skip navigation
Search Help
Navigation Help

Tax Map Index
ABCDEFGHI
JKLMNOPQR
STUVWXYZ#

Tax Reform
Tax Topic Index

International
Tax Topic Index

Affordable Care Act
Tax Topic Index

Exempt Organization
Tax Topic Index

FAQs
Forms
Publications
Tax Topics
Worksheets

Comments
About Tax Map

IRS.gov Website
Publication 17
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink1000174558

Chapter 34
Education Credits(p215)


What’s New(p215)

rule
EIC
At the time this publication went to print, Congress was considering legislation that would do the following.
  1. Provide additional tax relief for those affected by certain 2018 disasters.
  2. Extend certain tax benefits that expired at the end of 2017 and that currently can't be claimed on your 2018 tax return.
  3. Change certain other tax provisions.
To learn whether this legislation was enacted resulting in changes that affect your 2018 tax return, go to Recent Developments at IRS.gov/Pub17.
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink100072281
Limits on modified adjusted gross income (MAGI).(p216)
The lifetime learning credit MAGI limit increases to $134,000 if you are filing married filing jointly ($67,000 if you are filing single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er)). The American opportunity credit MAGI limits remain unchanged. See Table 34-1.

Reminders(p216)

rule
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink100072312
Form 1098-T requirement.(p216)
For tax years beginning after June 29, 2015, the law requires a taxpayer (or a dependent) to have received a Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement, from an eligible educational institution, whether domestic or foreign.
However, you may claim one of these education benefits if the student does not receive a Form 1098-T because the student’s educational institution is not required to furnish a Form 1098-T to the student under existing rules (for example, if the student is a qualified nonresident alien, has qualified education expenses paid entirely with scholarships, has qualified education expenses paid under a formal billing arrangement, or is enrolled in courses for which no credit is awarded). If a student’s educational institution is not required to provide a Form 1098-T to the student, you may claim one of these education benefits without a Form 1098-T if you otherwise qualify, can demonstrate that you (or a dependent) were enrolled at an eligible educational institution, and can substantiate the payment of tuition and related expense.
You also may claim this credit if the student attended an eligible educational institution required to furnish Form 1098-T but the student doesn't receive Form 1098-T before you file your tax return (for example, if the institution otherwise required to furnish the Form 1098-T doesn't furnish it or refuses to do so) and you take the following required steps. After January 31, 2019, but before the due date for your 2018 tax return, you or the student must request that the educational institution furnish a Form 1098-T. You must fully cooperate with the educational institution's efforts to gather the information needed to furnish the Form 1098-T. You also must otherwise qualify for the benefit, be able to demonstrate that you (or a dependent) were enrolled at an eligible educational institution, and substantiate the payment of qualified tuition and related expenses.
EIC
To claim the American opportunity credit, you must provide the educational institution's employer identification number (EIN) on your Form 8863. You should be able to obtain this information from Form 1098-T or the educational institution.
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink100072314
Ban on claiming the American opportunity credit.(p216)
If you claim the American opportunity credit even though you're not eligible, you may be banned from claiming the credit for 2 or 10 years depending on your conduct. See the Caution statement under Introduction, later.
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink100072316
Taxpayer identification number (TIN) needed by due date of return.(p216)
If you haven’t been issued a TIN by the due date of your 2018 return (including extensions), you can’t claim the American opportunity credit on either your original or an amended 2018 return, even if you later get a TIN. Also, the American opportunity credit isn’t allowed on either your original or an amended 2018 return for a student who hasn’t been issued a TIN by the due date of your return (including extensions), even if that student later gets a TIN.
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink10008885
Form 8862 may be required.(p216)
If your American opportunity credit was denied or reduced for any reason other than a math or clerical error for any tax year beginning after 2015, you may be required to attach a completed Form 8862, Information To Claim Certain Credits After Disallowance, to your tax return to claim the credit. See Form 8862 and its instructions for details.
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink1000272374
For 2018, there are two tax credits available to help you offset the costs of higher education by reducing the amount of your income tax. They are: This chapter will present an overview of these education credits. To get the detailed information, you will need to claim either of the credits, and for examples illustrating that information, see chapters 2 and 3 of Pub. 970.
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink1000174572

Can you claim more than one education credit this year? (p216)

rule
For each student, you can elect for any year only one of the credits. For example, if you choose to claim the American opportunity credit for a child on your 2018 tax return, you can’t, for that same child, also claim the lifetime learning credit for 2018.
If you are eligible to claim the American opportunity credit and you also are eligible to claim the lifetime learning credit for the same student in the same year, you can choose to claim either credit, but not both.
If you pay qualified education expenses for more than one student in the same year, you can choose to claim the American opportunity and the lifetime learning credits on a per-student, per-year basis. This means that, for example, you can claim the American opportunity credit for one student and the lifetime learning credit for another student in the same year.
Deposit
The American opportunity credit will always be greater than or equal to the lifetime learning credit for any student who is eligible for both credits. However, if any of the conditions for the American opportunity credit, listed in Table 34-1, aren’t met for any student, you can’t take the American opportunity credit for that student. You may be able to take the lifetime learning credit for part or all of that student's qualified education expenses instead. See chapter 19 of this publication, and Pub. 970, for information on other education benefits.
EIC
Don't claim the American opportunity credit for 2 years after there was a final determination that your claim was due to reckless or intentional disregard of the rules, or 10 years after there was a final determination that your claim was due to fraud.
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink1000221557

Table 34-1. Comparison of Education Credits for 2018

Caution. You can claim both the American opportunity credit and the lifetime learning credit on the same return—but not for the same student.

 American Opportunity Credit Lifetime Learning Credit
Maximum creditUp to $2,500 credit per eligible studentUp to $2,000 credit per return
Limit on modified adjusted gross income (MAGI)$180,000 if married filing jointly;
$90,000 if single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er)
$134,000 if married filing jointly;
$67,000 if single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er)
Refundable or nonrefundable40% of credit may be refundableNonrefundable—credit limited to the amount of tax you must pay on your taxable income
Number of years of postsecondary educationAvailable ONLY if the student had not completed the first 4 years of postsecondary education before 2018 Available for all years of postsecondary education and for courses to acquire or improve job skills
Number of tax years credit availableAvailable ONLY for 4 tax years per eligible student (including any year(s) the Hope scholarship credit was claimed) Available for an unlimited number of tax years
Type of program requiredStudent must be pursuing a program leading to a degree or other recognized education credential Student does not need to be pursuing a program leading to a degree or other recognized education credential
Number of coursesStudent must be enrolled at least half-time for at least one academic period beginning during 2018 (or the first 3 months of 2019 if the qualified expenses were paid in 2018) Available for one or more courses
Felony drug convictionAt the end of 2018, the student had not been convicted of a felony for possessing or distributing a controlled substanceFelony drug convictions do not make the student ineligible
Qualified expensesTuition, required enrollment fees, and course materials that the student needs for a course of study whether or not the materials are bought at the educational institution as a condition of enrollment or attendance Tuition and required enrollment fees (including amounts required to be paid to the institution for course-related books, supplies, and equipment)
Payments for academic periodsPayments made in 2018 for academic periods beginning in 2018 or beginning in the first 3 months of 2019
TIN needed by filing due dateFilers and students must have a TIN by the due date of their 2018 return (including extensions)  
Educational institution's EINYou must provide the educational institution's employer identification number (EIN) on your Form 8863 
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink1000174576

Differences between the American opportunity and lifetime learning credits.(p216)

rule
There are several differences between these two credits. These differences are summarized in Table 34-1.

taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#TXMP02626fa8

Useful items

You may want to see:


Publication
 970 Tax Benefits for Education
Form (and Instructions)
 8863 : Education Credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits)
For these and other useful items, go to IRS.gov/Forms.
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink1000235852

Who Can Claim an Education Credit(p216)

rule
You may be able to claim an education credit if you, your spouse, or a dependent you claim on your tax return was a student enrolled at or attending an eligible educational institution. For 2018, the credits are based on the amount of qualified education expenses paid for the student in 2018 for academic periods beginning in 2018 and in the first 3 months of 2019.
For example, if you paid $1,500 in December 2018 for qualified tuition for the spring 2019 semester beginning in January 2019, you may be able to use that $1,500 in figuring your 2018 education credit(s).
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink1000235986

Academic period.(p216)

rule
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. If an educational institution uses credit hours or clock hours and doesn’t have academic terms, each payment period can be treated as an academic period.
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink1000235988

Eligible educational institution.(p216)

rule
An eligible educational institution is generally 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. Virtually all accredited public, nonprofit, and proprietary (privately owned profit-making) postsecondary institutions meet this definition. 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.
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink1000235854

Who can claim a dependent's expenses. (p216)

rule
If a dependent is claimed on a tax return, all qualified education expenses of the student are treated as having been paid by the person claiming the dependent. Therefore, only the person claiming the dependent on a tax return can claim an education credit for the student. If a student is not claimed as a dependent on another person's tax return, only the student can claim a credit.
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink1000283808

Expenses paid by a third party. (p217)

rule
Qualified education expenses paid on behalf of the student by someone other than the student (such as a relative) are treated as paid by the student. However, qualified education expenses paid (or treated as paid) by a student who is claimed as a dependent on your tax return are treated as paid by you. Therefore, you are treated as having paid expenses that were paid by the third party. For more information and an example, see Who Can Claim a Dependent's Expenses in Pub. 970, chapter 2 or 3.
taxmap/pub17/p17-170.htm#en_us_publink1000235855

Who cannot claim a credit. (p217)

rule
You can’t claim an education credit if any of the following apply.
  1. Your filing status is married filing separately.
  2. You are claimed as a dependent on another person's tax return, such as your parent's return.
  3. You (or your spouse) were a nonresident alien for any part of 2018 and the nonresident alien did not elect to be treated as a resident alien for tax purposes.
  4. You didn't have a social security number (SSN) (or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN)) by the due date of your 2018 return (including extensions); you can't claim the American opportunity credit on either your original or an amended 2018 return, even if you later get an SSN (or ITIN). Also, you can't claim this credit on your original or an amended 2018 return for a student who didn't have an SSN, adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN), or ITIN by the due date of your return (including extensions), even if the student later gets one of those numbers.
  5. Your MAGI is one of the following.
    1. American opportunity credit: $180,000 or more if married filing jointly; or $90,000 or more if single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er).
    2. Lifetime learning credit: $134,000 or more if married filing jointly; or $67,000 or more if single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er).
Generally, your MAGI is the amount on your Form 1040, line 7. However, if you are filing Form 2555, Form 2555-EZ, or Form 4563, or are excluding income from Puerto Rico, add to the amount on your Form 1040, line 7, the amount of income you excluded. For details, see Pub. 970.
Figure 34-A may be helpful in determining if you can claim an education credit on your tax return.