American Opportunity credit can only be used???

Choose one:

  1. during the first four years of college

  2. as a credit when occuring expenses during the first four years of school

My reason for asking:

I was a fifth year senior in 2009 when I incurred school expenses. Of course I am filing with the American Opportunity Credit for the first time availability for 2009 tax purposes. I am not sure if I lose the ability to claim this credit because I was technically not in my first four years of college or if I am good because I was technically finishing up the typical fourth year of college credits.

asked 14 Mar '10, 13:11

death%20and%20taxes's gravatar image

death and taxes
accept rate: 0%

edited 14 Mar '10, 20:06

TaxQueries's gravatar image

TaxQueries ♦♦

Sorry, the 5th year is NOT the 4th year. You can only use the lifetime learning credit.

Helen, EA in PA


answered 14 Mar '10, 14:33

Helen%20EA%20in%20PA's gravatar image

Helen EA in PA
accept rate: 4%

I would like to see your authority for this answer. The IRS instructions imply otherwise. If the educational institution can determine if the first years have been completed, this implies we are talking about something other than four calendar years.

From IRS instructions: As of the beginning of 2009, the student had not completed the first 4 years of postsecondary education (generally, the freshman through senior years of college), as determined by the eligible educational institution. For this purpose, do not include academic credit awarded solely because of the student's performance on proficiency examinations.


answered 03 Apr '10, 04:21

Charlie's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

See IRS Publication 970 Figure 2-2: Who is an eligible student for the American Opportunity Credit. As noted above as long as the student has not completed the first four years of postsecondary education, has not claimed either the Hope Credit or American Opportunity Credit in at least 4 prior tax years for the student, enrolled at least half-time for degree program, and hasn't been convicted of a felony, then the student is eligible. See also this Kiplinger "Ask Kim" column where Kim states that "A student’s eligibility is based on the academic year the college considers him or her to be in, says H.R. Rubinsky, senior tax analyst with the Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters. So if the college considers you to be a senior, then you should be able to qualify for the American Opportunity Credit." Assuming you meet the other criteria in Figure 2-2 in Publication 970.


answered 22 Aug '10, 06:48

Rick%201's gravatar image

Rick 1
accept rate: 9%

SO if you are a slacker and are in your 10th year of a "4 year degree" you are good to claim it. As long as you are not in a graduate program. Right??????


answered 16 Jan '11, 11:27

Raiderbeater's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

I really wish the IRS would word this requirement more clearly. I can't seem to find clarification anywhere!

I am of the opinion that "four years" refers to a 4-year college degree and not 4 calendar years after graduation high school. I'm just nervous about taking the credit without clarification because I don't want to trigger an audit!

I may end up calling the IRS tomorrow, and if I get an answer I'll try to post back.


answered 10 Apr '11, 16:53

Eric%202's gravatar image

Eric 2
accept rate: 0%

I took it to mean you can only claim the credit 4 times total. "Caution: You cannot take the American opportunity credit for more than 4 tax years for the same student."


answered 18 Mar '12, 16:17

Escape_out's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

Publication 970 states "available only for the first 4 years of postseconday education" - doesn't this exclude the 5th year student? It also states, "Available only for 4 tax years per eligible student" which makes claiming it for the 4th year tough, as school and tax years are different.


answered 20 Mar '12, 13:57

JoeTaxpayer's gravatar image

accept rate: 10%

Here's a different situation. I finished my undergrad degree in 3 calendar/tax years (never used the AOC). Could I use the credit for my first calendar/tax year of Grad school? (If it makes any difference, I did take 1 undergrad course (3 credits) at a different university than my Grad school.)


answered 17 Sep '13, 18:57

Steven's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

Your answer
toggle preview

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Markdown Basics

  • *italic* or _italic_
  • **bold** or __bold__
  • link:[text]( "title")
  • image?![alt text](/path/img.jpg "title")
  • numbered list: 1. Foo 2. Bar
  • to add a line break simply add two spaces to where you would like the new line to be.
  • basic HTML tags are also supported



Asked: 14 Mar '10, 13:11

Seen: 10,625 times

Last updated: 17 Sep '13, 18:57