• Denise Hue

Education Credits (2019 Update)

American Opportunity Credit

The American Opportunity credit limit-per student is $2,500.

The credit phases out for higher income taxpayers when modified adjusted gross income exceeds the following limits:


  • Married filing jointly $ 160,000–$ 180,000

  • Single, head of household, or qualifying widow/widower $80,000–$ 90,000


The AOC can only be taken for the first four years of post-secondary-education if the student is enrolled at least half-time and studies lead to a degree, certificate or other recognized credential. Additionally, the student must not have any felony conviction for possessing or distributing a controlled substance.


To claim the maximum credit of $2,500 for an eligible student, you must pay at least $4,000 in qualified expenses for that student. Qualified expenses include tuition, student-activity fees that are required as a condition of enrollment or attendance, and books, supplies, and equipment needed for courses.



Lifetime Learning Credit The Lifetime Learning Credit limit per taxpayer is $2,000.

The credit phases out for higher income taxpayers when modified adjusted gross income exceeds the following limits:


  • Married filing jointly $116,000–$ 136,000

  • Single, head of household, or qualifying widow/widower $58,000–$ 68,000


In contrast to the American Opportunity credit, the Lifetime Learning credit does not have a degree requirement or a workload requirement. The credit may be claimed for one or more courses at an eligible educational institution that are either part of a post-secondary degree program or part of a nondegree program taken to acquire or improve job skills. The Lifetime Learning credit is not limited to students in the first four years of postsecondary education, as is the American Opportunity credit. There is no limit on the number of years for which the Lifetime Learning credit can be claimed.


In addition to tuition, the only qualified expenses are student activity fees and course-related books, supplies, and equipment that must be paid to the educational institution as a condition of enrollment or attendance.

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©2020 by Denise Hue.