Kids aren’t the only ones heading back to school this fall. Many adults are also taking courses to pursue a new career or improve their current job skills. Fortunately, adult students may qualify for several tax breaks. Here are four possible options:
- American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). The AOTC is one of two credits for qualifying higher education expenses. The maximum credit of $2,500 is phased out based on income. To qualify, you must be enrolled at least half-time and not have finished four years of higher education. The credit does not rule out your eligibility because of age.
- Lifetime Learning Credit. If you can’t claim the AOTC, you may be able to use the lifetime learning credit (because you can generally only claim one credit in a tax year). The maximum lifetime learning credit is $2,000, as opposed to $2,500 for the AOTC, and there is an income phaseout that occurs at lower income levels than the AOTC. But you don’t have to be enrolled half-time and the credit isn’t restricted to four years of study. It’s even available if you take just one class.
- Student loan interest deduction. Do you need to borrow money to pay for schooling? If you qualify, you can deduct up to $2,500 of your annual student loan interest on your tax return. The deduction is subject to a phaseout based on income. Keep in mind that to claim this deduction, you need to be the one who is repaying the loan.
- Educational assistance plans. Perhaps the best way to go back to school is to have your employer pay for it. With a written educational assistance plan that meets all the tax law requirements, the first $5,250 of education expenses paid by your employer is tax-free to employees and deductible by the employer. The coursework doesn’t even have to be job-related.
Education tax breaks aren’t just for kids. Each of these educational tax-saving opportunities is filled with additional rules and requirements.