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Ask A CPA - College Costs & Taxes

Are College Costs Deductible?

If your son or daughter is going to college and you claim him or her as a dependent, then you can claim the education credits on your tax return. The 2 Credits are the American Opportunity tax credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. If your son or daughter is no longer a dependent, then he or she should claim any education credits on his or her own tax return. If you pay the college expenses for someone who is not your dependent, you cannot claim any the tax credit. Qualifying expenses include amounts paid for tuition and any required fees (such as registration and student body fees). Qualifying expenses do not include any of the following: books, supplies, equipment, room and board, insurance, student health fees, transportation, or living expenses. You must be responsible for paying the college tuition and fees. You also need reduce your qualifying expenses when figuring your tax credit by the amount of financial assistance received from grants, scholarships, or reimbursements from your employer. You do not need to reduce your qualifying expenses, however, if you paid for college tuition using borrowed funds, including student loans, or by using gifts from family members. The amount of the Lifetime Learning Credit is limited over a phase-out range. If your adjusted gross income is below the phase-out, your credits are not reduced. If your income is in the middle of the phase-out range, your credits will be reduced. If your income exceeds the phase-out range, you are not eligible to claim the Lifetime Learning tax credit. The modified adjusted gross income threshold at which the lifetime learning credit begins to phase out is $107,000 for joint filers, up from $104,000, and $53,000 for singles and heads of household, up from $52,000. The American Opportunity tax credit is worth up to $2,500 on the first $4,000 of qualifying educational expenses, which include course materials as well as tuition. The American Opportunity credit applies to all four years of undergraduate college education. The credit is gradually reduced (or "phased out") for income from $80,000 to $90,000 (or $160,000 to $180,000 for joint filers). The tax credit is not available for people with incomes above the phase out range. Up to 40% of the credit is refundable, meaning that it can generate a refund larger than the amount of payments you made. NO DEDUCTION IS ALLOWED FOR THOSE FILING AS MARRIED FILING SEPARATELY

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