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 2018. 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.


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Upcoming Tax Dates

January 1 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (New Year's Day) Details

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

January 15 — Individuals
Make a payment of your estimated tax for 2018 if you did not pay your income tax for the year through withholding (or did not pay in enough tax that way). Use Form 1040-ES Details

January 15 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in December 2018

January 15 — Farmers & fishermen
Pay your estimated tax for 2018 using Form 1040-ES Details

January 21 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) Details

January 31 — All Employers
Give your employees their copies of Form W2 for 2018. If an employee agreed to receive Form W2 electronically, have it posted on a website and notify the employee of the posting.

January 31 — 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 2017 by January 31. Filing your return and paying any tax due by January 31 prevents any penalty for late payment of the last installment. If you cannot file and pay your tax by January 31, file and pay your tax by April 15.

January 31 — Payers 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.

January 31 — Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2018. 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 02-10 to file the return.

January 31 — Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2018. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2018 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.

January 31 — Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2018. 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.

January 31 — Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2018. If your undeposited tax is $500 or 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.

January 31 — All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2018 Details

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