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Lifetime Learning Credit


The Lifetime Learning Credit is a tax benefit in the United States to offset higher education expenses. It allows an individual to reduce their tax liability by up to $2,000 per tax year, based on 20% of the first $10,000 spent on qualified education expenses. The advantage of this credit is that it’s not limited to the first four years of post-secondary education, and there’s no limit to the number of years it can be claimed.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Lifetime Learning Credit” is “ˈlaɪfˌtaɪm ˈlɜːrnɪŋ ˈkrɛdɪt”.

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>The Lifetime Learning Credit is a tax credit available in the United States that allows taxpayers to claim a credit of up to $2,000 per tax return for education expenses. The credit is available for any level of post-secondary education, and there is no limit on the number of years you can claim the credit. This makes it particularly valuable for adults returning to school or pursuing a graduate degree.</li><li>The credit covers expenses such as tuition, fees, and course materials for students enrolled in eligible educational institutions. However, it doesn’t cover room and board, transportation, or optional equipment or supplies. It is also important to note that you cannot claim the Lifetime Learning Credit if your income is above a certain limit, which is set by the IRS and may change from year to year.</li><li>The Lifetime Learning Credit is non-refundable, meaning it can reduce your tax bill to zero but you won’t receive a refund if the credit is more than your tax bill. However, you can claim a credit for the total cost of your education expenses, even if you also receive scholarships, grants, or other forms of financial aid.</li></ol>


The Lifetime Learning Credit is a crucial business/finance term because it is a federal tax credit designed to help individuals offset the costs of higher education, either for themselves or their dependents. It promotes lifelong learning by offering a financial incentive for pursuing post-secondary education, including undergraduate, graduate, and even professional degree courses and continuing education. This can translate into substantial tax savings, reducing the amount of income tax owed on a dollar-for-dollar basis, making education more affordable and accessible. The credit can be applied to tuition and fees, books, supplies, and other related expenses, making the financial burden of education less daunting and encouraging more people to enhance their skills and qualifications.


The Lifetime Learning Credit is a provision of the U.S. federal income tax code that allows taxpayers to reduce their tax liability on a dollar-for-dollar basis for qualified tuition and related expenses for post-secondary education. Its primary purpose is to alleviate some of the financial burden associated with continuing education and to incentivize lifelong learning among U.S. taxpayers. By providing an opportunity to claim up to $2,000 in tax credits per tax year, the Lifetime Learning Credit encourages people to engage in post-secondary education, whether that involves pursuing a degree or taking courses to acquire or improve job skills.The Credit is particularly beneficial to adults who are looking to further their education or upgrade their skills. It is not limited to students in the first four years of college, like the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), which ensures that even those who have completed their basic education can still benefit from tax relief. The Lifetime Learning Credit can be used for undergraduate, graduate and professional degree courses, which also includes courses to acquire or improve job skills. The tax relief may potentially ease the financial strain of continuing education and inspire individuals to pursue learning and skill development throughout their lives.


1. Jane, a single working mother, has decided to go back to college part-time for a degree in computer science to obtain better job prospects. She pays $5,000 in tuition and course materials. She would be eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit, which would help reduce her tax liability and could cover up to 20% of her educational costs, up to a maximum of $2,000.2. Jim is a professional software developer who wanted to enhance his skills in cybersecurity, so he enrolled in a cybersecurity course at a higher education institution. The course costs $3,000. Jim can claim the Lifetime Learning Credit and offset some of his tax payments, reducing his overall tax burden for that year.3. Brenda and Rick, who are married and filing jointly, are both taking postgraduate courses to broaden their knowledge in their career fields. Brenda enrolled in a business administration course, while Rick is taking a specialized engineering course. Both of their courses total $11,000. They can take advantage of the Lifetime Learning Credit, trimming off up to $2,000 from their tax liability.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Lifetime Learning Credit?

The Lifetime Learning Credit is a tax credit available to students of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree courses. The credit allows taxpayers to claim a credit for tuition, related fees and other mandatory educational expenses incurred by a student enrolled in eligible educational institutions.

Who is eligible to take advantage of the Lifetime Learning Credit?

The credit is available to any individual who is either enrolled or has a family member enrolled in an eligible educational institution. However, income limits apply and vary based on your tax filing status.

Can both the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and Lifetime Learning Credit be claimed in the same year?

No, you cannot claim both AOTC and Lifetime Learning Credits for the same student in a single tax year. You need to choose between the two based on which is more beneficial for your tax situation.

What is the maximum amount I can claim for the Lifetime Learning Credit?

The maximum Lifetime Learning Credit you can claim on your tax return is $2,000 per tax year, which is calculated as 20% of the first $10,000 spent on qualifying expenses.

Are fees and expenses for books included in the calculation for this credit?

No, only tuition and other enrollment fees qualify for the Lifetime Learning Credit. Unlike the AOTC, the cost of books and course materials are not considered qualified expenses for Lifetime Learning Credit.

Can I claim Lifetime Learning Credit if I am a part-time student?

Yes, the credit is available to both full-time and part-time students. There is no requirement regarding the workload for this credit.

How can I claim Lifetime Learning Credit?

You can claim the Lifetime Learning Credit by completing IRS Form 8863 and attaching it to your Federal Income Tax Return.

Is there a limit on the number of years I can claim the Lifetime Learning Credit?

No, there is no limit on the number of years the Lifetime Learning Credit can be claimed, as long as you have eligible education expenses.

Can non-U.S. residents claim the Lifetime Learning Credit?

Nonresident aliens can claim the credit only if their tax status has changed to resident alien for Federal tax purposes.

What happens if my income is too high to claim the credit?

The amount of the Lifetime Learning Credit gradually decreases for taxpayers who make over a certain income threshold, and is completely phased out for those in a higher income bracket. Please refer to the IRS guidelines for the current year for specifics on income limits.

Related Finance Terms

  • Tax Credit
  • Higher Education Expense
  • Income Tax Return
  • Qualifying Expenses
  • Nonrefundable Credit

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