Advertisement
Tax Breaks

How to File an Amended Return to Claim an Education Tax Break

The American Opportunity Credit is worth up to $2,500 per student for each of the first four years of college. If you missed taking the credit, you may still be able to claim it by filing an amended return.

Question: When I was preparing my taxes this year, I realized that I could have qualified to claim the American Opportunity Credit for my daughter’s tuition since she started college (she’s a senior now). Can I file an amended return to claim the credit, and how many years back can it go?

Advertisement - Article continues below

Answer: Yes. You generally have until three years after the deadline for filing your original federal tax return to file an amended return if you missed a tax break or need to make other changes. You’ll need to submit a separate Form 1040X for each year you’re amending. Enter the year you’re amending, note the changes you are making, and attach any tax forms that are affected by the change. (In your case, Form 8863 for the American Opportunity Credit; see the link there to the Form 8863 revisions page for the previous years’ forms.)

The change could also lower your state income tax liability. File your amended federal return first, get a copy of the transcript of your account from the IRS confirming that you amended your federal return, and then file an amended return with your state, along with a copy of your federal Form 1040X. See the IRS’s list of links to each state tax agency.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

It can take the IRS up to 16 weeks to process the amended federal return. You can check its status starting three weeks after you file using the Where’s My Amended Return? Tool.

Many families overlook the American Opportunity Credit, which is worth up to $2,500 per student for each of the first four years of college. The credit is based on 100% of the first $2,000 spent on qualified education expenses (tuition and fees), and 25% of the next $2,000 spent on eligible expenses for each year of college. To qualify for the full credit for 2016, your adjusted gross income must have been less than $160,000 if you’re married filing jointly or $80,000 if you’re single. (You can get a partial credit if your income was less than $180,000 if married or $90,000 if single.)

For more information about amended returns, see IRS Tax Topic Amended Returns. For more information about tax credits and deductions for college, see Tax Breaks for College Costs. Also see IRS Publication 970 Tax Benefits for Education. And for more reasons to amend your return, see The 23 Most-Overlooked Tax Deductions.

Advertisement

Most Popular

12 Tax Deadlines for July 15 (It's Not Just the Due Date for Your Tax Return)
tax deadline

12 Tax Deadlines for July 15 (It's Not Just the Due Date for Your Tax Return)

Between due dates for paying estimated taxes, IRA or HSA contributions, and other deadlines, there's more to do by July 15 than just filing your feder…
July 14, 2020
65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On
stocks

65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On

These 65 Dividend Aristocrats are an elite group of dividend stocks that have reliably increased their annual payouts every year for at least a quarte…
July 8, 2020
Tax Day 2020: When's the Last Day to File Taxes?
tax deadline

Tax Day 2020: When's the Last Day to File Taxes?

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 tax deadline was pushed back to give taxpayers (and tax preparers) more time to file returns.
July 14, 2020

Recommended

What Time is the Tax Deadline Today?
tax deadline

What Time is the Tax Deadline Today?

If you're waiting until the last possible minute to file your tax return, at least know how much time you have.
July 15, 2020
Tax Day is Here! File Your Tax Return Today or Face the Consequences
tax deadline

Tax Day is Here! File Your Tax Return Today or Face the Consequences

Stiff penalties await those who don't file their return (or pay any tax owed) by midnight tonight.
July 15, 2020
File a Tax Extension Now to Beat Today's Deadline
tax deadline

File a Tax Extension Now to Beat Today's Deadline

If you need more time to file your federal income tax return, you need to act now to avoid interest and penalties.
July 15, 2020
Estimated Tax Payments Are Due Today
tax deadline

Estimated Tax Payments Are Due Today

The July 15 deadline for 2020 first and second quarter estimated taxes is here. Get you payments in by midnight.
July 15, 2020