Two federal tax credits may help you offset the costs of higher education for yourself or your dependents. These are the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit.

To qualify for either credit, you must pay postsecondary tuition and fees for yourself, your spouse or your dependent. The credit may be claimed by either the parent or the student, but not both. If the student was claimed as a dependent, the student cannot file for the credit.

For each student, you may claim only one of the credits in a single tax year. You cannot claim the American Opportunity Credit to pay for part of your daughter's tuition charges and then claim the Lifetime Learning Credit for $2,000 more of her school costs.

However, if you pay college expenses for two or more students in the same year, you can choose to take credits on a per-student, per-year basis. You can claim the American Opportunity Credit for your sophomore daughter and the Lifetime Learning Credit for your spouse's graduate school tuition.

Here are some key facts the IRS wants you to know about these valuable education credits:

  1. The American Opportunity Credit
    • The credit can be up to $2,500 per eligible student.
    • It is available for the first four years of postsecondary education.
    • Forty percent of the credit is refundable, which means that you may be able to receive up to $1,000, even if you owe no taxes.
    • The student must be pursuing an undergraduate degree or other recognized educational credential.
    • The student must be enrolled at least half time for at least one academic period.
    • Qualified expenses include tuition and fees, coursed related books supplies and equipment.
    • The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is less than $80,000 or $160,000 for married couples filing a joint return.
  2. Lifetime Learning Credit
    • The credit can be up to $2,000 per eligible student.
    • It is available for all years of postsecondary education and for courses to acquire or improve job skills.
    • The maximum credited is limited to the amount of tax you must pay on your return.
    • The student does not need to be pursuing a degree or other recognized education credential.
    • Qualified expenses include tuition and fees, course related books, supplies and equipment.
    • The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is less than $60,000 or $120,000 for married couples filing a joint return.

If you don't qualify for these education credits, you may qualify for the tuition and fees deduction, which can reduce the amount of your income subject to tax by up to $4,000. However, you cannot claim the tuition and fees tax deduction in the same year that you claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. You must choose to either take the credit or the deduction and should consider which is more beneficial for you.

For more information about these tax benefits, see IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education available at www.irs.gov or by calling the IRS forms and publications order line at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

TaxACT helps you determine which credit is more beneficial to you and walks you through other education tax benefits for your guaranteed maximum refund. Start your TaxACT Online return now.

You can also use TaxACT's College Tax Whiz to learn about key education tax breaks.

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March 2015
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Upcoming Tax Dates

March 2All businesses
File information returns (for example, Forms 1099) for certain payments you made during 2014.

March 2Farmers & fishermen
File your 2014 income tax return (Form 1040) and pay any tax due - Details

March 2Payers of gambling winnings.
File Form 1096 along with Copy A of all the Forms W2G you issued for 2014. If you file Forms W2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains February 2.

March 2 All employers
File Form W3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, along with Copy A of all the Forms W2 you issued for 2014. If you file Forms W2 electronically, your due date for filing them with the SSA will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains February 2.

March 2 Large food and beverage establishment employers
File Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips. Use Form 8027T, Transmittal of Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips, to summarize and transmit Forms 8027 if you have more than one establishment. If you file Forms 8027 electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31.

March 2 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during January.

March 2 Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in January.

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

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

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

March 16 Corporations
File a 2014 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax due - Details

March 16 S Corporations
File a 2014 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120S) and pay any tax due - Details

March 16 S Corporation election
File Form 2553, Election by a Small Business Corporation, to elect to be treated as an S corporation beginning with calendar year 2015. If Form 2553 is filed late, S corporation treatment will begin with calendar year 2016.

March 16 Electing larger partnerships
Provide each partner with a copy of Schedule K1 (Form 1065B), Partner's Share of Income (Loss) From an Electing Large Partnership, or a substitute Schedule K1. This due date applies even if the partnership requests an extension of time to file the Form 1065B by filing Form 7004

March 16 Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule Page 6 Publication 509 (2015) applies, deposit the tax for payments in February.

March 16 Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in February.

March 25 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method.
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 14 days of February.

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

March 31 Electronic filing of Forms W2
File copies of all the Forms W2 you issued for 2014. This due date applies only if you electronically file.

March 31 Electronic filing of Forms W2G
File copies of all the Forms W2G you issued for 2014. This due date applies only if you electronically file.

March 31 Electronic filing of Forms 8027
File Forms 8027 for 2014. This due date applies only if you electronically file.

March 31 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during February.

March 31 Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in February.

March 31 Electronic filing of Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, 3922, and W2G.
File Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, 3922, and W2G with the IRS. This due date applies only if you file electronically. Otherwise, see March 2. The due date for giving the recipient these forms generally remains February 2. View More Tax Dates