October 12, 2017 | Posted in:

The End Is Here for the College Tuition Deduction

It’s hard enough to watch your child leave for college. Now you also have to say goodbye to the tuition and fees tax deduction. Congress decided not to extend this $4,000 deduction for 2017, leaving many parents worried that college will now be more expensive.


But before you stress, Julie Strohlein, CPA advises this: “The deduction didn’t apply to everyone, anyway.  Single taxpayers with an adjusted gross income over $80,000 (and married couples with AGI over $160,000) couldn’t take any deduction.  If the AGI was between $65,000 and $80,000 (or between $130,000 and $160,000 for married couples), the deduction was cut in half to $2,000.


This was a tax deduction, not a credit, so the actual dollars lost depend upon a taxpayer’s tax rate.  For example, a taxpayer in the 25% bracket will “lose” $1,000 in tax savings without this deduction.”


Tuition Tax Breaks

But it isn’t as bad as it sounds. That’s because Congress left in place two popular education credits that may offer a more valuable tax break:


“Tax credits are more valuable than deductions because credits reduce the amount of tax dollar for dollar, regardless of the taxpayer’s tax bracket,” explains Julie.


  • The AOTC. The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) is a credit of up to 2,500 per student per year for qualified undergraduate tuition, fees and course materials. The deduction phases out at higher income levels, and is eliminated altogether for married couples with a modified adjusted gross income of $180,000 ($90,000 for singles).


  • Lifetime Learning Credit. The Lifetime Learning Credit provides an annual credit of 20 percent on the first $10,000 of tuition and fees, for either undergraduate or graduate level classes. There is no lifetime limit on the credit, but only couples making less than $132,000 per year (or singles making $66,000) qualify. Unlike the AOTC, this deduction is per tax return, not per student.


Who Does This Impact?

So who is affected by the loss of the tuition and fees deduction? If you are paying for your student’s graduate-level courses and are making too much to qualify for the Lifetime Learning Credit, the tuition and fees deduction is generally the only means you have to reduce your tax bill.


Additional Tax Considerations for Education

But there’s still hope! In addition to the two alternative education credits, there are many other tax benefits that help reduce the cost of education. There are breaks for employer-provided tuition assistance, deductions for student loan interest, tax-beneficial college savings options, and many other tax-planning alternatives.


“Saving for college with a 529 plan is a great way to reduce taxes by setting aside money in a special account that can grow tax-free,” Julie suggests. “The earnings are never taxable as long as the funds are used for qualified higher education expenses.”


Please call if you’d like an overview of the alternatives available to you in your individual situation.



Additional IRS Resources and Updates:
© MC 2017 | “Financial Tips” are published monthly to provide useful financial information. The information contained in this site is of a general nature and should not be acted upon in your specific situation without further details and/or professional assistance. Visit for more information on managing your finances with a sound financial plan.


Empowering business owners and individuals in South Jersey and Philadelphia to feel confident through proactive accounting and advisory solutions.

About Us →    Our Solutions →    Follow @AlloyCPAs on Twitter →