college

College Students: The Gray Area of Exemptions

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!  

There’s still time to take advantage of last-minute, tax-saving moves for dependency exemptions. For 2014, there are bigger dependency exemptions, as well as rules that, in some cases, are dauntingly complex. Read the below article by Julian Block from Accounting Web!

1900419_830540933635821_8455817655413948302_o

The 2014 exemption is worth $3,950, up from the 2013 figure of $3,900. But you can’t take an exemption for an individual who is eligible to be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return. An example: No exemption for a child on the child’s return when he or she can be claimed on the parent’s return.

The basic rules haven’t changed: To claim a 2014 exemption for a dependent, you must furnish more than half of the dependent’s total support for the year or, under a multiple support agreement, more than 10 percent. Generally, the exemption is lost if a dependent’s reportable income for 2014 surpasses $3,950. However, only income from taxable sources counts. Funds received by a dependent from tax-exempt sources like Social Security benefits, inheritances and gifts don’t count.

But there’s a break: Assuming you meet the support test, the tax code sets no limit on the amount of a dependent’s reportable income when your child is either (1) under age 19 at the close of 2014 or (2) a full-time college student who spends at least five months of the year in school and won’t reach the age of 24 by the close of 2014. Note, though, that the income cap does apply when your college-attending child has income above $3,950 and will be 24 by 2014’s close.

Some strategies. Are you supporting a son or daughter in college? In some cases, you need to remind your child to bank part of his or her earnings or to spend some money on nonsupport items; meanwhile, you take care of support items like food, lodgings, clothing, education, medical and dental care, recreation, transportation and similar necessities. Why? Because that maneuver might enable you to pass the support test and get the exemption for 2014.

Count as support the “fair rental value” of the lodgings you provide for a child living with you; add a reasonable allowance for use of telephone, electricity, furnishings, appliances and the like. “Fair rental value,” says the IRS, is the amount you could reasonably expect to receive from a stranger for the same kind of lodgings, not the rent or real estate taxes, mortgage interest, an so on, paid by you that’s attributable to the space involved. Also include the value of a year-round room you maintain for an away-at-college child and the food you provide while he or she is at home during a school recess.

Don’t count a scholarship in calculating total support. It makes no difference that your child actually uses the award for education and other support items. As for GI Bill benefits and the proceeds from college loans secured by the student, they are support the child provides. But any loan for a child’s education secured by you is support you furnish.

The IRS strictly defines “student.” Your son or daughter must be enrolled on a full-time basis for a minimum of five months in the calendar year in an educational institution with a regular faculty, an established curriculum, and an organized student body.

The IRS authorizes no exceptions to the five-month rule. But your child doesn’t have to be enrolled for five consecutive months or even five full months.

An example: Clarice Lecter registers for a full-time course load in January, with classes to run from February through May. With that time span, Clarice satisfies the time requirement, provided she completes the semester.

The IRS allows her to include some night attendance as part of a full-time course of study. But the agency cautions that if Clarice attends exclusively at night, she must enroll for the number of hours or classes that’s considered full-time attendance.

Just how inflexible the agency is on the time stipulation is underscored by an IRS ruling that was sought by the parents of a 19-year-old student who dropped out of school after four months following hospitalization for a nervous breakdown. He was unable to return to school for the remainder of the year. The verdict: No exception from the five-month requirement, regardless of the son’s reason for leaving school. Consequently, the parents couldn’t claim an exemption for him.

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Bedford Hills NY, Chappaqua NY, Harrison NY, Scarsdale NY, White Plains NY, Mt. Kisco NY, Pound Ridge NY, Greenwich CT and beyond.

 

Education Expenses FAQs

Scarsdale accountant Paul Herman has all the answers to your personal finance questions! The following are frequently asked questions our Westchester CPA firm receives regarding education expenses. Get to know these important financial tips to save as much as possible!
 Are there available tax breaks for my children’s education?

There are many different ways to use tax breaks for the higher education of your children. Be aware that you can only receive one type of relief for one item. It is best to consult with a professional to determine which would be the most advantageous.

▼ What is the education tax credit?

You must make a choice between two types of tax education credit.

▼ What is a Coverdell (Section 530)?

An education IRA is different than a standard IRA in these ways:

  • Withdrawals aren’t taxed if used for qualified education expenses.
  • Contributions can be made only up until the point that the client reaches 18, and all funds must be distributed by the time that they are 30.
  • Contributions are not tax deductible
 How can I best use the Coverdell (section 530)?

It is possible to have various 530 accounts for the same student, each opened by different family members or friends. There is no limit to the number of people that can open an account like this for a child.

Education expenses from scarsdale cpa

Get to know the expenses that come with education to save as much as possible!

The account can be transferred to another family member at any time. If the original child decides against going to college or is granted a scholarship, another family member can still utilize the money that has been saved.

▼ What is a qualified tuition program?

The Section 529 is a college savings program available in most states. Money is invested to cover the costs of future education. These investments grow tax free and the distributions may also be tax-free.

▼ What differentiates the Coverdell Section 530 and the Section 529?

  • The Section 529 allows for much larger yearly investments, whereas the Section 530 currently only allows for $2000 annually.
  • The choice of investments in the Section 529 is extremely conservative and limited while the Section 530 allows for many different options.
  • The Section 530 is a nationwide program while the 529 varies from state to state.
  • The Section 530 will let you use its funds for primary and secondary education, while the Section 529 can only be used for secondary.
▼ Can I take money from my traditional or Roth IRA to fund my child’s education?

Yes, you can take distributions from your IRAs for qualifying education expenses without having to pay the 10% additional tax penalty. You may owe income tax on at least part of the amount distributed, but not the additional penalty. The amount of the distribution that is more than the education expense does not qualify for the 10% tax exception.

▼ What tax deductions can be used for college education?

There is a limited deduction allowed for higher education and related expenses. In addition, business expense deductions are allowed, without a dollar limit, for education related to the taxpayer’s business, employment included.

▼ Is student loan interest tax deductible?

In certain instances, yes, although deductions need to adhere to a few guidelines. The deduction is also subject to income phaseouts.

  • The deduction ceiling is $2,500.
  • If you are a dependant, you may not claim the interest deduction.
  • You need to be the person liable for the debt and the loan must be purely for education.
▼ Can I deduct for education that helps at the workplace?

If you are receiving this education to maintain or improve skills at your current job, yes, but not if it is to meet the minimum requirements.

Our Scarsdale tax preparers here at Herman & Company CPA’s are here for all your financial needs. Please contact us for all inquiries and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Bedford Hills NY, Chappaqua NY, Pound Ridge NY, Scarsdale NY, Rye NY, Mamaroneck NY, Stamford CT and beyond.

Photo Credit: College Degrees 360 via Photopin cc

Taxes on College Savings Accounts

Scarsdale accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s has all the answers to your personal finance questions!

In recent years, parents have lent an ear to a similar tune: Take the reins of any and every type of tax-advantaged savings account in order to save for your children’s enormous college bills. The message has resonated very clear. A majority of families are now saving for college using on average two types of college savings vehicles. Almost 16% of households are using three. College Savings and Taxes Tips from Scarsdale AccountantOften, this mix includes the more traditional accounts, such as Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA), as well as tax-deferred education programs like 529 Savings Plans and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). Alternatively, other households are investing in a combination of aforementioned tax-advantaged plans, and taxable brokerage accounts.

There is a scary measure to this story: After spending several years trying to decipher UGMAs, ESAs, IRAs, and 529s to figure out the best path, parents face the equally confusing task of determining how to properly utilize these accounts under the tax code when their child is ready for college. Even for those parents with consolidated accounts, determining how to distribute these savings is not cut and dry. The decision could dictate financial aid grants, as well as affect the household’s tax rate.

Aid considerations are a big reason that planners suggest that parents holding traditional custodial accounts like UGMAs deplete those first to pay for initial college costs. The reasoning is that money saved in a custodial account is held in the child’s name to take advantage of his/her lower tax bracket. Furthermore, anything held in a child’s name considered “for college money” as opposed to monies held by parents (35 percent of the student’s assets are considered “tuition eligible” while only 5.6 percent of the parental assets are considered).

This is just one area in which choosing the correct 529 plan can diminish your tax liability. Please contact our Westchester CPA firm with any further questions about your secondary education questions and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Scarsdale NY, Katonah NY, Mount Kisco NY, Rye NY, Bedford NY and beyond.

 Photo Credit: Tax Credits via Photopin cc

Higher Education Costs Continue to Escalate

Scarsdale Tax Preparers at Herman & Company CPA’s have all the answers to your personal finance questions!

The choice to attend college is inevitable for most people. College graduates have been statistically proven to earn substantially more than non-college graduates over the course of their lifetimes and report a greater overall satisfaction with life.

Scarsdale-Accountant-Information-College-Costs

Many more students will be feeling like this with the increasing cost of college.

 

However, it is important to understand that the cost of attending college also continues to increase. The College Board reports that 2012-2013 tuition and fees have risen significantly. Private four-year colleges are up 4.2% (to an average of $29,056) from 2011-2012 for tuition and fees.

 

Public four-year colleges are up 4.8% (to an average of $8,655) from last year for in-state tuition and fees. Public four-year colleges are up 4.2% (to an average of $21,706) from last year for out-of-state tuition and fees. Even public two-year schools are up 5.8% (to an average of $3,131). The report indicates that the subsidies provided to full-time undergraduates at public universities through the combination of grant aid and federal tax benefits averaged $5,750 in 2012-2013.

 

While the cost of attending college may seem daunting, there are plenty of options available for financing your education. Contact us to discuss your options in a free consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Scarsdale NY, Purchase NY, Larchmont NY, Mamaroneck NY, Katonah NY and beyond.

 Photo Credit: Nastassia Davis via Photopin cc

Coverdell Savings Accounts

Scarsdale CPA Paul Herman at Herman & Company CPA’s has all the answers to your personal finance questions! The following is an explanation on Coverdell Education Savings Accounts by the IRS:

A Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) is a savings account created as an incentive to help parents and students save for education expenses.The total contributions for the beneficiary (who is under age 18 or is a special needs beneficiary) of this account in any year cannot be more than $2,000, no matter how many accounts have been established. College Saving Tips from Scarsdale CPA with CoverdellThe beneficiary will not owe tax on the distributions if, for a year, the distributions from an account are not more than a beneficiary’s qualified education expenses at an eligible education institution. This benefit applies to higher education expenses as well as to elementary and secondary education expenses.

Generally, any individual (including the beneficiary) can contribute to a Coverdell ESA if the individual’s modified adjusted gross (MAGI) income is less than an annual, constantly changing maximum. Usually, MAGI for the purpose of determining your maximum contribution limit is the adjusted gross income (AGI) shown on your tax return increased by the following exclusion from your income: foreign earned income of U.S. citizens or residents living abroad, housing costs of U.S. citizens or residents living abroad, and income from sources within Puerto Rico or American Samoa. Contributions to a Coverdell ESA may be made until the due date of the contributor’s return, without extensions.

 

Here are some key points to keep in mind about Distributions from Coverdell Accounts:

  • Distributions are tax-free as long as they are used for qualified education expenses, such as tuition and fees, required books, supplies and equipment and qualified expenses for room and board.
  • There is no tax on distributions if they are for enrollment or attendance at an eligible educational institution. This includes any public, private or religious school that provides elementary or secondary education as determined under state law. Eligible institutions also include any college, university, vocational school or other postsecondary educational institution eligible to participate in a student aid program administered by the Department of Education. Virtually all accredited public, nonprofit, and proprietary (privately owned profit-making) postsecondary institutions are eligible.
  • The Hope and lifetime learning credits can be claimed in the same year the beneficiary takes a tax-free distribution from a Coverdell ESA, as long as the same expenses are not used for both benefits.
  • If the distribution exceeds qualified education expenses, a portion will be taxable to the beneficiary and will usually be subject to an additional 10% tax.  Exceptions to the additional 10% tax include the death or disability of the beneficiary or if the beneficiary receives a qualified scholarship.

If there is a balance in the Coverdell ESA when the beneficiary reaches age 30, it must generally be distributed within 30 days. The portion representing earnings on the account will be taxable and subject to the additional 10% tax. The beneficiary may avoid these taxes by rolling over the full balance to another Coverdell ESA for another family member. For more details, see IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Higher Education (at IRS.gov) or call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).   

Links:

American Opportunity Credit Helps Pay for First Four Years of College

College Students May be Eligible for Tax Breaks According to Scarsdale CPA

The American Opportunity Tax Credit can help college students save big bucks!

Scarsdale CPA Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s has all the answers to your personal finance questions!

More parents and students can use a federal education credit to offset part of the cost of college under the  American Opportunity Credit. Income guidelines are expanded and required course materials are added to the list of qualified expenses. Many of those eligible will qualify for the maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student.

In many cases, the American Opportunity Credit offers greater tax savings than existing education tax breaks. Here are some of its key features:

  • Tuition, related fees and required course materials, such as books, generally qualify. In the past, books usually were not eligible for education-related credits and deductions.
  • The credit is equal to 100 percent of the first $2,000 spent and 25 percent of the next $2,000. That means the full $2,500 credit may be available to a taxpayer who pays $4,000 or more in qualified expenses for an eligible student.
  • The full credit is available for taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $80,000 or less ($160,000 or less for filers of a joint return). The credit is reduced or eliminated for taxpayers with incomes above these levels. These income limits are higher than under the existing Hope and lifetime learning credits.
  • Forty percent of the American Opportunity Credit is refundable. This means that even people who owe no tax can get an annual payment of the credit of up to $1,000 for each eligible student. Existing education-related credits and deductions do not provide a benefit to people who owe no tax. The refundable portion of the credit is not available to any student whose investment income is taxed, or may be taxed, at the parent’s rate, commonly referred to as the kiddie tax. See IRS Publication 929, Tax Rules for Children and Dependents, for details.

Though most taxpayers who pay for post-secondary education qualify for the American Opportunity Credit, some do not. The limitations include a married person filing a separate return, regardless of income, joint filers whose MAGI is $180,000 or more and, finally, single taxpayers, heads of household and some widows and widowers whose MAGI is $90,000 or more.

There are some post-secondary education expenses that do not qualify for the American Opportunity Credit. They include expenses paid for a student who, as of the beginning of the tax year, has already completed the first four years of college. That’s because the credit is only allowed for the first four years of a post-secondary education.

Students with more than four years of post-secondary education still qualify for the lifetime learning credit and the tuition and fees deduction.

For details on these and other education-related tax benefits, please contact us or see IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.

Tax Breaks for Families and Students

Westchester NY CPA Paul Herman has all the answers to your personal finance questions!

Scarsdale CPA tax tips for families

You may be eligible for select tax breaks as a student or family

Recent legislation made permanent or extended several tax breaks for families. In addition, several education breaks were made permanent or extended.

Child Credit. For 2013 and beyond, the maximum credit for an eligible under-age-17 child (Child Credit) was scheduled to drop from $1,000 to only $500. The legislation permanently installs the $1,000 maximum credit.

Adoption Expenses. The Bush tax cut package included a major liberalization of the adoption tax credit and also established tax-free employer adoption assistance payments. These taxpayer-friendly provisions were scheduled to expire at the end of 2012. The credit would have been halved and limited to only special needs children. Tax-free adoption assistance payments from employers would have disappeared. The legislation permanently extends the more-favorable Bush-era rules.

Education Credit. The American Opportunity Credit, worth up to $2,500, can be claimed for up to four years of undergraduate education and is 40% refundable. It was scheduled to expire at the end of 2012. The legislation extends the American Opportunity Credit through 2017.

College Tuition Deduction. This write-off, which can be as much as $4,000 at lower income levels and as much as $2,000 at higher income levels, expired at the end of 2011. The legislation retroactively restores the deduction for 2012 and extends it through 2013.

Student Loan Interest Deduction. The student loan interest write-off can be as much as $2,500 (whether the taxpayer itemizes or not). Less favorable rules were scheduled to kick in for 2013 and beyond. The legislation permanently extends the more favorable rules that have applied in recent years.

Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. For 2013 and beyond, the maximum contribution to federal-income-tax-free Coverdell college savings accounts was scheduled to drop from $2,000 to only $500, and a stricter phase-out rule would have limited contributions by many married filing joint couples. The legislation makes permanent the favorable rules that have applied in recent years.

Please contact us for all financial inquiries and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Scarsdale NY, Larchmont NY, Mamaroneck NY, Rye NY, Chappaqua NY, Katonah NY and beyond.

Any U.S. tax advice contained in the body of this website is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.