Claiming education credits on your U.S. tax return
Getting an education nowadays can be expensive. If you’re a student hoping to take advantage of one of the IRS’ education tax credits you’ll have to file Form 8863 with your tax return, and there are a few things you should know before you begin.
H&R Block is here to help you rock this year’s tax season, so we’ll break down the basics you should know about Form 8863, including what it is, who qualifies, what expenses qualify, and how to file it.
Have other student tax filing questions? Be sure to visit our Tax Guide for College Students and find out about student forms that can be filed for free.
What is Form 8863?
The IRS offers a few educational tax credits students can take advantage of to help offset the high cost of education in the U.S. This includes the American Opportunity Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC). If used correctly, these education credits can provide some much-needed financial relief and help lower your tax bill.
In order to claim these credits, you have to fill out Form 8863 and attach it to your tax return. While you can’t claim both credits for one student, you can use one form to claim both credits for separate students. For example, say you’re a parent or guardian filing on behalf of two dependents in school. One of them qualifies for the AOTC and the other qualifies for the LLC. In that case, you may use the same form to claim both credits.
Form 8863 – Qualified expenses
Not everyone and not everything qualifies for educational tax credits.
To qualify for the:
- AOTC, you (or your dependent) must be (or have been) a student who is pursuing a degree from an accredited (not only licensed) institution, and is (or was) enrolled on at least a half-time basis during the tax year, AND have a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) below the threshold (for 2020, the threshold is $90,000 or $180,000 for joint filers).
- LLC, you (or your dependent) must be (or have been) a student who is (or was) enrolled in at least one course during the tax year, AND have a modified adjusted gross income below the threshold (for 2020, the threshold is $69,000 or $139,000 for joint filers).
Find out more about what education expenses qualify.
Form 8863 Instructions
Form 8863 instructions can be a little hard to interpret, so the first thing you’ll need to do is find out if your school sent your Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement.
If you can’t find it, or if your school didn’t send you one, it’s possible you can get an electronic copy from your school’s online portal. Or, they may have emailed it to you. While there are some circumstances where you can file without a form, this may raise questions with the IRS.
Some things you’ll need to complete your IRS Form 8863 are:
- Your W2 or 1099. You’ll use this information to calculate your MAGI.
- Your institution’s information, including the EIN (employer identification number)
- Documentation of your qualified expenses
File Form 8863 with H&R Block
You can file Form 8863 for free using H&R Block Free Online.
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