Who Gets the Education Credits?

Who is deemed to have paid qualified tuition? IRS regulations provide that solely for education credit purposes, if a third party (someone other than the taxpayer, the taxpayer's spouse, or a claimed dependent) makes a payment directly to an eligible educational institution for a student's qualified tuition and related expenses, the student would be treated as receiving the payment from the third party, and, in turn, paying the qualified tuition and related expenses. In turn, qualified tuition and related expenses paid by a student would be treated as paid by the taxpayer if the student is a claimed dependent of the taxpayer.

Example: If one divorced parent pays qualified tuition to a college for a child, but the other parent has custody of the child (and is eligible to claim the child as a dependent), the custodial parent is treated as having paid the tuition directly to the college and gets the education credits, not the other parent.

The regulations also provide that if a taxpayer is eligible to, but does not claim a student as a dependent, only the student can claim the education credit for the student's qualified tuition and related expenses.