In the past, I’ve written about Arizona tax credits that support local schools and nonprofits. Such credits enable you to make charitable donations using money you would otherwise pay in Arizona income taxes. But did you know there are also a number of federal income tax credits that benefit you directly with a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax bill? That means a tax credit valued at $1,000 actually lowers your tax bill by $1,000. Here are details about two secondary education tax credits that are especially advantageous.
American Opportunity Credit
This allows you to claim the first $2,000 you spend on undergraduate expenses for tuition, books, equipment and fees. It also lets you claim 25 percent of the next $2,000 of expenses (for a total of $2,500). Parents can claim the credit if they paid for the student’s education expenses and that student is listed as a dependent on their tax return. Otherwise, the student can claim it. Full or reduced credit is given if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) was less than $80,000 or $90,000, respectively ($160,000 and $180,000 for joint filers).
This credit is especially valuable for students because it’s refundable. That means you can still receive 40 percent of its value (up to $1,000) and receive a tax refund even if you earned no income in 2019 and owe no income taxes. Because this credit is available for a maximum of four years, the largest benefit will be years when there are $2,000-to-$4,000 of expenses.
Lifetime Learning Credit
This is ideal for graduate students or anyone taking classes to develop new skills, even if you already claimed the American Opportunity Credit in the past. It’s available to undergraduate, graduate and non-degree or vocational students; and there’s no limit on the number of years it can be claimed.
Students can claim 20 percent of money paid toward tuition, fees, books and supplies needed for coursework, up to $2,000. The credit has a lower MAGI threshold ($67,000 for individuals, $134,000 if filing jointly) and is not refundable.
Read www.irs.gov/credits-deductions-for-individuals to learn more, or talk with your tax advisor about whether you qualify for these or other beneficial tax credits.