Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Milk your tuition expenses

Throughout January, I collect tax documents that show up in our mailbox and toss them in The Tax Pile. We don't itemize, have investment income, or do anything particularly complicated -- we each have one W-2, I have a few 1099s from freelancing, and I have a 1098-E each year for student loan interest. That's it.

So it rarely occurs to me to look for tax deductions for which some financial institution has not sent me a form. But as I was buzzing through TaxAct, the screen on tuition expenses caught my eye. Well, hmm. New School never sent me any forms, but I have tuition expenses in spades thanks to the endless Finish My Degree project. So I started researching what I can deduct.

I don't appear to qualify for Hope or lifetime learning credits, but I do nail the tuition and fees deduction, which allows you to lower your federal taxable income by up to $4,000. You can still claim the deduction on expenses you're using student loans to pay. Score! Claiming this got me nearly $1,000 extra back on my refund. New York State also let me deduct tuition expenses -- up to $10,000, this time. That notched my state refund up a few hundred.

If you're eligible, make sure to claim 'em. Maybe the memory of the deductions will ease the pain a bit next time I hand New School another of its gigantic tuition checks.