Tax and higher education: a breakdownBy: National Association of Tax Professionals
March 21, 2023

The Tax Code provides a number of provisions designed to help individuals and families pay for college, including education credits like the American opportunity tax credit (AOTC) and the lifetime learning credit (LLC) that help reduce the tax owed by individuals.

With the rising cost of college and higher education, it’s important to know all the higher education tax benefits available.

Below, you’ll find a few of the top questions from a recent webinar on the topic and their accompanying answers. If you choose to attend the on-demand version of this webinar, you’ll have access to the full recording and the entire list of Q&As.  

Q: If Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, is used, does the custodial parent or the parent claiming the child get the American opportunity tax credit (AOTC)?
A: The parent claiming the child as a dependent gets the AOTC.

Q: If grandparents started a 529 plan and used it to pay the grandchild’s college expenses, how is this handled on their tax return considering the grandchild isn’t a dependent?
A: The 529 plan distribution is nontaxable if it was used for qualified education expenses of the designated beneficiary (grandchild), even if the grandparents don’t claim the grandchild as a dependent. When the entire distribution is nontaxable, the grandparents don’t report anything on their tax return.

Q: If the taxpayer only signs up for one course at an eligible college, do they still qualify for the lifetime learning credit?
A: Yes. The lifetime learning credit is available for one or more courses.

Q: Does beauty salon school qualify as a vocational school?
A: Yes, if the school is eligible to participate in federal financial aid programs, it qualifies.

To learn more about helping clients plan for higher education, you can watch our on-demand webinar. NATP members can attend for free, depending on membership level! If you’re not an NATP member and want to learn more, join our completely free 30-day trial at  

The Tax Code
Tax season
Form 8332
Tax professional
§529 Plan
Tax preparation
Lifetime Learning Credit
Tax planning
American opportunity tax credit
Tax education
Higher education
Tax Day
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penAbout National Association of Tax Professionals

The National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) is the largest association dedicated to equipping tax professionals with the resources, connections and education they need to provide the highest level of service to their clients. NATP is comprised of over 23,000 leading tax professionals who believe in a superior standard of ethics and exemplify professional excellence. Members rely on NATP to deliver professional connections, content expertise and advocacy that provides them with the support they need to best serve their clients. The organization welcomes all tax professionals in their quest to continually meet the needs of the public, no matter where they are in their careers.

The NATP headquarters is located in Appleton, WI. To learn more, visit

Information included in this article is accurate as of the publish date. This post is not reflective of tax law changes or IRS guidance that may have occurred after the date of publishing. All taxpayer circumstances are different, and NATP recommends contacting research services if you have specific questions about your clients’ tax situations.

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