Office of Planning and Budgeting

Will Expanded Higher Ed Tax Credit be Made Permanent?

The federal Recovery Act of 2009 included a two year expanded higher education tax credit (based on the existing Hope Tax Credit). The new American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) maxes out at $2,500, can be redeemed for up to four years, is partially refundable (up to 40%), and eligibility does not start to phase out until joint household income reaches $160,000 per year. Overall, the AOTC is a much more inclusive and expansive tax credit when compared to the existing and permanent Hope and Lifetime credits.

A new report from the US Department of the Treasury provides details on the AOTC benefits provided to Americans during 2009 and 2010. They find that The AOTC has been a great help to families across the nation facing larger than normal tuition increases as state higher education budgets have been cut deeply.

  • 12.5 million students/families received a higher ed tax incentive in 2009.
  • AOTC increased total tax incentives for higher ed by over 90%, from $9.6b in 2008 to $18.2b in 2009.
  • AOTC recipients got an average tax credit of $1,700, a 75% increase over the average credit received via the Hope or Lifetime credits in 2008.
  • 4.5 million students and families were able to take advantage of the new refundable status of the AOTC, receiving an average of $800 that they would not have previously qualified for.

The AOTC is set to expire next year. The Obama administration has called for Congress to make the expanded credit permanent (at an estimated cost of $58 billion over 10 years). Visit the Federal Relations website, and keep up with their Federal Report for news of any action that Congress may take on this issue in the coming weeks and months, and keep an eye on the OPB website and blog for news about what changes in these tax credits might mean for UW students and their families.

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