Internal Revenue Service United States Department of the Treasury
Level Basic Advanced Military International

Adjustments to Income

Tuition and Fees

Eligibility

The deduction can be claimed for the taxpayer, the taxpayer's spouse (if filing a joint return), and any dependent (for whom the taxpayer claims a dependency exemption) who attended an eligible educational institution during the tax year.

The tuition and fees deduction cannot be claimed by married taxpayers who file separately or by an individual who is claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer's return.

In order to claim a deduction for expenses paid for a dependent who is the eligible student, the taxpayer must have paid the qualified expenses and claim an exemption for the dependent. If students are eligible to be claimed as a dependent (even if not actually claimed) and paid their own expenses, no one can take the adjustment. However, students who do not qualify as a dependent can claim the deduction, even if tuition and fees were paid by someone else. In that case, the students can treat the amounts paid for tuition and fees as a gift.

Taxpayers who are not eligible for the tuition and fees adjustment because of the dependency issue may be eligible for an education tax credit, these credits are covered in the Education Credits lesson.

Example

Juanita is married but uses the Married Filing Separately status. She cannot deduct tuition and fees.

Example

Joseph is 30. Although he lives at home and goes to school full-time, he earns about $5,000 each year, so his parents cannot claim him as a dependent. Only Joseph can take the tuition and fees adjustment.

Example

Carly is 18 and is claimed by her parents as a dependent. She took out student loans and paid all of her own tuition and fees. Carly cannot take the deduction because she is a dependent. Carly's parents cannot claim the deduction either because they did not pay the education expenses. Carly's parents may be eligible for one of the education credits.