Home Forums Tax Credits Education Credits Who can claim an Education Credit

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    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 education institution. For 2016 the credit is based on the amount of qualified education expenses paid for the student in 2016 for academic periods beginning in 2016 and in the first 3 months of 2017.

    Academic period – An academic period includes a semester, trimester, quarter, or another 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 does not have academic terms, each payment period can be treated as an academic period.

    Eligible education institution – 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 sell 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.

    Who can claim a dependent’s expenses – If an exemption is allowed for any person who claims the student as a dependent, all qualified education expenses of the student are treated as having been paid by that person. Therefore, only that person can claim an education credit for the student. If a student is not claimed as a dependent on anther person’s tax return, only the student can claim a credit.

    Expenses paid by a third party – 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.

    Who cannot claim a credit – You cannot take 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 tax purposes.
    4. Your MAGI is one of the following:
    • 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).
    • Lifetime learning credit $130,000 or more if married filing a jointly, or $65,000 or more if single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er).


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