If you, your spouse or any of your dependents are currently enrolled in a higher education program, or were enrolled for a previous academic period in 2020, you may qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). The AOTC program allows eligible taxpayers to claim a credit for tuition costs and certain school fees.
To qualify for the credit, a student must be taking post-secondary classes at an eligible higher learning institution, in pursuit of a degree or other recognized certification or credential. In addition, students must meet ALL of the following eligibility requirements:
- They are or were enrolled at least half time for at least one academic period (as defined by the school) in 2020. - They had not completed their first four years of higher education as of January 1, 2020. - Neither the AOTC nor its predecessor, the Hope credit, has been claimed more than four times total for the student, including the current year. - The student and the person claiming the credit (if different from the student) must have a valid taxpayer identification number (TIN) before the due date for the tax return.
Additional eligibility criteria may apply to both the student and the educational institution. To claim the full credit, taxpayers must have a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $80,000 or less for individuals, or $160,000 or less for couples filing jointly. A reduced credit may be available for individual taxpayers with a MAGI between $80,000 and $90,000 (between $160,000 and $180,000 for joint filers). Those with higher incomes may not claim the credit.
The maximum allowed credit per eligible student is $2,500, up to $1,000 of which may be refundable. You may claim the credit for multiple students in your household if they all meet the eligibility standards. For students who do not qualify, you may still be able to claim either the Lifetime Learning Credit or an above-the-line income deduction for tuition and fees. A tax professional can help you determine which credits and/or deductions provide the greatest tax benefit for you.