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.
• 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.
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.
With TurboTax Live Full Service, a local expert matched to your unique situation will do your taxes for you start to finish. Or, get unlimited help and advice from tax experts while you do your taxes with TurboTax Live Assisted.
And if you want to file your own taxes, you can still feel confident you'll do them right with TurboTax as we guide you step by step. No matter which way you file, we guarantee 100% accuracy and your maximum refund.