Along with the harsh realities facing today’s college students, there is an opportunity. The American Opportunity Tax Credit was created to help us get through the most expensive part of our lives. President Obama proposed this Tax Credit, which was meant to take the place of the “Hope Credit.” The Hope Credit offered an $1,800 tax credit for each semester to college students living in homes with an annual income below $50,000 per year, or less than $100,000 for married families who file their taxes together. This credit was fairly limited, however, only being available to students in their first two years of undergraduate school, and only covering money spent on tuition and books required by the school. The Hope Credit did give hope to those it helped, but it just wasn’t enough for students facing huge student loan debts.
The American Opportunity Tax Credit was created as an extended version of the Hope credit, going quite a bit further to help struggling students. The American Opportunity Tax Credit raises the maximum credit available to $2,500, for four years of undergraduate school. It was intended to cover the years 2009-2010, which was extended to 2011-2012 with a possibility of an extension beyond 2012 if congress chooses. It was also extended to cover course materials, like lab supplies and required software whereas the Hope credit only covered tuition and books. The American Opportunity Tax Credit goes even further than that, allowing students to receive the maximum tax credit of $2,500 if they live in a household with an income below $80,000, or married, jointly filed households bringing in $160,000 per year.
So the question is: How can I apply for it? You will need to fill out a 8863 form through the IRS website. Those who need additional instructions on filling out this paperwork can get that here. The 8863 form should be sent in along with your 1040 Tax return form. Remember, taxes are due on April 17, 2012. Make sure to have everything in by that date and you should be on your way to getting help with the costs of school.