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In Accounting & Finances, Business, Education, Taxes on June 13, 2016 by Sufen Wang

Tax Credits for Higher Education


It’s back to college, that special time of the year when Twin XL bedding and mini-fridges are hot commodities, and kids get one last haircut from mom before they head off into the real world – though they always manage to return with copious amounts of dirty laundry. Higher education costs more than a fistful of dollars, but college-bound folks (or their parents or spouse) can alleviate some of the financial burden with education tax credits.

A biggie students can claim on their tax return is the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), which is worth up to $2,500 each year, and is available for the first four years of college. Forty percent of the AOTC is refundable, meaning that even if you don’t owe any taxes, you might be eligible to get up to $1,000 of the credit as a straight-up refund.

CollegeMoneyGraduate students and beyond will have more to rejoice about with the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC). Worth up to $2,000 on your tax return, you can claim the LLC for every single year you’re an eligible student. Now go ahead and get your seven-year PhD on!

But as with most things, you can’t have your Instant Lunch and eat it too. Each student can only get one type of education credit per year. However, parents out there with two qualifying kids can claim a different credit for each student. Those lucky folks are welcome to flaunt their children’s tax achievements with a Proud Mom of an AOTC Student AND an LLC Student bumper sticker.

collegeboundThe fine print starts here. The higher ed credit is based on qualified education expenses: tuition costs, student activity fees, etc. For the AOTC, you can also count money spent on books and supplies you must have to study – and boy, are textbooks expensive! Unfortunately, things like room and board, transportation costs, and plastic cups for a kegger are not qualifying expenses. Also, you have to actually be studying at a higher ed school to get a higher ed tax credit. Local coffee shop book groups are not education institutions, however scintillating the literary conversation may be.

Notebook and pens? Check. Satchel instead of a backpack? Check. Coffee, coffee, coffee? Check, check, check! Form 1098-T? What the heck is that!? Your school uses this form to report your qualified education expenses to the IRS and to you, and it should show up in your mailbox and/or inbox by February 1, 2016. Tax credit for pursuing a college degree and a fulfilling life? Check!

Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy
Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793
Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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