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Student Loan Interest Deduction

Student Loan Interest Deduction

Mark Kantrowitz

May 18, 2009

Borrowers of federal and private education loans may deduct up to $2,500 in interest as an above-the-line exclusion from income. This deduction may be taken even if the taxpayer does not itemize.

Amount of the Deduction

You can deduct up to $2,500 in interest on a qualified education loan. The deduction is taken as an adjustment to income, so you can take the deduction even if you don’t itemize deductions on Schedule A of your 1040.

Qualified Education Loans

The interest must have been paid on a qualified education loan for you, your spouse, or someone who was your dependent when the money was borrowed.

A qualified education loan is defined as a debt borrowed solely to pay qualified higher education expenses. Mixed-use loans do not qualify. This means that if the borrower refinances their education loans and receives cash out, interest on the new loan is no longer deductible. However, if the excess cash is only used to pay for higher education expenses, the interest on the new loan remains deductible.

Interest on private education loans qualifies, provided that the higher education expenses are attributable to a particular academic period and the disbursement used to pay for those expenses occured during the academic period or a 90-day window at the start and end of the academic period. Education loans do not need to be federally guaranteed to qualify. The debt, however, may not be owed to anybody who is related to the borrower.

According to regulations published by the IRS on May 7, 2004, education loan origination fees and capitalized interest qualify as deductible education loan interest. The amounts are amortized over the term of the loan (i.e., divide the capitalized interest by the number of years of the loan). Lenders will start reporting origination fees and capitalized interest for loans made on or after September 1, 2004. Students and parents can claim the deductions for past years by filing amended income tax returns.

Note that the borrower must have been legally obligated to make payments under the terms of the loan. This means that if the borrower voluntarily makes payments of interest during a period when such payments are not required, such as during a forbearance, deferment or grace period, that interest is not deductible. However, if the interest is required as part of the forbearance or deferment agreement, then the interest is deductible.

Eligible education expenses include tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies, and equipment, transportation expenses, and other necessary expenses (as included in the school’s student budget).


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