The tuition and fees deduction slightly minimizes the cost of higher education through a tax write-off. According to Internal Revenue Service Publication 970, only one person is entitled to claim the deduction and, in some cases, no one is eligible depending on who pays the expenses and who claims the student's exemption.
Only the person who claims the exemption for the student is entitled to claim the tuition and fees deduction. For example, if you claim your son as your dependent, only you can claim the tuition and fees deduction for his tuition costs. If your son claims himself on his tax return, you cannot claim the tuition and fees deduction for his costs.
Only the person paying for the tuition bills can claim the tuition and fees deduction. If you pay for your son's tuition or if you take out student loans in your name, you meet the payment requirement. However, if your son pays for the tuition or takes out student loans solely in his name, you cannot claim the tuition and fees deduction for your son's tuition.
If you are eligible to claim the tuition and fees deduction, you can only include the costs of tuition and mandatory fees. For example, a technology fee charged to all students would qualify because it is required. However, if you paid a fee for your son to participate in intramural sports, you can't include that cost because it isn't required of all students. In addition, other costs, such as room and board or insurance, aren't deductible. No matter how much you paid, you can't deduct more than $4,000 each year.
At the end of the year, your son's school should issue a Form 1098-T that shows how much was paid in qualifying expenses. When you file your taxes, you must use either Form 1040A or Form 1040 because Form 1040EZ does not have a line for the tuition and fees deduction. On the bright side, the deduction is an adjustment to income, which means that you don't have to itemize your deductions to take advantage of the tax break.
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."