You may be able to deduct qualified tuition and related expenses that you pay for yourself, your spouse, or a dependent as a tuition and fees deduction. To determine whether your expenses qualify, refer to Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education. Instead of a tuition and fees deduction, you may be eligible to use your tuition and fees expenses to claim:
- The American opportunity tax credit or the lifetime learning credit; see Am I Eligible to Claim an Education Credit?
- A business expense; if applicable, this is generally an itemized deduction.
You do not have to itemize to take the tuition and fees deduction. You claim the deduction as an adjustment to income on Form 1040 (PDF) or Form 1040A (PDF), U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. For more information regarding this deduction, the credits, or education business expenses, refer to Publication 970.
You cannot take the tuition and fees deduction on your income tax return if your filing status is married filing separately, or if you may be claimed as a dependent on someone else's return. If your modified adjusted gross income exceeds certain limits, your deduction is reduced or eliminated depending on your filing status. You cannot claim both the tuition and fees deduction and an American opportunity tax credit or lifetime learning credit for the same student in the same tax year. If the educational expenses also qualify as an allowable business expense, then you may be able to claim the tuition and fees deduction in conjunction with a business expense deduction, however you cannot deduct the same expenses twice.
Additionally, you cannot claim a deduction or credit based on expenses paid with tax-free scholarships, fellowships, grants, or education savings account funds, such as a Coverdell education savings account, tax-free savings bond interest, or employer-provided education assistance. The same rule applies to expenses you pay with a tax-exempt distribution from a qualified tuition plan, except that you can deduct qualified expenses you pay only with that part of the distribution that is a return of your contribution to the plan. For more information about other benefits available, see Topic 313 and Topic 513.
Page Last Reviewed or Updated: December 30, 2015