6.   Tuition and Fees Deduction

Introduction

You may be able to deduct qualified education expenses paid during the year for yourself, your spouse, or your dependent(s). You cannot claim this deduction if your filing status is married filing separately or if another person can claim an exemption for you as a dependent on his or her tax return. The qualified expenses must be for higher education, as explained later under Qualified Education Expenses .

What is the tax benefit of the tuition and fees deduction.   The tuition and fees deduction can reduce the amount of your income subject to tax by up to $4,000.

  This deduction is taken as an adjustment to income. This means you can claim this deduction even if you do not itemize deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040). This deduction may be beneficial to you if you do not qualify for the American opportunity or lifetime learning credits.

You can choose the education benefit that will give you the lowest tax. You may want to compare the tuition and fees deduction to the education credits. See chapter 2, American Opportunity Credit and chapter 3, Lifetime Learning Credit for more information on the education credits.

Table 6-1. Tuition and Fees Deduction at a Glance summarizes the features of the tuition and fees deduction.

Can You Claim the Deduction

The following rules will help you determine if you can claim the tuition and fees deduction.

Who Can Claim the Deduction

Generally, you can claim the tuition and fees deduction if all three of the following requirements are met.

  1. You pay qualified education expenses of higher education.

  2. You pay the education expenses for an eligible student.

  3. The eligible student is yourself, your spouse, or your dependent for whom you claim an exemption on your tax return.

The term “qualified education expenses” is defined later under Qualified Education Expenses . “Eligible student” is defined later under Who Is an Eligible Student . For more information on claiming the deduction for a dependent, see Who Can Claim a Dependent's Expenses , later.

Table 6-1.Tuition and Fees Deduction at a Glance

Do not rely on this table alone. Refer to the text for complete details.

Question Answer
What is the maximum benefit? You can reduce your income subject to tax by up to $4,000.
What is the limit on modified adjusted gross income (MAGI)? $160,000 if married filing a joint return; 
$80,000 if single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er).
Where is the deduction taken? As an adjustment to income on  
Form 1040 or Form 1040A.
For whom must the expenses be paid? A student enrolled in an eligible educational institution who is either: 
•you,  
•your spouse, or  
•your dependent for whom you claim an exemption.
What tuition and fees are deductible? Tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance at an eligible postsecondary educational institution, but not including personal, living, or family expenses, such as room and board.

Who Cannot Claim the Deduction

You cannot claim the tuition and fees deduction if any of the following apply.

  • Your filing status is married filing separately.

  • Another person can claim an exemption for you as a dependent on his or her tax return. You cannot take the deduction even if the other person does not actually claim that exemption.

  • Your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is more than $80,000 ($160,000 if filing a joint return).

  • You (or your spouse) were a nonresident alien for any part of 2013 and the nonresident alien did not elect to be treated as a resident alien for tax purposes. More information on nonresident aliens can be found in Publication 519.

What Expenses Qualify

The tuition and fees deduction is based on qualified education expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse, or a dependent for whom you claim an exemption on your tax return. Generally, the deduction is allowed for qualified education expenses paid in 2013 in connection with enrollment at an institution of higher education during 2013 or for an academic period beginning in 2013 or in the first 3 months of 2014.

For example, if you paid $1,500 in December 2013 for qualified tuition for the spring 2014 semester beginning in January 2014, you may be able to use that $1,500 in figuring your 2013 deduction.

Academic period.   An academic period includes a semester, trimester, quarter, or other period of study (such as a summer school session) as reasonably determined by an educational institution. In the case of an educational institution that uses credit hours or clock hours and does not have academic terms, each payment period can be treated as an academic period.

Paid with borrowed funds.   You can claim a tuition and fees deduction for qualified education expenses paid with the proceeds of a loan. Use the expenses to figure the deduction for the year in which the expenses are paid, not the year in which the loan is repaid. Treat loan disbursements sent directly to the educational institution as paid on the date the institution credits the student's account.

Student withdraws from class(es).   You can claim a tuition and fees deduction for qualified education expenses not refunded when a student withdraws.

Qualified Education Expenses

For purposes of the tuition and fees deduction, qualified education expenses are tuition and certain related expenses required for enrollment or attendance at an eligible educational institution.

Eligible educational institution.   An eligible educational institution is any college, university, vocational school, or other postsecondary educational institution eligible to participate in a student aid program administered by the U.S. Department of Education. It includes virtually all accredited public, nonprofit, and proprietary (privately owned profit-making) postsecondary institutions. The educational institution should be able to tell you if it is an eligible educational institution.

  Certain educational institutions located outside the United States also participate in the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid (FSA) programs.

Related expenses.   Student-activity fees and expenses for course-related books, supplies, and equipment are included in qualified education expenses only if the fees and expenses must be paid to the institution as a condition of enrollment or attendance.

Prepaid expenses.   Qualified education expenses paid in 2013 for an academic period that begins in the first three months of 2014 can be used in figuring an education credit for 2013 only. See Academic period , earlier. For example, you pay $2,000 in December 2013 for qualified tuition for the 2014 winter quarter that begins in January 2014, you can use that $2,000 in figuring an education credit for 2013 only (if you meet all the other requirements).

You cannot use any amount you paid in 2012 or 2014 to figure the qualified education expenses you use to figure your 2013 education credit(s).

In the following examples, assume that each student is an eligible student and each college or university an eligible educational institution.

Example 1.

Jackson is a sophomore in University V's degree program in dentistry. This year, in addition to tuition, he is required to pay a fee to the university for the rental of the dental equipment he will use in this program. Because the equipment rental fee must be paid to University V for enrollment and attendance, Jackson's equipment rental fee is a qualified education expense.

Example 2.

Donna and Charles, both first-year students at College W, are required to have certain books and other reading materials to use in their mandatory first-year classes. The college has no policy about how students should obtain these materials, but any student who purchases them from College W's bookstore will receive a bill directly from the college. Charles bought his books from a friend, so what he paid for them is not a qualified education expense. Donna bought hers at College W's bookstore. Although Donna paid College W directly for her first-year books and materials, her payment is not a qualified education expense because the books and materials are not required to be purchased from College W for enrollment or attendance at the institution.

Example 3.

When Marci enrolled at College X for her freshman year, she had to pay a separate student activity fee in addition to her tuition. This activity fee is required of all students, and is used solely to fund on-campus organizations and activities run by students, such as the student newspaper and the student government. No portion of the fee covers personal expenses. Although labeled as a student activity fee, the fee is required for Marci's enrollment and attendance at College X. Therefore, it is a qualified expense.

No Double Benefit Allowed

You cannot do any of the following.

  • Deduct qualified education expenses you deduct under any other provision of the law, for example, as a business expense.

  • Deduct qualified education expenses for a student on your income tax return if you or anyone else claims an American opportunity or lifetime learning credit for that same student in the same year.

  • Deduct qualified education expenses that have been used to figure the tax-free portion of a distribution from a Coverdell education savings account (ESA) or a qualified tuition program (QTP). For a QTP, this applies only to the amount of tax-free earnings that were distributed, not to the recovery of contributions to the program. See Coordination With Tuition and Fees Deduction in chapter 8, Qualified Tuition Program, later.

  • Deduct qualified education expenses that have been paid with tax-free interest on U.S. savings bonds (Form 8815). See Figuring the Tax-Free Amount in chapter 10, Education Savings Bond Program, later.

  • Deduct qualified education expenses that have been paid with tax-free educational assistance, such as a scholarship, grant, or assistance provided by an employer. See the following section on Adjustments to Qualified Education Expenses.

Adjustments to Qualified Education Expenses

For each student, reduce the qualified education expenses paid by or on behalf of that student under the following rules. The result is the amount of adjusted qualified education expenses for each student. You must also reduce qualified education expenses by the other amounts referred to in No Double Benefit Allowed , earlier.

Tax-free educational assistance.   For tax-free educational assistance received in 2013, reduce the qualified educational expenses for each academic period by the amount of tax-free educational assistance allocable to that academic period. See Academic period , earlier.

  Some tax-free educational assistance received after 2013 may be treated as a refund of qualified education expenses paid in 2013. This tax-free educational assistance is any tax-free educational assistance received by you or anyone else after 2013 for qualified education expenses paid on behalf of a student in 2013 (or attributable to enrollment at an eligible educational institution during 2013).

  If this tax-free educational assistance is received after 2013 but before you file your 2013 income tax return, see Refunds received after 2013 but before your income tax return is filed , later. If this tax-free educational assistance is received after 2013 and after you file your 2013 income tax return, see Refunds received after 2013 and after your income tax return is filed , later.

  This tax-free education assistance includes:

Generally, any scholarship or fellowship is treated as tax free. However, a scholarship or fellowship is not treated as tax free to the extent the student includes it in gross income (if the student is required to file a tax return for the year the scholarship or fellowship is received) and either of the following is true.

  • The scholarship or fellowship (or any part of it) must be applied (by its terms) to expenses (such as room and board) other than qualified education expenses as defined in Qualified education expenses in chapter 1, Scholarships, Fellowships, Grants, and Tuition Reductions.

  • The scholarship or fellowship (or any part of it) may be applied (by its terms) to expenses (such as room and board) other than qualified education expenses as defined in Qualified education expenses in chapter 1, Scholarships, Fellowships, Grants, and Tuition Reductions.

You may be able to increase the combined value of an education credit and certain educational assistance if the student includes some or all of the educational assistance in income in the year it is received. For details, see Adjustments to Qualified Education Expenses in chapters 2 and 3.

Refunds.   A refund of qualified education expenses may reduce adjusted qualified education expenses for the tax year or require repayment (recapture) of a credit claimed in an earlier year. Some tax-free educational assistance received after 2013 may be treated as a refund. See Tax-free educational assistance , earlier.

Refunds received in 2013.   For each student, figure the adjusted qualified education expenses for 2013 by adding all the qualified education expenses for 2013 and subtracting any refunds of those expenses received from the eligible educational institution during 2013.

Refunds received after 2013 but before your income tax return is filed.   If anyone receives a refund after 2013 of qualified education expenses paid on behalf of a student in 2013 and the refund is paid before you file an income tax return for 2013, the amount of qualified education expenses for 2013 is reduced by the amount of the refund.

Refunds received after 2013 and after your income tax return is filed.   If anyone receives a refund after 2013 of qualified education expenses paid on behalf of a student in 2013 and the refund is paid after you file an income tax return for 2013, you may need to repay some or all of the credit. See Credit recapture , later.

Coordination with Coverdell education savings accounts and qualified tuition programs.   Reduce your qualified education expenses by any qualified education expenses used to figure the exclusion from gross income of (a) interest received under an education savings bond program, or (b) any distribution from a Coverdell education savings account or qualified tuition program (QTP). For a QTP, this applies only to the amount of tax-free earnings that were distributed, not to the recovery of contributions to the program.

Credit recapture.    If any tax-free educational assistance for the qualified education expenses paid in 2013 or any refund of your qualified education expenses paid in 2013 is received after you file your 2013 income tax return, you must recapture (repay) any excess credit. You do this by refiguring the amount of your adjusted qualified education expenses for 2013 by reducing that amount by the amount of the refund or tax-free educational assistance. You then refigure your education credit(s) for 2013 and figure the amount by which your 2013 tax liability would have increased if you had claimed the refigured credit(s). Include that amount as an additional tax for the year the refund or tax-free assistance was received.

Example.   You paid $3,500 of qualified education expenses in December 2013, and your child began college in January 2014. You claimed $3,500 as the tuition and fees deduction on your 2013 income tax return. The reduction reduced your taxable income by $3,500. Also, you claimed no tax credits in 2013. Your child withdrew from two classes and you received a refund of $2,000 in 2014 after you filed your 2013 tax return. Refigure your 2013 tuition and fees deduction using $1,500 of qualified education expense instead of the $3,500. The refigured tuition and fees deduction is $1,500. Do not file an amended 2013 tax return to account for this adjustment. Instead, include the difference of $2,000 (but only to the extent this difference would have increased your 2013 tax) on the “Other income” line of your 2014 Form 1040. You cannot file Form 1040A for 2014.

Amounts that do not reduce qualified education expenses.   Do not reduce qualified education expenses by amounts paid with funds the student receives as:
  • Payment for services, such as wages,

  • A loan,

  • A gift,

  • An inheritance, or

  • A withdrawal from the student's personal savings.

  Do not reduce the qualified education expenses by any scholarship or fellowship reported as income on the student's tax return in the following situations.
  • The use of the money is restricted, by the terms of the scholarship or fellowship, to costs of attendance (such as room and board) other than qualified education expenses as defined in Qualified education expenses in chapter 1, Scholarships, Fellowships, Grants, and Tuition Restrictions.

  • The use of the money is not restricted.

Example 1.

In 2013, Jackie paid $3,000 for tuition and $5,000 for room and board at University X. The university did not require her to pay any fees in addition to her tuition in order to enroll in or attend classes. To help pay these costs, she was awarded a $2,000 scholarship and a $4,000 student loan. The terms of the scholarship state that it can be used to pay any of Jackie's college expenses.

University X applies the $2,000 scholarship against Jackie's $8,000 total bill, and Jackie pays the $6,000 balance of her bill from University X with a combination of her student loan and her savings. Jackie does not report any portion of the scholarship as income on her tax return.

In figuring the tuition and fees deduction, Jackie must reduce her qualified education expenses by the amount of the scholarship ($2,000) because she excluded the entire scholarship from her income. The student loan is not tax-free educational assistance, so she does not need to reduce her qualified expenses by any part of the loan proceeds. Jackie is treated as having paid $1,000 in qualified education expenses ($3,000 tuition – $2,000 scholarship) in 2013.

Example 2.

The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that Jackie reports her entire scholarship as income on her tax return. Because Jackie reported the entire $2,000 scholarship in her income, she does not need to reduce her qualified education expenses. Jackie is treated as having paid $3,000 in qualified education expenses.

Expenses That Do Not Qualify

Qualified education expenses do not include amounts paid for:

  • Insurance,

  • Medical expenses (including student health fees),

  • Room and board,

  • Transportation, or

  • Similar personal, living, or family expenses.

This is true even if the amount must be paid to the institution as a condition of enrollment or attendance.

Sports, games, hobbies, and noncredit courses.   Qualified education expenses generally do not include expenses that relate to any course of instruction or other education that involves sports, games or hobbies, or any noncredit course. However, if the course of instruction or other education is part of the student's degree program, these expenses can qualify.

Comprehensive or bundled fees.   Some eligible educational institutions combine all of their fees for an academic period into one amount. If you do not receive, or do not have access to, an allocation showing how much you paid for qualified education expenses and how much you paid for personal expenses, such as those listed above, contact the institution. The institution is required to make this allocation and provide you with the amount you paid (or were billed) for qualified education expenses on Form 1098-T. See Figuring the Deduction , later, for more information about Form 1098-T.

Who Is an Eligible Student

For purposes of the tuition and fees deduction, an eligible student is a student who is enrolled in one or more courses at an eligible educational institution (as defined under Qualified Education Expenses , earlier).

Who Can Claim a Dependent's Expenses

Generally, in order to claim the tuition and fees deduction for qualified education expenses for a dependent, you must:

  1. Have paid the expenses, and

  2. Claim an exemption for the student as a dependent.

For you to be able to deduct qualified education expenses for your dependent, you must claim an exemption for that individual. You do this by listing your dependent's name and other required information on Form 1040 (or Form 1040A), line 6c.

IF your dependent is an eligible student and you... AND... THEN...
claim an exemption for your dependent you paid all qualified education expenses for your dependent only you can deduct the qualified education expenses that you paid. Your dependent cannot take a deduction.
claim an exemption for your dependent your dependent paid all qualified education expenses no one is allowed to take a deduction.
do not claim an exemption for your dependent you paid all qualified education expenses no one is allowed to take a deduction.
do not claim an exemption for your dependent your dependent paid all qualified education expenses no one is allowed to take a deduction.

Expenses paid by dependent.   If your dependent pays qualified education expenses, no one can take a tuition and fees deduction for those expenses. Neither you nor your dependent can deduct the expenses. For purposes of the tuition and fees deduction, you are not treated as paying any expenses actually paid by a dependent for whom you or anyone other than the dependent can claim an exemption. This rule applies even if you do not claim an exemption for your dependent on your tax return.

Expenses paid by you.   If you claim an exemption for a dependent who is an eligible student, only you can include any expenses you paid when figuring your tuition and fees deduction.

Expenses paid under divorce decree.   Qualified education expenses paid directly to an eligible educational institution for a student under a court-approved divorce decree are treated as paid by the student. Only the student would be eligible to take a tuition and fees deduction for that payment, and then only if no one else could claim an exemption for the student.

Expenses paid by others.   Someone other than you, your spouse, or your dependent (such as a relative or former spouse) may make a payment directly to an eligible educational institution to pay for an eligible student's qualified education expenses. In this case, the student is treated as receiving the payment from the other person and, in turn, paying the institution. If you claim, or can claim, an exemption on your tax return for the student, you are not considered to have paid the expenses and you cannot deduct them. If the student is not a dependent, only the student can deduct payments made directly to the institution for his or her expenses. If the student is your dependent, no one can deduct the payments.

Example.

In 2013, Ms. Baker makes a payment directly to an eligible educational institution for her grandson Dan's qualified education expenses. For purposes of deducting tuition and fees, Dan is treated as receiving the money from his grandmother and, in turn, paying his own qualified education expenses.

If an exemption cannot be claimed for Dan on anyone else's tax return, only Dan can claim a tuition and fees deduction for his grandmother's payment. If someone else can claim an exemption for Dan, no one will be allowed a deduction for Ms. Baker's payment.

Tuition reduction.   When an eligible educational institution provides a reduction in tuition to an employee of the institution (or spouse or dependent child of an employee), the amount of the reduction may or may not be taxable. If it is taxable, the employee is treated as receiving a payment of that amount and, in turn, paying it to the educational institution on behalf of the student. For more information on tuition reductions, see Qualified Tuition Reduction , in chapter 1, Scholarships, Fellowships, Grants, and Tuition Reductions.

Figuring the Deduction

The maximum tuition and fees deduction in 2013 is $4,000, $2,000, or $0, depending on the amount of your MAGI. See Effect of the Amount of Your Income on the Amount of Your Deduction , later.

Form 1098-T.   To help you figure your tuition and fees deduction, the student should receive Form 1098-T (see Appendix A for a completed example of Form 1098-T). Generally, an eligible educational institution (such as a college or university) must send Form 1098-T (or acceptable substitute) to each enrolled student by January 31, 2014. An institution may choose to report either payments received (box 1), or amounts billed (box 2), for qualified education expenses. However, the amount in boxes 1 and 2 of Form 1098-T might be different than what you paid. When figuring the deduction, use only the amounts you paid in 2013 for qualified education expenses.

  In addition, Form 1098-T should give other information for that institution, such as adjustments made for prior years, the amount of scholarships or grants, reimbursements or refunds, and whether the student was enrolled at least half-time or was a graduate student.

   The eligible educational institution may ask for a completed Form W-9S or similar statement to obtain the student's name, address, and taxpayer identification number.

Effect of the Amount of Your Income on the Amount of Your Deduction

If your MAGI is not more than $65,000 ($130,000 if you are married filing jointly), your maximum tuition and fees deduction is $4,000. If your MAGI is larger than $65,000 ($130,000 if you are married filing jointly), but is not more than $80,000 ($160,000 if you are married filing jointly), your maximum deduction is $2,000. No tuition and fees deduction is allowed if your MAGI is larger than $80,000 ($160,000 if you are married filing jointly).

Modified adjusted gross income (MAGI).   For most taxpayers, MAGI is adjusted gross income (AGI) as figured on their federal income tax return before subtracting any deduction for tuition and fees. However, as discussed below, there may be other modifications.

MAGI when using Form 1040A.   If you file Form 1040A, your MAGI is the AGI on line 22 of that form, figured without taking into account any amount on line 19 (tuition and fees deduction).

MAGI when using Form 1040.   If you file Form 1040, your MAGI is the AGI on line 38 of that form, figured without taking into account any amount on line 34 (tuition and fees deduction) or line 35 (domestic production activities deduction), and modified by adding back any:
  1. Foreign earned income exclusion,

  2. Foreign housing exclusion,

  3. Foreign housing deduction,

  4. Exclusion of income by bona fide residents of American Samoa, and

  5. Exclusion of income by bona fide residents of Puerto Rico.

  Table 6-2 shows how the amount of your MAGI can affect your tuition and fees deduction.

  You can use Worksheet 6-1. MAGI for the Tuition and Fees Deduction , later, to figure your MAGI.

Table 6-2.Effect of MAGI on Maximum Tuition and Fees Deduction

IF your filing status is... AND your MAGI is... THEN your maximum tuition and fees deduction is...
single,  
head of household, or qualifying widow(er)
not more than $65,000 $4,000.
more than $65,000  
but not more than $80,000
$2,000.
more than $80,000 $0.
married filing joint return not more than $130,000 $4,000.
more than $130,000 
but not more than $160,000
$2,000.
more than $160,000 $0.

Claiming the Deduction

You claim a tuition and fees deduction by completing Form 8917 and submitting it with your Form 1040 or Form 1040A. Enter the deduction on Form 1040, line 34, or Form 1040A, line 19. A filled-in Form 8917 is shown at the end of this chapter.

Illustrated Example

Tim Pfister, a single taxpayer, enrolled full-time at a local college to earn a degree in engineering. This is the first year of his postsecondary education. During 2013, he paid $3,600 for his qualified 2013 tuition expense. Both he and the college meet all of the requirements for the tuition and fees deduction. Tim's total income (Form 1040, line 22) and MAGI are $26,000. He figures his deduction of $3,600 as shown on Form 8917, later.

Worksheet 6-1.MAGI for the Tuition and Fees Deduction

Use this worksheet if you are filing Form 2555, 2555-EZ, or 4563, or you are excluding income from sources within Puerto Rico. Before using this worksheet, you must complete Form 1040, lines 7 through 33, and figure any amount to be entered on the dotted line next to line 36.

1. Enter the amount from Form 1040, line 22   1.        
2. Enter the total from Form 1040, lines 23 through 33   2.              
3. Enter the total of any amounts entered on the dotted line next to Form 1040, line 36   3.              
4. Add lines 2 and 3   4.        
5. Subtract line 4 from line 1   5.        
6. Enter your foreign earned income exclusion and/or housing  
exclusion (Form 2555, line 45, or Form 2555-EZ, line 18)
  6.        
7. Enter your foreign housing deduction (Form 2555, line 50)   7.        
8. Enter the amount of income from Puerto Rico you are excluding   8.        
9. Enter the amount of income from American Samoa you are  
excluding (Form 4563, line 15)
  9.        
10. Add lines 5 through 9. This is your modified adjusted gross income   10.  
  Note. If the amount on line 10 is more than $80,000 ($160,000 if married filing jointly),  
you cannot take the deduction for tuition and fees.
     

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Form 8917 for Tim Pfister


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