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Tax Savings from Higher Education Costs

IRS Tax Tip 2016-36, March 9, 2016

Money you paid for higher education in 2015 can mean tax savings in 2016. If you, your spouse or your dependent took post-high school coursework last year, there may be a tax credit or deduction for you. Here are some facts from the IRS about key tax breaks for higher education.

The American Opportunity Credit (AOTC) is:

  • Worth up to $2,500 per eligible student.
  • Used only for the first four years at an eligible college or vocational school.
  • For students earning a degree or other recognized credential.
  • For students going to school at least half-time for at least one academic period that started  during or shortly after the tax year.
  • Claimed on your tax return using Form 8863, Education Credits.

The Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC) is:

  • Worth up to $2,000 per tax return, per year, no matter how many students qualify.
  • For all years of higher education, including classes for learning or improving job skills.
  • Claimed on your tax return using Form 8863, Education Credits.

The Tuition and Fees Deduction is:

  • Claimed as an adjustment to income.
  • Claimed whether or not you itemize.
  • Limited to tuition and certain related expenses required for enrollment or attendance at eligible schools.
  • Worth up to $4,000.

Additionally:

  • You should receive Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement, from your school by Feb. 1, 2016. Your school also sends a copy to the IRS.
  • You may only claim qualifying expenses paid in 2015.
  • You can’t claim either credit if someone else claims you as a dependent.
  • You can’t claim either AOTC or LLC and the Tuition and Fees Deduction for the same student or for the same expense, in the same year.
  • Income limits could reduce the amount of credits or deductions you can claim.
  • The Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov can help you check your eligibility.

IRS Free File. You can use IRS Free File to prepare and e-file your federal tax return for free. File Form 8863, Education Credits, with your Form 1040. Free File is only available at IRS.gov/freefile.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 08-Mar-2016