Question

I’m a full-time student who earns income, but someone else paid my tuition. Can I claim any tuition tax credits?

Answer

You can use education payments made by your parents or third parties to claim tuition tax credits if both of these are true:

  • You’re a student.
  • You qualify to claim an education credit.

Payments made on your behalf are considered gifts to the student.

However, if you, your parent, or a third party didn’t pay any qualifying expenses, you can’t qualify for education credits. If you paid for other qualifying expenses besides tuition, you might still be eligible to claim the tuition tax credits.

What qualifies as an education expense varies based on which credit you’re claiming. Ex: Textbooks and course materials qualify for the American Opportunity Credit if they’re required for enrollment. But books won’t qualify for the Lifetime Learning Credit unless you’re required to buy them from the institution itself. Buying them at the school bookstore won’t qualify.

Also, if you’re a dependent on anyone’s return, you can’t claim an education credit.

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