American Opportunity Tax Credit Issues

American Opportunity Tax Credit Issues

Over the years, I have heard individuals and tax professionals raise various questions on the operation of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC at IRC 25A). This is the credit that for the past many years provides up to a $2,500 credit for each of the first four years of higher education at a college or university.  It started in the early 1990s as the Hope Scholarship credit for a lower amount and only the first two years of college.

There are numerous other tax breaks for higher education including an exclusion for scholarships, a limited above-the-line deduction for student loan interest, the Lifetime Learning Credit, an exclusion for interest on education savings bonds, 529 accounts, and more.

Some of the issues I have heard for the AOTC include:

  • Do years at a community college count as part of the four years? I believe they do, but what if the student isn’t, at least at first, pursuing a degree?
  • What are all of the expenses that qualify?
  • What if the 1098-T received (and required to claim the credit) is incorrect in terms of the year or amount?
  • Why does it only cover college or university programs rather than also trade schools and similar?
I’m working on a paper of these and a few other administrative and legislative issues about the AOTC. If you have questions or issues you’ve encountered or wondered about, I would greatly appreciate you posting them in a comment here.  Thank you!
Written by Annette Nellen, Professor San Jose State University

Annette Nellen, CPA, Esq., is a professor in and director of San Jose State University’s graduate tax program (MST), teaching courses in tax research, accounting methods, property transactions, state taxation, employment tax, ethics, tax policy, tax reform, and high technology tax issues.

Annette is the immediate past chair of the AICPA Individual Taxation Technical Resource Panel and a current member of the Executive Committee of the Tax Section of the California Bar. Annette is a regular contributor to the AICPA Tax Insider and Corporate Taxation Insider e-newsletters. She is the author of BNA Portfolio #533, Amortization of Intangibles.

Annette has testified before the House Ways & Means Committee, Senate Finance Committee, California Assembly Revenue & Taxation Committee, and tax reform commissions and committees on various aspects of federal and state tax reform.

Prior to joining SJSU, Annette was with Ernst & Young and the IRS.

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