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College Education and Tax Deductions

Tax Help for StudentsImportant: Starting with Tax Year 2018 (Jan.-Dec. 2018), education tax credits, deductions, and savings plans are changing due to Tax Reform. We will update this page as the IRS finalizes this information. Tax Reform and you? Let help you and become eligible to Tax Win. Find out now.

Starting in Tax Year 2018 Education Savings Plans can now be used for K-12 Student education as well. Thus, we have divided tax deductions into College Education and K-12 Education.

Generally, if you attend any accredited K-12 school, university, community college, trade or vocational school, or adult/continuing education class you will qualify for some or all of the education tax deductions and credits. The degree you are pursuing should not matter whether you qualify or not: e.g. Bachelor's Degree, a Master's Degree, a certificate, or even a PhD, your post-secondary educational institution.

The Student Loan Interest Deduction and Tuition and Fees Deduction are also available for 2017 tax returns.

If you claim a student as a dependent on your income tax return note that you can claim only one type of education credit or deduction per student dependent on your federal tax return each Tax Year. If more than one student dependent qualifies for a credit in the same year, you can claim a different credit for each student.

To figure the total credit or deduction amount for an eligible student, you may be able to include qualified expenses, such as tuition, fees, and other related expenses (books, supplies, equipment, and other required course materials, but not room and board). In addition, these credits or deductions are subject to income limitations, so your amount may be reduced or eliminated based on your adjusted gross income.

Qualified Student Tax Deduction For Tax Year 2018

Student Expense in 2018

Deductible College

Student Expense in 2018?

Deductible K-12

Student Expense in 2018?

Tuition and fees Yes Yes
Books and Supplies Yes
Computers and related equipment and services (i.e. internet) Yes
Room and board Yes
Transportation costs Yes
Health insurance No
Student loan payments  Yes

What is the Student Loan Interest Deduction?

If you have started to pay back your student loans, you may be able to reduce your taxable income by up to $2,500 of the student loan interest you have paid for you, your spouse, or your dependent. This also includes the one-time "loan origination fee" charged by your lender.

The Student Loan Interest Deduction is an "above-the-line" deduction, which means that you do not need to itemize deductions in order to claim it.

Do I Qualify for the Student Loan Interest Deduction?

To qualify for the deduction, the student loan on which you paid interest must be a commercial loan taken out exclusively for the purposes of paying for education. The loan may only apply to a student who is enrolled at least half-time in a degree program. The student must be you, your spouse, or your dependent.

What is the Student Loan Interest Phaseout Adjusted Gross Incomes?

In 2017, the amount of your deduction will begin to decrease, or phaseout, at an adjusted gross income of $65,000 ($135,000 if married filing jointly) and the deduction will be unavailable to you if your AGI is $80,000 ($165,000 if married filing jointly) or higher.

Qualified Education Expenses for the Student Loan Interest Deduction?

Qualified expenses for the Student Loan Interest Deduction are the total costs of attending an eligible educational institution (including graduate school). These costs include:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Books, equipment, and supplies
  • Room and board
  • Other necessary expenses, such as transportation

Room and board costs only qualify for the deduction if they are not more than the greater of:

  • The allowance for room and board (as determined by the eligible educational institution) that was included in the cost of attendance (for federal financial aid purposes) for a particular academic period and living arrangement of the student, OR
  • The actual amount charged if the student is residing in housing owned or operated by the educational institution

Tuition and Fees Deduction

Important: The Tuition and Fees Deduction expired on December 31, 2017. Unless Congress passes a law by the end of 2018 extending this deduction for 2018 Tax Returns, you can only claim it on 2017 and earlier Tax Returns. 

You may be able to claim a tax deduction of up to $4,000 for qualifying tuition and fees you paid for you, your spouse, or a dependent. You may deduct any qualified expenses up to $4,000, even if you paid the tuition and fees with a loan. If you take the Tuition and Fees Deduction and you have also paid interest on student loans, you may be able to take the Student Loan Interest Deduction as well. The Tuition and Fees Deduction is an above-the-line deduction, so you do not need to itemize to claim it on your tax return.

Do I Qualify for the Tuition and Fees Deduction?

To qualify, the student for whom you paid tuition and fees must be you, your spouse, or your dependent. The student need only be enrolled part-time.

You will NOT qualify for the Tuition and Fees Deduction if any of the following are true:

For 2017, the value of the Tuition and Fees Deduction begins phasing out at AGIs of $65,000 ($130,000 if married filing jointly). If your adjusted gross income is $65,000 or less ($130,000 or less if married filing jointly), then you will qualify for the full $4,000 deduction. If your AGI is from $65,001 to $80,000 ($130,001 to $160,000 if married filing jointly), the maximum amount of your Tuition and Fees Deduction will be reduced. If your AGI is above $80,000/$160,000, the deduction will not be available to you.

How Else Can Students Save Money on Taxes?

Besides claiming tax credits (which reduce the amount of income tax you owe) and tax deductions (which reduce the amount of your income that is taxable), there are two other major ways students can save money on taxes:

  • Exclusions: Tax exclusions are parts of your income that do not have to be included in your gross income on your tax return. The most relevant forms of non-taxable income for students are scholarship funds and fellowship grants. Learn more about excluding scholarship and grant income.
  • Savings Plans: There are two special kinds of savings accounts which provide great tax benefits to students: Coverdell Educational Savings Accounts (Coverdell ESA's) and Qualified Tuition Programs, which are also known as 529 College Savings Plans.
  • Financial Aid: When applying for financial aid, your college or university may ask you to provide old tax tax returns--either yours or your parents. To access an old tax return, you might need to obtain a copy or free transcript of a tax return from the IRS. A transcript of your tax return provides W-2 information along with the basic information that was filed with the tax return, including marital status, adjusted gross income, taxable income, and most line items from the tax return. The tax return transcript can be sent directly to the institution asking for it.

College Student Tax Credits for Tax Year 2018

Education Savings Plans for College and K-12 Students

Related Student Tax Topics