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Tax Breaks for Higher Education

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Paying for college or any kind of post-secondary education can be expensive. Fortunately, our income tax system has credits, deductions, and other tax breaks for higher education. If you are saving for future expenses, the interest or growth in certain types of accounts is non-taxable income. If you are paying for post-secondary education or paying interest on student loans, you may be able to claim a credit or deduction. Deductions and non-taxable income reduce the amount of income on which you pay tax. Credits reduce the amount of tax you owe.

If you were eligible for a tax break in a previous year but failed to claim it, you can file an amended tax return. You have three years from the date you filed the original return or two years after the date you paid the tax, whichever is later, to file the amended return.

This fact sheet covers eight permanent tax breaks available under the federal income tax system. It includes changes made by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Scholarships, business deductions for work-related education, and state income tax rules are not covered. Updates and additional information about saving and paying for college, including the temporary Higher Education Expense Deduction, is posted on the University of Illinois Extension blog, Plan Well – Retire Well.

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