Back to School Tax Time

Now’s the time of year when kids across America start heading back to school. New kindergartners eagerly don their snazziest big-kid outfits to pose for smiles and pictures. (The tears come after they get dropped off. We’re talking the mom and dad, of course.) New high-schoolers hit the snooze button and look forward to sleeping through morning classes. (Why yank teens out of bed so early when their younger siblings are up before sunrise without alarms?) And new college students can’t wait for the independence of campus life, because beer. (Their empty-nester parents wonder if it’s finally time to treat themselves to that divorce they’ve always wanted, then look at the tuition bills and sigh in disappointment.)

You know who else is busy this time of year? That’s right, the tax man! Here are some random musings on some of the things that happen when back-to-school time meets tax time:

  • Many states offer sales tax holidays for back-to-school shopping. Ohio is typical: from Friday, August 5 through Sunday, August 7 (2016 only), there was no tax on clothing priced at $75 or less, school supplies priced at $20 or less, and school instructional materials priced at $20 or less. Of course, those back-to-school sales tax holidays are just like your old homework assignments — you can’t get credit if you miss the deadline!
  • Teachers are naturally on the front lines of shrinking school budgets, and they often chip in with their own money to fill the gaps. (Ironic, right, considering how generously they get paid!) The Educator Expense Deduction lets teachers who work full-time at any accredited school deduct up to $250 they pay for books, school supplies, computer equipment and software, and even athletic equipment they buy on behalf of their students. For years, this has been one of those deductions Congress scrambled to extend every December — last year, Congress finally gave our kids’ long-suffering teachers a break and made it permanent.
  • Student loan debt has topped a trillion dollars, and loan forgiveness programs have sprung up to help borrowers who go on to work for qualifying employers like governments and 501(c)(3) not-for-profits. But those service-minded borrowers may face an unexpected surprise: sometimes the amount forgiven is considered taxable income! Sure, eliminating, say, $40,000 would be welcome relief for a hardworking teacher or social worker. But what about the $10,000 tax bill that comes with it?
  • You probably wouldn’t think a college degree would be tax-deductible. And there’s no deduction for training that prepares you for anew job. But if your graduate program is intended to improve or enhance your skills for your current job — or if your employer requires you to get an advanced degree — you may be able to deduct your tuition and other expenses. Let’s say you’re a tax lawyer, and you want to brush up on your skills. That $40,000 you drop on a Master of Laws degree may get you a raise and a deduction. (Now you know why tax lawyers drive Jaguars!)

Here’s today’s lesson — pay attention, because there willbe a quiz. When it comes to taxes, school is never out! The more you know and the more you plan, the less you’ll waste on taxes you don’t have to pay. So call us before exams and let us help with the tutoring you need!