The National Directory of Certified Public Accountants

Ask A CPA - College Planning & Financial Aid

What Is The Lifetime Learning College Tax Credit ?

The lifetime learning credit helps parents and students pay for post-secondary education. For the tax year, you may be able to claim a lifetime learning credit of up to $2,000 for qualified education expenses paid for all students enrolled in eligible educational institutions. There is no limit on the number of years the lifetime learning credit can be claimed for each student. However, a taxpayer cannot claim both the American opportunity credit and lifetime learning credits for the same student in one year. Thus, the lifetime learning credit may be particularly helpful to graduate students, students who are only taking one course and those who are not pursuing a degree. Generally, you can claim the lifetime learning credit if all three of the following requirements are met: You pay qualified education expenses of higher education. You pay the education expenses for an eligible student. The eligible student is yourself, your spouse or a dependent for which you claim an exemption on your tax return. If you’re eligible to claim the lifetime learning credit and are also eligible to claim the Hope or American opportunity 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 take credits on a per-student, per-year basis. This means that, for example, you can claim the Hope or American opportunity credit for one student and the lifetime learning credit for another student in the same year.

If you need professional help with "College Planning & Financial Aid" or have other tax questions, we can help you find a local licensed CPA for a free, no-obligation consultation.