- Days left
For anyone with a child in college, filing a tax return for 2009 should be a little less painful.

While filing your taxes is the last thing you want to think of as the remaining free days of summer tick away, now is a good time to remind your college student to start saving book receipts and keep track of other college expenses before they start spending.

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more parents and students will qualify for the tax credit called the American Opportunity Credit for tax years 2009 and 2010, and their tax credits will increase from $1,800 under the Hope Credit, to $2,500 under the new plan.

"It is a very valuable benefit. It is really about putting more money in your pocket," said Bob Meighan, vice president of tax software giant TurboTax.

While the American Opportunity Credit is an extension and expansion of the Hope Credit, some taxpayers may need tax software to determine if other deductions or credits, such as the Lifelong Learning Credit, are better for them and "give the biggest bang for the buck," Meighan said.

Basically, anyone paying $4,000 or more a year for college qualifies for the maximum American Opportunity annual benefit of $2,500 per student.

"This presumably opens the door for kids who wouldn't be able to afford it," he said.

The new credit adds books and required course materials to the list of qualifying expenses, as well as tuition and fees, and allows the credit to be claimed for four post-secondary education years instead of two.

The full credit is for individuals with modified adjusted gross incomes of $80,000 or less, or $160,000 or less more married couples filing a joint return, according to the IRS. Partial credit is given to single filers making $80,000 to $90,000, and married couples making $160,000 to $180,000.

The tax break is also partially refundable, allowing lower income families with little or no tax liability to claim some of the credit.

Meighan points out that it's important to know the different between credits and deductions. The full amount of a tax credit, such as $2,500 for the American Opportunity Credit, can be deducted from the tax you'd pay. Deductions are taken out at your tax rate, typically 25% more for many people.

For example, $5,000 in college expenses being used as a tax deduction at a 25% tax rate would equal a $1,250 deduction.

For keeping track of tuition and fees paid at college, your student's college should send out a 1098T form listing such fees, Meighan said. Books won't be on there, so students should keep receipts. The tax credit is for the first $2,000 of qualifying expenses and 25% of the next $3,000. Interest paid on student loans are also deductible from taxes.

"None of us likes taxes," Meighan said. "None of us are experts on them. We tend to think there are breaks out there, but we're not sure."

If you're in college or have a child in college, the American Opportunity Credit is one tax credit you don't want to miss out on when filing taxes next year.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reach him at www.AaronCrowe.net

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Intro to different retirement accounts

What does it mean to have a 401(k)? IRA?

View Course »

Economics 101

Intro to economics. But fun.

View Course »

TurboTax Articles

Video: Who Qualifies for an Affordable Care Act Exemption (Obamacare)?

The Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. But, who qualifies for an Affordable Care Act exemption? Find out more about who qualifies for an exemption from the Affordable Care Act tax penalty, how to claim an exemption on your tax return and how the Affordable Care Act may affect your taxes with this video from TurboTax.

Video: How to Claim the Affordable Care Act Premium Tax Credit (Obamacare)

The Affordable Care Act Premium Tax Credit is a new refundable tax credit that can lower your monthly health insurance premiums. If you qualify for the tax credit, you can claim the Premium Tax Credit throughout the year to lower your monthly health insurance premiums, or claim the credit with your tax return to either lower your overall tax bill or increase your tax refund.

Deducting Summer Camps and Daycare with the Child and Dependent Care Credit

If you paid a daycare center, babysitter, summer camp, or other care provider to care for a qualifying child under age 13 or a disabled dependent of any age, you may qualify for a tax credit of up to up to 35 percent of qualifying expenses of $3,000 for one child or dependent, or up to $6,000 for two or more children or dependents.

What Is Schedule H: Household Employment Taxes

If you hire people to do work around your house on a regular basis, they might be considered household employees. Being an employer comes with some responsibilities for paying and reporting employment taxes, which includes filing a Schedule H with your federal tax return. But even if you have household employees, filing Schedule H is required only if the total wages you pay them is more than certain threshold amounts specified by federal tax law.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum