American Opportunity Credit

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more parents and students qualify for a tax credit, the American opportunity credit, to pay for college expenses.

The American opportunity credit originally modified the existing Hope credit for tax years 2009 and 2010, and was later extended for an additional two years – 2011 and 2012, making the benefit available to a broader range of taxpayers, including many with higher incomes and those who owe no tax. It also adds required course materials to the list of qualifying expenses and allows the credit to be claimed for four post-secondary education years instead of two. Many of those eligible qualify for the maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student.

The full credit is available to individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less, or $160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels. These income limits are higher than under the existing Hope and lifetime learning credits.

Special rules applied to students attending college in a Midwestern disaster area for tax-year 2009, only, when taxpayers could choose to claim either a special expanded Hope credit of up to $3,600 for the student or the regular American opportunity credit.

If you have questions about the American opportunity credit, these questions and answers might help. For more information, see American opportunity credit.