Can a Dad Write Off Tuition for a Married Daughter?
The tuition and fees deduction lets you write off up to $4,000 of qualifying tuition expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse or your dependents. Usually, you're going to run in to some roadblocks if you want to claim a tax write-off for paying your married daughter's tuition, but the deduction could still be yours in some circumstances.
Tuition Deduction Requirements
To write off your daughter's tuition as part of the tuition and fees deduction, you need to meet several requirements. Most obviously, you must pay the tuition and fees that you want to deduct, and your daughter must be an eligible student, enrolled at one or more classes at a college, university or trade school. Your adjusted gross income must fall below the annual limits -- $80,000 if you're single or $160,000 if you're married filing jointly. The requirement that may cause the biggest problem if your daughter is married is that you must be able to claim her as a dependent.
Claiming Married Dependents
If your daughter files a joint return with her husband, you're not allowed to claim her as a dependent unless the return is only to get a refund and neither your daughter nor her husband would have any tax liability if they filed separately. For example, say your daughter and her husband are both in school and had a few dollars withheld from their work-study jobs. If they filed separate returns, they would both have zero tax liability and would get a full refund. You can still claim her as your dependent, assuming she meets the IRS criteria as either a qualifying child or qualifying relative.
Usually, it's easier to meet the qualifying child requirements than the qualifying relative requirements. To be your qualifying child, your daughter must be under 19 years old at the end of the year. But, if she's a full-time student, she still qualifies if she's under 24. In addition, she must have lived with you for half the year, but there's an exception for living away -- such as living in a dorm -- for her education. Finally, she also can't provide more than half her own support for the year.
If your daughter doesn't meet the qualifying child requirements, such as if she's too old, you might be able to claim her as a dependent relative. Since she's your daughter, she meets the relationship test, so you don't have to worry about her living with you the entire year. But, her gross income must also be less than the value of a personal exemption -- $3,800 as of the 2012 tax year -- and you must provide more than half her total support, which could be a problem if her husband is working and you're just chipping in a few bucks for tuition.
Based in the Kansas City area, Mike specializes in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."