Help Get the Word Out
February 25, 2013
Many government programs that benefit college and university students are underutilized. Colleges and universities can help the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Education, and Department of Veterans Affairs bring these benefits to students' attention.
Encourage your students to file returns and claim their credits!
The Internal Revenue Service has published the 2012 version of its go-to resource for education tax benefits, Publication 970.
The IRS has completed updates to its systems and is now ready to accept returns claiming the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit. Students can use recently-revised Form 8863 to do so. The AOTC is partially refundable, so even students with no tax liabilities can get money back. Studies have found that many eligible taxpayers fail to claim these education tax credits, particularly those with lower incomes. Under-utilization makes it harder to argue for continuation of these benefits.
IRS and the Department of Education are teaming up to let students know where to get free assistance in filing their tax returns. Many colleges and universities participate in the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, but even if yours does not, sites are available at libraries and other places in most communities. ED plans to email millions of students who filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) letting them know that help is available for anyone with income under $51,000.
Veterans Retraining Assistance Program
Urge veterans to use their new benefits!
The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) provides an additional 12 months of Montgomery GI Bill benefits ($1,564 a month) to unemployed veterans without other remaining eligibility for VA education benefits. The new program, authorized in late 2011, provides for funding of up to 99,000 veterans but will be short-lived. VA can only accept applications until September 30, 2013, and the last payments must be made by March 31, 2014. That means that veterans who don't begin their training soon will not be able to receive their full 12-months of benefits. To date, VA has issued 77,000 certificates of eligibility, but only 27,000 veterans have begun using the benefit. Since the number of certificates is limited, veterans who can't use their benefit for some reason should notify VA to cancel it so that another veteran can use it.
Vice President, Regulatory Affairs
Director, Tax Policy
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