must repay the loan. The credit is claimed in the year in which the expenses are paid, not in the year in which the loan is repaid.

Rev. date: 08/04/2012

Who can claim the Hope Credit or the American Opportunity Credit?

Generally, you can claim the Hope Credit if all three of the following requirements are met:
You cannot claim the Hope Credit if any of the following applies:
In general, the Hope Credit is based on tuition and related expenses required for enrollment or attendance at an eligible educational institution.
For a taxpayer to claim the Hope Credit, the student for whom you pay tuition and related expenses must be an eligible student. To be an eligible student, generally, the student must:
For tax years 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, the American Opportunity Tax Credit modifies the Hope Credit as follows:
  1. The maximum amount of the credit is increased to $2,500.00.
  2. The credit can now be claimed for the first 4 years, not 2, of postsecondary education.
  3. The modified adjusted gross income limitations are increased.
  4. Qualified expenses include course materials.
  5. Generally, 40% of the Hope Credit is now refundable (up to $1,000).
However, for a student who attended an educational institution located in a Midwest disaster area, you can choose instead to claim the credit under the previous rules, but then you must use the previous rules for all students for whom you claim the credit.

Rev. date: 08/04/2012

What is a Lifetime Learning Credit?

The Lifetime Learning Credit is a nonrefundable tax credit with a dollar limit per family that is available for qualified tuition and related expenses of higher education, whether the student is at the undergraduate or graduate level.

Rev. date: 08/04/2012

Who can claim the Lifetime Learning Credit?

Generally, you can claim the Lifetime Learning Credit if all three of the following requirements are met:
For purposes of the Lifetime Learning Credit, an eligible student is a student who is enrolled in one or more courses at an eligible educational institution to acquire or improve job skills.
You cannot claim the Lifetime Learning Credit if any of the following apply:

Rev. date: 08/04/2012

Is an education credit available for the cost of a high school student taking college classes before graduation from high school?

The cost of college classes taken while a student is attending high school may qualify for an education tax credit if the requirements for the credit are met.