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How to Calculate Your Lifetime Learning Credit on IRS Form 8863

Written by a TurboTax Expert • Reviewed by a TurboTax CPA

Updated for Tax Year 2023 • October 19, 2023 8:58 AM
OVERVIEW

Tax credits like the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLT) provide a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your taxes owed, rather than the reduction in your taxable income that is offered by a tax deduction. You have to qualify according to Internal Revenue Service criteria before you can claim the LLC.

 

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Key Takeaways

• The Lifetime Learning Credit can provide you with a credit of up to $2,000 for qualified educational expenses.

• To compute the amount of your Lifetime Learning Credit, enter the name, Social Security number, and qualified expenses of each applicable student on IRS Form 8863.

• Enter $10,000 or your actual expenses, whichever is smaller, then multiply this number by 20 percent. This is your tentative LLC.

• Complete Part IV of Form 8863 to see whether or not your credit will be diminished by the amount of your MAGI. If not, your tentative LLC becomes the final amount of your credit.

Education credit

The Lifetime Learning Credit is one of many provisions in the U.S. tax code that provides benefits to low- and middle-income taxpayers. As a credit, the LLC is more beneficial than a simple deduction. Tax credits like the LLC provide a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your taxes owed, rather than the reduction in your taxable income that is offered by a tax deduction. You have to qualify according to Internal Revenue Service criteria before you can claim the LLC.

Definition of qualified educational expenses

If you have qualified educational expenses, the Lifetime Learning Credit can provide you with a credit of up to 20 percent of those costs. For purposes of the credit, qualified educational expenses are generally limited to tuition and fees for you, your spouse and your dependents. If the purchase of books, supplies or equipment is necessary for enrollment, those costs may be included as well.

Common expenses such as room and board, transportation and nonacademic costs are not eligible for this credit. The maximum credit you can claim per year is $2,000, based on $10,000 in qualifying expenses.

Phase-out for higher-income taxpayers

Like many tax credits and deductions, the Lifetime Learning Credit phases out for higher-income taxpayers. As of 2023, the LLC phases out between $80,000 and $90,000 of modified adjusted gross income for single taxpayers. With a MAGI of $90,000 or higher, you can't claim any credit as a single taxpayer. The range for joint filers is doubled, with the credit phasing out between $160,000 and $180,000 of MAGI.

 


 

TurboTax Tip: You can also use Form 8863 to claim the American Opportunity Credit for up to $2,500 of qualifying educational expenses. You can claim both the Lifetime Learning Credit and the American Opportunity Credit in the same tax year but not for the same student or for the same qualified expenses.

 


 

Using Form 8863

Form 8863 is a two-page form used for computing educational tax credits. If you use the form to calculate your LLT, you can skip Part I and start with Part II, which begins on line 9.

To compute the amount of your LLT, enter the name, Social Security number, and qualified expenses of each applicable student. Enter $10,000 or your actual expenses, whichever is smaller, then multiply this number by 20 percent. That amount is your tentative LLT. From there, skip ahead to Part IV of the form. This section of the form determines whether or not your credit will be diminished by the amount of your MAGI. If no modification is necessary, your tentative LLT becomes the final amount of your credit.

When you use TurboTax to prepare your taxes, we’ll handle all of these calculations for you. Just answer some simple questions about your education expenses and we’ll calculate exactly how much of the credit you qualify for.

American Opportunity Credit

The American Opportunity Credit is another popular educational credit that you can claim using Form 8863. As with the LLT, you can claim the American Opportunity Credit for yourself, your spouse or your dependents with qualifying educational expenses while pursuing an undergraduate degree. The American Opportunity Credit has a higher limit than the Lifetime Learning Credit, at $2,500, and the phase-out begins at higher MAGI levels as well.

Another important distinction between the two credits is that up to 40 percent of the American Opportunity Credit is refundable, meaning you can actually receive money back if the amount of the credit exceeds your tax liability. The Lifetime Learning Credit, on the other hand, is nonrefundable, so you can claim a credit only up to the amount of the overall tax you owe.

If you claim the American Opportunity Credit for a student in a given year, you cannot also claim the Lifetime Learning Credit for the same student. You also can only claim the American Opportunity Credit for the first four years of college for a particular student.

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  • Average Refund Amount: Sum of $3140 is the average refund American taxpayers received based upon IRS data date ending 02/17/23 and may not reflect actual refund amount received.

  • TurboTax Product Support: Customer service and product support hours and options vary by time of year.

  • #1 Best Selling Tax Software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2022 TurboTax products.

  • Deduct From Your Federal Refund: A $40 Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.

  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies; Requires Intuit Account. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2021 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2021 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Desktop Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.

  • Audit Defense: Audit Defense is a third-party add-on service provided, for a fee, by TaxResources, Inc., dba Tax Audit. See Membership Agreements at https://turbotax.intuit.com/corp/softwarelicense/ for service terms and conditions.

All features, services, support, prices, offers, terms and conditions are subject to change without notice.

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