College and Students

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The American Opportunity Credit pays you back, in the form of a credit, for 100% of your first $2,000 of qualified education expenses for yourself, your spouse, or your dependents paid in 2013. It also pays you back 25% of the next $2,000 you spend on higher education, for a total credit of $2,500 per student, per year.

American Opportunity Credit

To claim the American Opportunity Credit, the student must be in the first four academic years of postsecondary education at an eligible school. It doesn't matter how many calendar years the student has been in school, as long as he or she is in still the freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior year. The student must also be enrolled at least half-time in a program leading to a recognized credential, such as a degree, and cannot have had a felony conviction for possessing or distributing a controlled substance. You can only take this credit for a student for four years.

You may qualify to take the American Opportunity Credit regardless of the amount of tax you owe. Up to $1,000 of this credit is refundable. For example, say you had no income tax withheld and you owe no taxes. You could still get up to $1,000 back for the American Opportunity Credit if you meet the requirements. TaxACT calculates the credit, including any refundable portion, for you.

If you don't qualify because, for example you are not working on a degree or other credential, or you don't meet the half-time requirement, you may be able to take the Lifetime Learning Credit. This credit gives you 20% back of up to $10,000 in qualified expenses.

Lifetime Learning Credit

The maximum Lifetime Learning Credit you can take is $2,000, regardless of how many students are on your return.

You cannot claim the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit for the same student, in the same year.

TaxACT calculates your American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit on Form 8863, Education Credits.

Tuition and Fees Deduction

Another tax benefit for education is the tuition and fees deduction. You can reduce your taxable income by up to $4,000 in qualified education expenses, even if you don't itemize deductions. This deduction is an adjustment to income on the first page of your Form 1040. Because it reduces your adjusted gross income, it may also help you qualify for other tax breaks on your return that are based on that amount.

You cannot use the Married Filing Separately filing status and take the education credits or deduction. Your credit or deduction is reduced or eliminated at higher income levels.

The tuition and fees deduction is basically for tuition and fees - it does not include room and board and other expenses. In addition to tuition and fees, it only includes books, supplies, and equipment if you are required to purchase them.

You should receive Form 1098-T with information about your tuition expenses for the year in January or February from the school. TaxACT asks you if you paid tuition costs for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents and determines, based on your information, the education tax breaks for which you qualify.


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Upcoming Tax Dates

February 2 Individuals who must make estimated tax payments
If you did not pay your last installment of estimated tax by January 15, you may choose (but are not required) to file your income tax return (Form 1040) for 2014 by February 2. Filing your return and paying any tax due by February 2 prevents any penalty for late payment of the last installment. If you cannot file and pay your tax by February 2, file and pay your tax by April 15.

February 2 All Employers
Give your employees their copies of Form W2 for 2014. If an employee agreed to receive Form W2 electronically, have it posted on a website and notify the employee of the posting.

February 2Payers of gambling winnings
If you either paid reportable gambling winnings or withheld income tax from gambling winnings, give the winners their copies of Form W2G.

February 2 Nonpayroll taxes
File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2014 on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on pensions, annuities, IRAs, gambling winnings, and payments of Indian gaming profits to tribal members. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules.

February 2 Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2014. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2 Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2014 but less than $2,500 for the fourth quarter, deposit any undeposited tax or pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2 Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2 Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2014. If your undeposited tax is $500 r less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 2All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2014 - Details

February 2Form 720 taxes
File Form 720 for the fourth quarter of 2014.

February 2 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during December 2014.

February 2Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in December 2014.

February 10Nonpayroll taxes
File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2014 on all nonpayroll items. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2014. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer - Details

February 11Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of January.

February 13Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 16 days of January.

February 17Everyone
Federal Holiday (Washington's Birthday) - Details

February 17Individuals
If you claimed exemption from income tax withholding last year on the Form W-4, you must file a new Form W-4 by this date to continue your exemption for another year - Details

February 17All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2014 - Details

February 17Publication 509 (2015)
All payments reported on Form 1099S, Proceeds From Real Estate Transactions. Substitute payments reported in box 8 or gross proceeds paid to an attorney reported in box 14 of Form 1099MISC.

February 17Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 17Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 18All employers
Begin withholding income tax from the pay of any employee who claimed exemption from withholding in 2014, but did not give you Form W4 to continue the exemption this year.

February 25Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 16 days of January.

February 27Regular method taxes.
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of February.

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