Claiming Education Expenses on Taxes

by Michael Keenan ; Updated July 27, 2017

The Internal Revenue Service offers three ways to claim tax breaks for post-secondary education expenses: the Hope Credit that is also called the American Opportunity Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the tuition and fees deduction. However, you can only claim one. Usually, the Hope Credit offers the biggest deduction, but is only available the first two years of post-secondary education costs. The Lifetime Learning Credit offers a slightly smaller credit for further study or non-degree seeking students. The tuition and fees deduction has a higher income limit so you may be eligible for it even if you are ineligible for the others.

Step 1

File your taxes using form 1040 or 1040A. You cannot claim any of the tax breaks for educational expenses if you use form 1040EZ.

Step 2

Report the amount of educational expenses on line 19 of form 1040A or line 34 of form 1040 if you are claiming the tuition and expenses deduction.

Step 3

Download IRS form 8863 if you want to claim either the Hope Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit.

Step 4

Complete parts III and V of form 8863 to figure the value of your Lifetime Learning Credit. Report this amount on either line 49 of form 1040 or line 31 of form 1040A to claim the credit.

Step 5

Complete parts I, IV and V of form 8863 to figure the value of your Hope Credit. Report this amount on either line 49 of form 1040 or line 31 of form 1040A to claim the credit.

About the Author

Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."