Call us on

A New Tax Strategy For College Expenses

  Sanjiv Gupta CPA  Published 
A New Tax Strategy For College Expenses

There are a lot of families that make too much money for their beloved child to qualify for college aid that is need-based. The only way they can save money on college expenses is to focus on college tax aid. This is a tax saving that will help parents lower the total college cost. Currently, the stock market is reaching all-time highs. Parents are able to combine any investment gains using this strategy which could wipe out capital gains up to $25,000 during the years that their child is attending college. It is a great way to save for college as well as paying you dividends when you retire.

 Example of This Tax Strategy

You give your child an investment such as a mutual fund, EFT or appreciated stock. Your child can then use the personal exemption, American Opportunity Tax Credit and standard deduction to offset the $25,000 of long term capital gains for that year.

 Personal Exemption & Standard Deduction

Normally, parents claim the personal exemption ($3,900 for 2013) for their child in college because they provide more than 50% of the support during the year. If your child uses her own assets and income to provide more than 50% of their own support (approximately 50% of the college costs) than they can claim their own personal exemption instead of the parent claiming the exemption.

A dependent child standard deduction is the amount of income the child earns from $300 up to $6,100. If your child claims their own personal exemption because he/she provide more than 50% of his/her own support, he/she can get the personal exemption automatically in addition to taking the full standard deduction ($6,100 in 2013) no matter how much income he/she has earned.

American Opportunity Tax Credit

Your child can claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit if you do not claim this tax credit or claim that child as a personal exemption on your personal tax return. The American Opportunity Tax Credit is worth a maximum of $2,500 for each of the 4 college years. The amount of the tax credit is 100% of qualified tuition, costs, and fees that are paid in addition to 25% of the next $2,000 that was paid.

Kiddie Tax

An unearned income that is paid to children under 19 years old or if your child is attending college full time and is under 24 years old is subject to the Kiddie tax. In 2013, the first $1,000 of unearned income is tax-free, the second $1,000 of unearned income is taxed at the child’s tax rate and any other income over $2,000 is federally taxed at the parents’ federal tax rate.

A college student can avoid the Kiddie tax by providing more than 50% of his/her own support using earned income such as salary or wages. Understand that the requirement for the Kiddie tax is different from the personal exemption support test.

Example of Tax Savings

You gift your child appreciated assets of $14,000 per year for each permitted donor in 2013 or $28,000 for parents filing jointly. Your child will need to sell some of the assets during the year to pay for his/her own support. Your child realizes $25,000 in long term capital gains. Your child will use the money from selling the assets to enroll in a state university that costs $46,000 every year.

Your child will get the personal exemption, standard deduction and use the American Opportunity Tax Credit in order to offset the $25,000 long term capital gains for the year.

The personal exemption and standard deduction will reduce the capital gains of $25,000. The remaining taxable income will be $15,000 that will be taxed, under the Kiddie tax, at 15% (which is the parents' capital gains tax rate). The total tax will be $2,250. This will be completely eliminated when the American Opportunity Tax Credit of $2,500 is used.