If you’re paying tuition and other college expenses for yourself, your spouse or your dependent, the IRS allows you to deduct some of these expenses from your taxes. Purchasing books and computers for college may or may not qualify for a deduction, depending on how and why you buy them, and your personal tax circumstances.
Educational Expenses Deduction
The IRS allows you to take an educational expense deduction for “tuition and fees” that you pay to a qualifying educational institution. While books and a computer may be required for college classes, they’re usually not included in fees you pay directly to the school. If you paid a fee to the school that included use of a computer for the semester, that fee would be deductible. If you bought your son a computer because he needed it to write papers, you can’t deduct the cost. If your daughter bought required books at a campus bookstore, that doesn’t count either.
If you take a college course to improve your skills at work, or to earn a degree that will allow you to advance in your current occupation, you can deduct the cost of the books you buy for that course as part of the Miscellaneous Deductions on Schedule A – Itemized Deductions. The IRS considers these as employee business expenses. You can deduct only the amount of miscellaneous deductions that is more than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income. If you purchase the computer and use it only for school and work, and it’s necessary for your work that you have the computer, you can include it in your miscellaneous deductions. But if you just want a computer and you use it for personal reasons as well as school, it doesn’t qualify for a deduction.
You can’t deduct tuition, fees, books or a computer if you buy them with money from a scholarship or grant or if your employer reimburses you for the cost. You can’t take the deduction if someone else claims you as their dependent – for instance, if you’re a college student and your parents still claim you on their taxes.
Forms You'll Need
If you’re an employee and you want to claim books and a computer related to education for your job, you’ll need Schedule A and Form 2106, Employee Business Expenses. If you’re self-employed, deduct these expenses on Schedule C – Profit or Loss From a Business. If you’re deducting tuition and fees you paid unrelated to your job or for a spouse or dependent, complete Form 8917 – Tuition and Fees Deduction.
Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.