Internal Revenue Service Form 8863 is a special tax form used to claim the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit, which lowers your tax bill based on the amounts you spend for higher education. The American Opportunity Credit is only available for years of undergraduate study, while the Lifetime Learning Credit can be used for graduate school as well.
Begin by filling out the identifying information for the student going to school and the school attended. If you're claiming expenses for yourself, enter your information. If you're claiming a credit for someone else, like your child, enter her identifying information. You must complete a separate Form 8863 for each student.
Calculating Your Credit
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Begin Part III by entering qualified expenses such as tuition and certain books and supplies. If you're claiming the American Opportunity Credit, use lines 27 through 30. If you're claiming the Lifetime Learning Credit, use line 31. For the American Opportunity Credit, you carry over your expenses to line 1 in Part I. Lines 2 through 7 calculate a reduced credit if your income is too high, and line 8 is the refundable amount of the American Opportunity Credit -- the amount you can get back even if you don't owe any taxes. For the Lifetime Learning Credit, you carry over your expenses to line 10 in Part II. As of publication, the credit is capped at 20 percent of up to $10,000 of expenses. If your income is too high, lines 13 through 18 will calculate your reduced credit.