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Tax incentives to send your college graduate to grad school

 

Tax incentives to send your college graduate to grad school

Brandon Lafving
by Brandon Lafving, IRS contributor (@TechDragoon)

These days it is more likely than not that your college graduate will be either unemployed or at least underemployed for at least a couple of years after graduation. And as a parent, you need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

What if after racking up student loan debt, your kid cannot find a job after graduation?

The Grad School Backup Plan

Many parents react negatively to the prospect of grad school after college without any work experience in between, but the fact is that the tax advantages available to student dependents might tip the scales toward grad school.

Let’s say the backup plan is this: if your child cannot find a job by August, roughly 3 months after graduation, then he/she will apply to grad schools. Following this plan, your kid would be enrolled in a master's or doctorate program one year and three months after graduation.

Here are the tax advantages you would reap:

  • The plan allows you to take the Earned Income Tax Credit in both years. If you only have one child living at home during this time, this can give you up to $6,000 in saved taxes over those two years.
  • An additional $2,000 from the Lifetime Learning Credit, per year of enrollment brings the fiscal advantages even higher.
  • Student loans can be refinanced so that the interest rate does not kick in until your kid has an MA or PhD. This can lead to thousands more in savings. On a loan of $20,000, a 6% interest rate costs $1,200 per year. This does not consider penalties for defaulting on the loan.
  • You can claim your child as a dependent  for a $3,800 deduction, even if he/she earns more than $3,800 a year.
  • Deduct qualified tuition expenses from your tax return by up to $4,000 (another $1,500 in value per year).

These savings are especially compelling when combined with the benefits of a grad school education on employability. There are plenty of master's programs, which lead to secure job opportunities. I am not only referring to business school, but specific programs that are designed to teach students relevant skills, which are highly sought after by employers today.

Considering the benefits of employability against the heavily subsidized costs, grad school has never been a more attractive option for your adult child.