Second Chance for a College Tax Break

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Second Chance for a College Tax Break

It's well worth it (and not too late) to amend your tax return if you failed to rightly claim the American Opportunity credit in 2011 or 2012.

I claimed the American Opportunity credit for my son’s college tuition on my 2013 tax return, and I discovered that I could have qualified for the credit for his first two years of college, too. Is it too late to file an amended return and get money back? --M.T., Mobile, Ala.

See Also: Most-Overlooked Tax Deductions

No. You still have time to fix your mistake, and you’ll be richly rewarded for doing so. Returns can be amended any time during the three-year period after they were due. So you have until tax-deadline day in 2015 to amend your 2011 form and an additional year for the 2012 return. Fix both returns right away, though, to get your money back.

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The credit can reduce your tax bill by up to $2,500 per student for each year you qualify, depending on your income (see IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education). Use Form 1040X to amend each return, and include a Form 8863 for the American Opportunity credit. The IRS will issue a refund check for the amount by which failing to claim the credit each year inflated your tax bill. The IRS will even pay you interest on the refund, back to the original due date of the return.

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