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Education Tax Credits

Help for taxpayers with higher education expenses.


An education tax credit helps with the cost of higher education by reducing the amount of taxes owed on your tax return. If the credit reduces your taxes to less than zero, you may get a refund. There are two educational tax credits available: the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit (LLC).

To be eligible for either tax credit, you must meet all three* of the following IRS rules:

  1. You, your dependent or a third party pays qualified education expenses for higher education.
  2. An eligible student must be enrolled at an eligible educational institution.
  3. The eligible student is yourself, your spouse or a dependent you list on your tax return.

*There are additional rules for claiming each credit. Please visit the IRS website for more education tax credit information.

You can only choose one of the two credits per eligible student per year. 

Not sure if you are eligible to claim an education credit or deductions? Find out with the easy-to-use interactive app from the IRS.

Education Tax Credit Choices

American Opportunity Tax Credit is a credit for qualified education expenses paid for an eligible student for the first four years of higher education. You can get a maximum annual credit of $2,500 per eligible student. The AOTC modifies the previous Hope Credit.

You can't claim the AOTC if you were a nonresident alien for any part of the tax year unless you elect to be treated as a resident alien for federal tax purposes. For more information about AOTC and international students, refer to the American Opportunity Tax Credit website.

Lifetime Learning Credit is for qualified tuition and related expenses paid for by students enrolled in an eligible educational institution. This credit can help pay for undergraduate, graduate and professional degree courses--including courses to acquire or improve job skills. There is no limit on the number of years you can claim the credit. It is worth up to $2,000 per tax return.

More Information

Form 1098-T

Form 1098-T reports tuition billed and scholarships/grants issued. These forms are issued on a calendar year basis by the Cornell University Bursar’s Office. More information is available from the Cornell Department of Financial Affairs.

Note: Cornell cannot act as a personal tax consultant. The contents of this page are for informational purposes only. All U.S. citizens and foreign national visitors to the U.S. are personally responsible for knowing the tax laws and how they pertain to him/her individually.