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Get a Tax Break for Son's College Tuition Fees?



Dear Tax Talk,
This is my son's second year of college. I filed his tuition last year on my taxes. Can I file tuition every year he is in college or only his freshman year? Thanks.
-- Debra

Dear Debra,
As long as your son is willing to study, the government is willing to give you some sort of higher education tax break. There are basically three tax benefits associated with higher education tuition:

  • The American opportunity credit.
  • The lifetime learning credit.
  • The tuition and fee deduction.

You can choose the education benefit that will give you the lowest tax. You may want to compare the tuition and fees deduction to either of the education credits to see which results in lower tax.

You cannot claim the American opportunity credit based on the same student's expenses for more than four tax years. The four-year restriction includes any tax years you claimed the Hope credit for that student. However, there is no limit on the number of years for which you can claim a lifetime learning credit based on the same student's expenses. Similar to the lifetime learning credit, there is no limitation on the number of years you can claim the tuition deduction for the same student.

To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. Taxpayers should seek professional advice based on their particular circumstances.

Bankrate's content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this website, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this website is governed by Bankrate's Terms of Use.

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