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Can an MBA be tax deductible?

September 08, 2021 :: Admissionado

Pursuing your MBA will be a huge expense, and so you will definitely want to save on taxes for the years you spend back in school, pursuing your dreams.

While you’ll definitely want to take advantage of all the standard education credits available for students in the USA, you might have heard about the possibility of a full tuition tax MBA deduction on your returns. Given that fully deducting tuition can result in savings of around $15,000, that’s an exciting prospect. Unfortunately, it’s no longer an option.

Tax Codes Have Changed

If you’re studying in the U.S., you need to become familiar with the country’s complex and ever-shifting tax code. The tax code has changed to allow for a tax deduction for mba tuition. 2017 was the last year where you could deduct graduate school tuition in full, a shift that affected and frustrated a huge number of students last year.

That’s because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 phased out any itemized deduction for work-related education, along with a host of other deductions affecting businesses and individuals in America. This had huge ramifications for MBA students and anyone else pursuing professional degree programs, and the changes often weren’t welcome.

Starting in 2018, MBA students were no longer able to deduct the cost of graduate school tuition and course materials as itemized deductions. (The deductions will technically return in 2026… unless Congress extends the law, which is very much a possibility.)

Above all else, this means that any information online regarding MBAs prior to 2018 is outdated. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you can deduct your MBA based on old information, that ship has unfortunately sailed. However, with many changes in tax codes this year, you may not be able to use your old return as a template.  Here are some important updates that may affect your MBA application

  • The standard deduction has increased from $6,350 to $12,000 for individuals and married couples filing jointly. This means that fewer people will itemize their deductions which could save them money on their income taxes if they qualify for the standard deduction rather than itemizing deductions.
  •  Mortgage interest is no longer deductible unless it’s on a home equity loan used to buy or substantially improve the home being lived in by the taxpayer so homeowners with second homes or vacation

Other Tax Benefit Options

There are however some other programs to make up for the eliminated deductions. An MBA is a time-intensive program, and many students are concerned about how to continue to work while they’re in school. One option for tax benefits, which has been discussed around the web, is an executive MBA degree with an executive MBA tax deduction.

Starting in 2018, there are two key tax benefits available for MBA students filing resident tax returns. Note that these benefits are not available to international students filing non-resident tax returns.

First, students can deduct up to USD $4,000 on their tuition as an above-the-line deduction. 4000$ isn’t everything, but it’s something! To qualify for this deduction, you need an income for the year of USD $80,000 or less – USD $160,000 for a married couple.

Alternately, but not additionally, students can take a tax credit for 20% of their tuition costs, but this Lifetime Learning tax credit tops out at $2,000, only half of the above, making it a less attractive option if you’re applying to a top MBA program in US. To qualify for this program, you’ll need an income of USD $66,000 or less, and USD $132,000 for a married couple.

We won’t sugar coat it – these benefits are far less advantageous compared to the previous system, where you deduct education expenses in full. On the other hand, tax credits are more attractive than deductions since they provide a dollar-for-dollar reduction regarding your tax liability. That means that a $2,000 tax credit saves you $2,000 in taxes. Depending on your income this could be significantly more advantageous—particularly if your income is low enough that you wouldn’t be taxed much anyway.

Part time MBA tax deduction

There was also surprising good news for the self-employed. While changes to American tax law eliminated work-related education deductions for employees, at least for now, they left this deduction in place for anyone self-employed. If that sounds strange, illogical, and confusing—welcome to the tax code! Self-employed people often find it difficult to balance work and personal life. A solution for this is an MBA in a part time program. Part time MBA tax deduction will allow you to manage your own business while getting the education and credentials needed for success. If you’re an MBA student who’d already established a career as an independent contractor or freelancer (notably a freelance consultant) – you can still deduct the cost of your MBA tuition tax deduction in full against your self-employed income.

As you can see, the US tax code is a beast with all kinds of exemptions and privileges – and you’ll want to consult a tax professional ahead of time to fully understand your costs. In general, the IRS reviews less than 0.5% of all tax returns each year but they will almost certainly flag returns making outdated deductions, and the last thing you want is an audit. This means that if you want to find an advisor who will give you a real advantage in MBA admissions consulting, you have to dig deeper and learn everything. The IRS will look for deviations from the norm, and writing off thousands of dollars in unreimbursed business expenses for the year is a huge red flag. It’s just not worth it to file based on previous years’ information.

Every person’s tax liability is different based on employment, income, marital status, and more, so you should evaluate your personal financial situation in depth to determine the most financially beneficial strategy. There’s no replacing a dedicated tax professional in this regard – they’re paid to keep up with this stuff.


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