Are Homeschool Expenses Tax Deductible?
Every April I get several letters asking if homeschool expenses can be written off as tax deductions or credits.
In this article, I’ll provide information on:
The simple answer is no, homeschool is not tax-deductible except in Illinois, Louisiana, and Minnesota. Homeschools in most states cannot be run as a business nor even as a non-profit as you do not charge your own children for their education, and you provide no community service to others than your own family. Your intent is not to make a profit, which is the rule-of-thumb for the IRS regarding home businesses. It is more like a hobby or paying for piano lessons. You are not under the control of a board of directors, unless you go to a lot of trouble to form a non-profit association. You’d probably have problems being allowed to do this for a homeschool.
December 19, 2017
The House passed the tax bill with those changes earlier on Tuesday. Later in the day, however, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that allowing 529 savings to be spent on home schooling violated Senate rules for the bill, the Associated Press reported. The Senate therefore passed the bill Tuesday without the tax-advantaged savings for home schooling costs paid for out of 529 plans, following a push by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who first highlighted the problem with the homeschooling provision.
Jeff Weston, executive director of the National Homeschool Association, said that while it’s “unfortunate” the provision was removed and it would have helped homeschooling families in the short term, in the long run, the assistance likely would have meant more government interference, like testing requirements or home visits.
No, donations of money or homeschool supply expenses may not be written off as tax-deductible.
I was asked if homeschooling could be regarded as a hobby, thus considering it a hobby deduction and approving it as a homeschool tax credit. This would be tough as the IRS regulations say you can only deduct up to the amount of income you make from the hobby.
Saying that, you can start ANOTHER kind of educational business, such as a tutoring service, in which case you would fall under tutoring laws and not homeschooling laws. You can start a private school, and thereby fall under THOSE laws. However, you still can’t write off any home education expenses but those incurred in support of paying customers. You may hire your children to do real work related to your business. Product testing and writing product reviews for your website is a real popular job!
You cannot contribute to your own child’s K12 education and get any homeschool tax deduction for it, no more than if you sent him to a private school and tried to write off the tuition. IRS regulations are pretty clear that you can only write off educational expenses that apply to post-high school expenses. The IRS states:
“For purposes of the tuition and fees deduction, an eligible student is a student who is enrolled in one or more courses at an eligible educational institution (as defined under Qualified Education Expenses, earlier). The student must have either a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) credential.“
You may take a charity donation tax deduction for donations to 501(3)(C) non-profit homeschool organizations. Most state-wide homeschool associations have that designation, but check first. Most local homeschool support groups do not, but a few may.
If you donate used curriculum to a non-profit, such as your local library, and carefully record the value of the donation, you may take this as a material donation to a charitable organization. Get a receipt.
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- The deduction is effective for tax years 2009 and forward.
- The school expense deductions are deductions from Louisiana taxable income—they are not tax credits.
Taxpayers who homeschool their children may have questions about which home education expenses are required as part of a “normal school day” (that is, expenses commonly required and purchased for subjects normally taught in public school grades K12). This fact sheet should help answer questions about qualifying home school expenses for the K-12 education subtraction and credit.
Education Expense Credit General Rules and Requirements for Home Schools
If you want the same benefits in your state, you’ll have to get some grass roots support for a law like Minnesota’s or Louisiana’s. Note that the law is for ANY parent purchasing educational material for their children. I do not know exactly what constitutes “required expenses” under this law. My guess is that it is for only those items that schools require their families to purchase. It may only include materials such as pencils and paper, and not include something like a backpack. It may include a new microscope, and then again it may not. Does family membership in a local museum count? Most likely only a membership for children MIGHT count, and then, maybe such a membership is not considered a “school supply.” Only a CPA can answer these questions for you.
Is the tax credit great enough to offset the invasion into your privacy? Do you need the tax credit badly enough to tell the state what you have been buying to educate your child with? What if someone “up there” doesn’t approve of your expenditures? Just something to consider. I hear that the deduction may result in tax payers paying about $35 less in taxes. Less than the price of one good math book these days. How much is your freedom worth?
I often ask homeschoolers if maybe they don’t think they get MORE use out of some things their tax dollars go for than average families. Most will admit to being heavy users of the public library and the local and regional parks. “Carschoolers” joke about probably using up more highway taxes than most!
Coverdell ESAs have an annual contribution limit of $2,000 (compared to their predecessor’s $500) and the funds can be used not only for college costs, but also for expenses in grades K-12. Families with children in public, private and religious schools can use the accounts to pay for things like books, supplies, after-school programs, tuition, tutoring, and even home computers. Although contributions to an ESA are not tax deductible (they weren’t for an education IRA either), the interest that accumulates is tax free, and withdrawals are not subject to taxation if used for qualified expenses. A noteworthy component of the program allows third parties, including relatives, friends, corporations, unions, and organizations, to contribute to an individual’s ESA.
Do Homeschool Parents Get a Tax Break?
The short answer is: No. Find out which education-related tax deductions and credits are not available to people who homeschool their children. You may NOT take the Educator Expense deduction as you are not a paid teacher. Tuition and Fees deduction are only for post-secondary expenses. You are not a Charity, but you may deduct contributions to homeschool services that are 501(c)(3) nonprofits. You may not take a Tax Credit. Here are tax breaks for parents.
What this all means is that that the deduction is intended to reimburse paid employees for out of pocket expenses.
Can’t we deduct the expenses of homeschooling from our income taxes somehow? Signed, Wrung-out Taxpayer.
The simple answer is “No; there are no tax credits for homeschool expenses from the federal government.” The longer answer is “Maybe, depending on what state you live in.”
The first problem with accepting tax credits is that it necessarily means that the government must define who is a home educator and who is not. Do you really want that?