The IRS Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC) can offer substantial tax savings for students or their parents, especially for students who have previously completed four years of higher education. If you paid tuition and school fees in 2020 for yourself, your spouse or a dependent, you may be able to claim an LLC of up to $2,000 on your 2020 tax return. Generally, you may only claim the credit for one member of your household per year.
Students currently taking post-secondary education classes at eligible higher learning institutions may qualify for this credit by meeting BOTH of the following criteria:
– They are or were enrolled in higher (post-secondary) education classes for at least one 2020 academic period. An academic period can be a semester, quarter, trimester, summer session, or any other coursework session defined by the school.
– The student is taking these higher education classes in pursuit of a degree or other recognized certification, or to acquire or improve job skills.
In addition, the taxpayer claiming the credit (usually the student or the student’s parent or guardian) must meet the program’s income restrictions. Taxpayers with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $58,000 or less ($116,000 or less for joint filers) generally qualify to claim the full credit. Taxpayers with a MAGI between $58,000 and $68,000 ($116,000 and $136,000 for joint filers) may receive a reduced credit; those with higher incomes cannot claim the LLC.
Although the LLC may only be claimed once per tax return, there is no limit to how many times students can qualify for the credit during their lifetimes. Before claiming the LLC for a student in your household, however, check whether the student qualifies for the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). The AOTC has higher income limits and a higher maximum credit amount ($2,500). In addition, unlike the LLC, the AOTC may be partially refundable if your tax is reduced to less than zero.
For students who do not qualify for either the AOTC or LLC, it may still be possible to claim an above-the-line income deduction for tuition and fees. A professional tax advisor can help you determine your eligibility for these valuable education tax credits and deductions.