Are you a parent who is committed to helping your kids get through college and minimizing higher education costs as much as possible? Have you been asking yourself, is private school tuition tax deductible?
The good news is that it may be possible to lower education costs by using tuition tax breaks. Even if the money comes out of your pocket at first, you might be able to recoup some of those dollars come tax time. There are currently two tuition tax credits for parents to consider: the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit.
With each of these programs to make private school tuition tax deductible, the parent would need to claim their student as a dependent on their taxes, as well as meet some pretty specific rules for each program. To get started, it’s smart to understand the rules and requirements of each and know that not every filer is going to qualify for these programs.
This article is for informational purposes only, offering a high-level overview of the available tuition-related tax credits and deductions. For parents wanting to take a deep dive into the particulars of tax programs, talking to a licensed tax professional about tax credits and deductions is critical.
What’s the Difference Between a Tax Deduction and Tax Credit?
For those dealing with student loan debt and wondering, can you write off private school tuition?, it’s important to understand the difference between a tax deduction and a tax credit. A deduction can reduce the amount of your taxable income. For example, if you made $80,000 in gross income in a given year and had $15,000 in deductions, you’d have $65,000 in taxable income.
A tax credit, on the other hand, can help provide a dollar-for-dollar reduction in income taxes you owe. For example, a $2,000 tax credit would reduce your tax bill by $2,000.
When compared dollar for dollar, tax credits can sometimes be more valuable than a similar tax deduction. A nonrefundable tax credit qualifies a taxpayer for a reduction up to the amount that they owe. With a refundable credit, a taxpayer could receive a refund even if they do not owe any tax.
The American Opportunity Tax Credit
So, is private school tuition tax deductible? It could be. Parents with a child or children they claim as dependents who are in the first four years of their undergraduate education may qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC).
The AOTC is a credit for tuition and other qualified educational expenses paid for during an eligible student’s initial four years of their college education. The AOTC doesn’t apply to students in their fifth year and beyond.
The AOTC is worth up to $2,500 per eligible student. Because it is a tax credit, it should directly reduce the filer’s tax bill—not their taxable income. As of this writing, if the credit happens to bring the filer’s tax bill to zero, they may qualify to have 40% of any remaining amount of the credit (up to $1,000) refunded to them.
To qualify for the AOTC, there are additional requirements for both the parent and the student. According to the IRS, for the student to be eligible for the AOTC, they must be pursuing a degree or other recognized educational credential, be enrolled at least half time for at least one academic period beginning in the tax year, not have claimed the AOTC for more than four tax years, and do not have a felony drug conviction at the end of the tax year. Again, the AOTC only applies to undergrad students in their first four years.
To currently qualify as a parent, your modified adjusted gross income must be $80,000 or less ($160,000 or less if married filing jointly) in order to claim the full credit. If your modified adjusted gross income is between $80,000 and $90,000 ($160,000 and $180,000 if married filing jointly), you would be eligible for a reduced credit.
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Lifetime Learning Credit
The Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC) is another possibility for parents paying for school for a child they claim as a dependent.
Like the AOTC, the LLC is a tax credit. The LLC is more expansive in the coursework it covers, which is helpful because college is not for everyone. The LLC credit can be applied to qualified tuition and education expenses for eligible students enrolled in a qualifying educational institution. This includes undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools—including courses to acquire job skills.
In addition, there is no limit on the number of years where a person can claim the LLC, compared to the AOTC’s four years per student.
Similar to the AOTC, there is an income limitation to who qualifies for the LLC credit. To claim the full credit in 2022, a parent’s modified adjusted gross income must be below $80,000 (or $160,000 if married filing jointly). If your modified adjusted gross income is between $80,000 and $90,000 ($10,000 and $180,000 if married filing jointly), you could be eligible for a reduced credit.
Parents cannot file for both the LLC and the AOTC for the same student in the same tax year, so it is a choice between one or the other. Also, a student can’t file for either of these if their parents have already filed for a credit for the same expenses.
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Other Education-Related Deductions
Parents who have taken out loans for their child’s education and put money toward student loans may also qualify to deduct the interest payments on those loans.
One of the basics of student loans is that borrowers pay interest on the loans. The deduction includes both required and voluntary interest payments.
Filers may be able to deduct up to $2,500 in student loan interest expenses. You do not need to itemize your taxes in order to qualify for the deduction.
Aside from deductions, another way to possibly lower your student loan payments is by refinancing student loans. When you refinance, you replace your current student loans with a new loan.
One of the advantages of refinancing is that you may be able to get a lower interest rate or better terms that could lower your monthly payments. However, be aware that if you refinance student loans, they become ineligible for federal protections and programs like income-driven repayment.
If you decide that refinancing is an option that might help you save on student loan payments, SoFi offers loans with flexible terms, low fixed or variable interest rates, and no fees.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.
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