How to Claim Student Loan Tax Credits and Deductions

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If you owe student loan debt, student loans likely take a good chunk out of your budget, as the average monthly student loan payment for borrowers ages 20 to 30 is around $351 per month. Unfortunately, not all of the money you pay goes towards reducing your loan balance either — some of the money goes towards paying interest on your loans.

The good news is, the government gives most borrowers a little help with interest costs. While there are no student loan tax credits for borrowers who are repaying their student loans, there is a tax deduction for up to $2,500 in student loan interest that allows qualified borrowers to reduce taxable income. There are also a few credits you can take to help cover costs while you’re in school.

Read on to find out more about whether the student loan interest deduction or any of the available student loan tax credits could help you.

What are your options for claiming a student loan tax credit?

There are tax credits for education, but eligibility varies depending upon whether you’re currently in school and paying tuition or whether you’re out of school and already paying back student loans.

“There are credits and deductions available to people paying tuition in the current year,” Helena Swyter of SweeterCPA said in an interview. The Department of Education lists the two student loan tax credits that are available:

The American Opportunity Credit

The American Opportunity Credit (AOC) is worth up to $2,500 per student per year, but it can only be claimed for a maximum of four total tax years per student. There are specific qualifying requirements including:

  • The student must be attending school at least half-time for at least one academic term.
  • The student must not have finished the first four years of a post-secondary program prior to the end of the tax year.
  • The student must be pursuing a program that will end with a degree or other recognized credential.

Parents often claim this credit while their kids are in college. To claim the credit, parents or students should make sure they have Form 1098-T, which is provided by the school to report tuition received.

The Lifetime Learning Credit

This credit is worth up to $2,000 per year per student for tuition, books, fees, and supplies for any student pursuing college or career education. Students don’t need to be enrolled for a minimum number of hours to claim the credit, and there’s no limit on how many years the credit can be claimed.

Unfortunately, if you’re already out of school, you aren’t eligible for either of these credits even if you took out student loans to pay for education. “For student loans, there’s really just the student loan interest deduction, so it’s a much shorter list of options,” Swyter said.

Claiming the student loan interest deduction

If you’re already out of school, you might be eligible for a valuable tax deduction even though you don’t qualify for student loan tax credits anymore. “Every year, you can deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest,” Swyter said.

More than 12 million borrowers deducted student loan interest on their tax returns in 2015, according to the most current IRS report. CNBC reports that close to 30% of all Americans with outstanding student loan debt took advantage of this tax deduction.

This deduction could save you hundreds of dollars on your tax bill, with Forbes reporting the maximum savings for claiming the deduction is $625.

However, it’s important to realize the deduction will save you less than a credit would. As the Tax Policy Center explains, deductions reduce your taxable income, while tax credits reduce the amount you owe in taxes. For example:

  • If you owed $1,000 in taxes and receive a $500 credit, you’d subtract the credit from your taxes due. Your new tax bill would be $1,000 (taxes due) – $500 (credit) = $500. Your savings is $500.
  • If you receive a $500 deduction and you’re in the 15% tax bracket, your taxable income is reduced by $500 and you save 15% on the money you didn’t pay taxes on. Your savings is $500 (the money you’re not taxed on) * 15% (your tax bracket). Your savings is $75.

How much can the student loan tax deduction save you?

The amount you’ll save if you claim the student loan tax deduction varies depending on your tax rate and the amount of student loan interest you deduct.

As CNBC explains, it’s classified as an “above-the-line” deduction. This means you don’t have to itemize your taxes in order to claim the deduction. You can directly reduce your taxable income by including the interest amount on your tax return.

“This deduction will appear on the front page of your tax return and reduce your Adjusted Gross Income — thus reducing your income subject to taxation,” Swyter said. If you had $40,000 in income but you claim the $2,500 student loan interest deduction, you’d only have to pay taxes on $37,500 in income. Since you pay taxes on less income, you reduce the total taxes you owe.

You can get a rough idea of how much you’ll save by multiplying the amount of student loan interest you can deduct by your tax bracket. If you paid $1,000 in student loan interest and you’re in the 22% tax bracket, you’d multiply $1,000 * 22% to determine that you’d save around $220.

If you want to find out exactly how much you can save, use our Student Loan Interest Deduction calculator.

This chart also shows how much you could have saved if you paid various amounts of student loan interest in 2016 and earned $40,456 annually (the median earnings for 25 to 34-year-olds in the third quarter of 2017 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
student loan tax credit

Are you eligible to take the student loan tax deduction?

Whether you are eligible for the student loan interest deduction will vary depending upon your income, how you file your taxes, and whether anyone claims you as a dependent.

“There is an income limit for this deduction,” Swyter said. “If your modified adjusted gross income is over $65,000 for someone filing single or $135,000 for couples filing jointly, the deduction starts to phase out until it is completely eliminated at $80,000 for a single person or $165,000 for a joint return.”

You also have to meet other requirements. The IRS indicates you can claim the deduction if:

    • You paid interest on a qualified student loan: A qualified student loan is a loan that was taken out for you, your spouse, or any person who was your dependent at the time you took out the loan. The loan must have been taken out for educational expenses during an academic year and the interest that you are deducting must have been incurred or paid out within a reasonable time period before or after you took out the loan.
    • You were legally obligated to pay the interest that you paid. Your modified adjusted gross income was below the annual maximum at which the deduction phases out.

“People who file using the Married Filing Separately status cannot claim this deduction,” Swyter said. “If your parents (or anyone else) claims you on their return, you are also not eligible for the deduction.”

You can only take the student loan tax deduction when you’re paying interest on student loans that you actually used to pay for school-related expenses, according to TurboTax. Room and board during school counts; however, if you used any of your student loans to fund personal expenses not related to education, you must reduce your deduction so you aren’t deducting interest paid on this portion of your loans.

How to claim the student loan interest deduction

To claim your student loan tax deduction, you must be the legal owner of the loan. If you’ve made payments on a loan that isn’t yours, you won’t be able to take the deduction. However, the good news is, if someone else made payments on your loan for you, like a parent, you can take the deduction anyway.

To get started, you’ll need to know how much you paid and will need to fill in the right form on your tax return.

student loan tax credit

Image credit: IRS 1040 Form

“You should receive a form from your school or student loan processor (called a 1098-E) showing the total interest you paid for the tax year,” according to Swyter. You’ll input this amount on line 33 of your Form 1040. The deduction will reduce your taxable income, so your adjusted gross income in line 37 will be reduced by the amount of interest you paid.

How to make the most of student loan tax credits and deductions

To make the most of your student loan tax credits and deductions, be sure to claim any tuition credits you are eligible for while still in school. Once you graduate and begin paying interest, claim your student loan deduction in any year which you are eligible.

There’s never a reason not to claim student loan tax credits that you are eligible for, as you don’t want to pay more taxes than you need while trying to cover the costs of your education.

Stephanie Halligan and Miranda Marquit contributed to this article.

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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.30% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.


2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.

Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.


3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 7.979% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.470% APR to 6.990% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.470% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.30% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.


5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.

All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.


6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of November 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.29%. Variable interest rates range from 2.79%-8.39% (2.79%-8.39% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The cosigner (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a cosigner will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.