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.

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