If you do not normally file a federal tax return, you might consider filing this year. Congress continued the federal income tax credit available to students and their families with tuition and other eligible college related expenses for 2011.
If you are claimed as a dependent on another person's (such as your parents) tax return, only the person who claims you as a dependent can claim a credit for your qualified educational expenses.
The American Opportunity tax credit applies to the first four years of your undergraduate studies. You may claim up to $2,500 for this credit if you meet the income requirements and are attending school at least half-time. Even if your income level was not high enough during the year to incur federal income tax liability, up to 40 percent ($1,000) of the tax credit can be received as a refund.
The Lifetime Learning Credit helps parents and students pay for undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education. You may claim up to $2000 for qualified education expenses depending on your income level.
Depending on your individual circumstances, there are additional tax credits and deductions that may be better for you. For guidance, consult a tax advisor or view the IRS Publication - Tax Benefits for Education.
Your 1098-T form is available online through MyUW. If you have not opted out of receiving a paper copy, it will be mailed to you during the last week of January. The form will list your tuition and related fees, in addition to any scholarships, fellowships, and grants you received in the prior calendar year. If you have questions about your information, contact Student Fiscal Services.
Financial aid used solely for tuition, fees, books, and/or required course equipment and supplies is not taxable. In addition, student loans are not taxable income.
If you receive scholarships, grants, and/or fellowships that exceed your costs of tuition, fees, books, and required course-related equipment and supplies, you are required to report the excess funds as taxable income. Funds used to pay room & board, travel, and non-required equipment and supplies are also taxable.
If your award covers both tuition and room & board, the amount you use for tuition is tax-free, while the amount you use for room & board is taxable. Scholarship and fellowship recipients should retain fee statements, textbook receipts, and similar records to support their calculations of the non-taxable and taxable portions of their awards.
If you win a cash prize in a contest, it can only be considered a scholarship if you are required to use the money for educational purposes. If the prize can be used for non-educational expenses, it is not a scholarship regardless of how you used the funds.
Work Study income is taxable. You will receive a W-2 from the university in late January. Your W-2 will list your work study earnings for the prior year and this amount must be included on your income tax form. When you complete your FAFSA, remember to list your work study earnings under 'taxable earnings from need-based employment programs' in question 44 - Additional Financial Information.
A tax credit reduces your tax liability or the amount of taxes you owe, regardless of your tax bracket. A deduction will decrease your taxable income, with the amount of the deduction dependent upon your tax bracket. A $1,000 credit will reduce your taxes owed by $1,000, while a $1,000 deduction will decrease your income by $250 if you are in the 25% tax bracket.
It is best to calculate any credits and/or deductions you are eligible for, then select the one that benefits you the greatest.
Check with the IRS or a tax advisor for additional information or if you have questions.