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Hi,

I'm actually asking on behalf of my daughter (who has to file her own return).

She is currently studying in a university in Israel. She has finished her undergraduate degree (in 3 years, as is customary here) and this year she has been taking make-up courses because she has changed fields for her graduate degree.

She has so far filed for and received 2 years of refunds for her tuition. She is asking if she can skip filing for the credit for 2014, and then request it again next year. I'm not getting a clear understanding of this from the IRS website. Can it be any 4 years, or do they have to be consecutive?

Also, she tells me that she was charged a full year's tuition for this year, even though she has only taken about 1/3 the number of credits for a full-time year (and it seems that you can only request the refund if you've taken 1/2 the number of credits). She expects that she will get a refund/credit for the tuition overpayment, and I don't know if that should affect her decision in this matter.

And yes, she has employment income and needs to file a tax return in any case.

Thanks for any advice.
 

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IRS Publication 970 ("Tax Benefits for Education") is a good place to get answers to questions like this one. Chapter 2 deals with the American Opportunity Tax Credit. There is no consecutive years requirement listed in that publication for the AOTC. However, there is a requirement that the student "has not completed the first four years of post-secondary education as of the beginning of the taxable year," so just be careful of that. That's not the same thing as obtaining a degree or graduating (the way that's written), and there doesn't appear to be a course load threshold in that part of the instructions either. But yes, it is possible to skip one (probably only one) tax year when a student is continuously enrolled and still take the full 4 non-consecutive AOTC years. It may also be possible to take the Lifetime Learning tax credit in lieu of the AOTC during that skipped year.
 
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