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Education Credits

Question: Who can claim the American opportunity credit?


The American opportunity credit modifies the Hope Scholarship credit for any tax years beginning in 2009 through 2017. The maximum amount of the credit is $2,500 and 40% of the Hope credit is refundable (up to $1,000). You may claim the Hope Scholarship credit if:

  • You pay qualified tuition and related expenses (defined below) for the first 4 years of postsecondary education.
  • The qualified expenses are for an eligible student (defined below).
  • You show the name and taxpayer identification number of the eligible student on the return.
  • You show the name and address of the qualifying educational institution and in most cases show the federal employer identification number of the institution.
  • Your modified adjusted gross income is below a certain dollar limitation.
  • You are not listed as a dependent in the exemption section of another person's tax return (such as your parents').
  • If you are married, your filing status is married filing jointly.
  • You do not claim the lifetime learning credit for the same student in the same year.
  • If you (or your spouse) are a nonresident alien for any part of the tax year, the nonresident alien elects to be treated as a resident alien for tax purposes. For additional information, refer to Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.

In general, qualified tuition and related expenses means tuition, fees and course materials required for the enrollment or attendance of you, your spouse or your dependent with respect to whom you are allowed a deduction, at an eligible educational institution.  

An eligible student is a student who:

  • Was enrolled in a program leading to a degree, certificate or other recognized educational credential for at least one academic period beginning in the tax year.
  • Carried at least half the normal full-time workload for the course of study.
  • Did not make an election to claim the Hope or American opportunity credit (or a combination of both) for any 4 earlier tax years.
  • Has not completed the first 4 years of postsecondary education before the beginning of the tax year.
  • Was free of any federal or state felony conviction for possessing or distributing a controlled substance as of the end of the tax year.

Additional Information:

Category: Child Care Credit, Other Credits
Subcategory: Education Credits

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The OMB number for this study is 1545-1432.
If you have any comments regarding this study, please write to:
IRS, Tax Products Coordinating Committee
1111 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20224