Who can claim the Hope or Learning credits?

A taxpayer who incurs qualified higher education expenses for themselves, a spouse or dependent child may be able to claim the Hope Scholarship Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit.

The Hope Scholarship Credit is up to $1,500 (plus cost-of-living adjustments) per child for the first two years of qualified higher education expenses (tuition and fees required for enrollment).

The Lifetime Learning Credit is up to $2,000 (plus cost-of-living adjustments) per tax return (not per child) for qualified college or graduate expenses.

A taxpayer cannot claim the Hope and Lifetime Credits for the same student in the same year. Both credits also phase out at certain income levels.

If married, a taxpayer must file a joint tax return to claim the Hope or Lifetime credits (except under the abandoned spouse rule). For a child student, only the parent claiming the dependency exemption for that child can claim the credits.