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Publication 970

What Expenses Qualify(p21)

The lifetime learning credit is based on qualified education expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse, or a dependent for whom you claim an exemption on your tax return. Generally, the credit is allowed for qualified education expenses paid in 2011 for an academic period beginning in 2011 or in the first 3 months of 2012.
For example, if you paid $1,500 in December 2011 for qualified tuition for the spring 2012 semester beginning in January 2012, you may be able to use that $1,500 in figuring your 2011 credit.

Academic period.(p21)

An academic period includes a semester, trimester, quarter, or other period of study (such as a summer school session) as reasonably determined by an educational institution. In the case of an educational institution that uses credit hours or clock hours and does not have academic terms, each payment period can be treated as an academic period.

Paid with borrowed funds.(p21)

You can claim a lifetime learning credit for qualified education expenses paid with the proceeds of a loan. You use the expenses to figure the lifetime learning credit for the year in which the expenses are paid, not the year in which the loan is repaid. Treat loan payments sent directly to the educational institution as paid on the date the institution credits the student's account.

Student withdraws from class(es).(p21)

You can claim a lifetime learning credit for qualified education expenses not refunded when a student withdraws.

Qualified Education Expenses(p21)

For purposes of the lifetime learning credit, qualified education expenses are tuition and certain related expenses required for enrollment in a course at an eligible educational institution. The course must be either part of a postsecondary degree program or taken by the student to acquire or improve job skills.

Eligible educational institution.(p21)

An eligible educational institution is any college, university, vocational school, or other postsecondary educational institution eligible to participate in a student aid program administered by the U.S. Department of Education. It includes virtually all accredited public, nonprofit, and proprietary (privately owned profit-making) postsecondary institutions. The educational institution should be able to tell you if it is an eligible educational institution.
Certain educational institutions located outside the United States also participate in the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid (FSA) programs.

Related expenses.(p21)

Student-activity fees and expenses for course-related books, supplies, and equipment are included in qualified education expenses only if the fees and expenses must be paid to the institution for the enrollment or attendance.
In the following examples, assume that each student is an eligible student at an eligible educational institution.
Example 1.(p21)
Jackson is a sophomore in University V's degree program in dentistry. This year, in addition to tuition, he is required to pay a fee to the university for the rental of the dental equipment he will use in this program. Because the equipment rental fee must be paid to University V for enrollment and attendance, Jackson's equipment rental fee is a qualified expense.
Example 2.(p21)
Donna and Charles, both first-year students at College W, are required to have certain books and other reading materials to use in their mandatory first-year classes. The college has no policy about how students should obtain these materials, but any student who purchases them from College W's bookstore will receive a bill directly from the college. Charles bought his books from a friend, so what he paid for them is not a qualified education expense. Donna bought hers at College W's bookstore. Although Donna paid College W directly for her first-year books and materials, her payment is not a qualified expense because the books and materials are not required to be purchased from College W for enrollment or attendance at the institution.
Example 3.(p21)
When Marci enrolled at College X for her freshman year, she had to pay a separate student activity fee in addition to her tuition. This activity fee is required of all students, and is used solely to fund on-campus organizations and activities run by students, such as the student newspaper and student government. No portion of the fee covers personal expenses. Although labeled as a student activity fee, the fee is required for Marci's enrollment and attendance at College X. Therefore, it is a qualified expense.

No Double Benefit Allowed(p23)

You cannot do any of the following:


Adjustments to Qualified Education Expenses(p23)

If you pay qualified education expenses with certain tax-free funds, you cannot claim a credit for those amounts. You must reduce the qualified education expenses by the amount of any tax-free educational assistance and refund(s) you received.

Tax-free educational assistance.(p23)

This includes:


Qualified education expenses do not include expenses for which you or someone else receives a refund. (For information on expenses paid by a dependent student or third party, see Who Can Claim a Dependent's Expenses, later.)
If a refund of expenses paid in 2011 is received before you file your tax return for 2011, simply reduce the amount of the expenses paid by the amount of the refund received. If the refund is received after you file your 2011 tax return, see When Must the Credit Be Repaid (Recaptured), later.
You are considered to receive a refund of expenses when an eligible educational institution refunds loan proceeds to the lender on behalf of the borrower. Follow the above instructions according to when you are considered to receive the refund.

Amounts that do not reduce qualified education expenses.(p23)

Do not reduce qualified education expenses by amounts paid with funds the student receives as:
Do not reduce the qualified education expenses by any scholarship or fellowship reported as income on the student's tax return in the following situations. For examples, see Adjustments to Qualified Education Expenses in chapter 2, American Opportunity Credit.

Expenses That Do Not Qualify(p23)

Qualified education expenses do not include amounts paid for: This is true even if the amount must be paid to the institution as a condition of enrollment or attendance.

Sports, games, hobbies, and noncredit courses.(p23)

Qualified education expenses generally do not include expenses that relate to any course of instruction or other education that involves sports, games or hobbies, or any noncredit course. However, if the course of instruction or other education is part of the student's degree program or is taken by the student to acquire or improve job skills, these expenses can qualify.

Comprehensive or bundled fees.(p23)

Some eligible educational institutions combine all of their fees for an academic period into one amount. If you do not receive or do not have access to an allocation showing how much you paid for qualified education expenses and how much you paid for personal expenses, such as those listed above, contact the institution. The institution is required to make this allocation and provide you with the amount you paid (or were billed) for qualified education expenses on Form 1098-T. See Figuring the Credit, later, for more information about Form 1098-T.