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A Tax Write-Off?

Updated 12/27/2010

By Ann Zeise

This time of year I usually get several letters asking if there is any way homeschool expenses can be written off on taxes.

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.

No, donations of money or educational supplies to your homeschool may not be written off on the taxes of your kindly relatives.

I was asked if homeschooling could be regarded as a hobby and thus you could make some hobby deductions. 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 expenses but those incurred in support of paying customers.

You cannot contribute to your own child’s K12 education and get any 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(C) non-profit homeschool organizations.

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.

Tax Strategies for Parents of Kids with Special Needs
If you have a child with a severe learning disability, you may qualify for valuable tax benefits. If your child has AD/HD, or other physical, mental, or emotional impairment, you may also qualify for tax benefits. Because tax laws are complex, and many tax preparers often do not have occasion to use these unique tax benefits, families are at risk of losing refunds worth many thousands of dollars. The IRS allows taxpayers to file amended returns, and collect refunds for unclaimed tax benefits, retroactively up to three years.

Publication 970 (2009), Tax Benefits for Education
For use in preparing 2009 Returns. Watch for new form for 2010 Returns. This wasn’t posted in December 2010.

Tax Credits

There are now three states which have tax credits for homeschooling: Illinois, Minnesota and beginning with 2009 tax year, Louisiana.

Publication 119, Education Expense Credit General Rules and Requirements for Home Schools
This Illinois document provides home schools the requirements for qualified education expenses.

Qualifying expenses for the education credit and subtraction in Minnesota
Taxpayers who home school their children may have questions about which 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.

School Tuition & Expense Tax Deduction Goes Into Effect Beginning 2009 Tax Year
Parents of home school students will be allowed to deduct expenses for instructional materials. The eligible amount can be deducted from the parent’s state income tax when filing their 2009 tax returns, due May 15, 2010.

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!

State Tax Deductions or Credits for Homeschooling

Deductions For School Tuition, Home School Educational Expenses, And Public School Educational Expenses in Louisiana
This statute allows an income tax deduction for educational expenses paid during the tax year by a taxpayer for home-schooling children. The deduction is for 50 percent of the actual qualified educational expenses paid for the home-schooling per dependent, limited to $5,000. Qualified educational expenses include amounts paid for the purchase of textbooks and curricula necessary for home-schooling. The total amount of the deduction may not exceed the taxpayer’s total taxable income.

Tax Shelters

Coverdell Education Savings Accounts
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.

Other Homeschool Sites on this Topic

Are there ways of getting tax credits for home schooling?
There is a tax credit of up to $200 for teachers on federal taxes. Sounds great – right ! Sure if you are a teacher employed at a traditional accredited school (either public or private). Home school parents who teach their children do not qualify for this tax credit.

Dear Uncle CHiN
Can’t we deduct the expenses of homeschooling from our income taxes somehow? Signed, Wrung-out Taxpayer.

Federal tax credit for homeschoolers
Maybe I am missing something here, but it seems to me that most of us chose to exit the system in order to provide something rather dissimilar to the treatment of students enrolled in public education. Something better. What are our children missing out on that this money is going to rectify?

Home Education Tax Credit? No, Thanks!
While the idea of a tax deduction for homeschool materials may be appealing, consider that any government plan comes with requirements and restrictions. By Shay Seaborne.

Homeschool CPA
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.”

Homeschool Tax Credits: Pro and Con
VaHomeschoolers’ annual survey shows that Virginia’s home educators are divided on the subject of homeschool tax credits. Read the points below, and decide whether you are pro or con.

S-3076 – Home School Opportunities Make Education Sound Act of 2008
If the trend in the whole choice matter concerning schooling is that anyone who pays anything for a childs education, then relief from the alleged double taxation should apply across the board to all people who pay for any childs education. Support for a homeschoolers-only deduction looks self-centered.

Tax Credits: Carrots, Sticks, and Strings
The Kasemans explore education tax credits for homeschoolers – and explain why they’re not what they seem to be. By Larry & Susan Kaseman – HEM N/D 05

Tax credits for homeschooling families
January 7, 2008. I decided to get a better understanding of the effects of tax credits in general, and tuition tax credits in particular. This is my first step, so I’ll share what I find. Conclusions may have to wait, and the information will not be comprehensive because I’d like to get this posted while this conversation is still fresh.

Why Tax Credits Are Wrong for Homeschoolers
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?


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