The Impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Find out how the 2017 tax law affects students, education, and college loans.

In December 2017, the Republican tax reform law, which is officially called “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" (H.R.1), was signed into law, and represented the most significant tax code overhaul in many years. Some parts of the tax law impact student loans and education.

Read on to learn about a few provisions that stay the same under the 2017 lawand some that don'twhen it comes to students and education.

What Tax Law is Staying the Same Under The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act?

These parts of the tax code didn't change under the 2017 tax law.

Borrowers May Still Deduct Student Loan Interest

The deduction for student loan interest, which is up to $2,500 per year, remains intact. You may claim this deduction without itemizing your taxes, but it's only available for certain borrowers, and depends on your income. Once your modified adjusted gross income reaches a certain amount—$65,000 for singles, or $135,000 for couples—the benefit is reduced, and it's completely phased out for singles who earn $80,000 and up, and couples earning $165,000 or more.

Tuition Waivers for Graduate Students Not Treated as Taxable Income

Around 145,000 graduate students in the U.S. get waivers that eliminate all or part of their tuition fees, normally in exchange for some kind of work. These kinds of waivers are ordinarily given to teaching and research assistants. Under the tax law, graduate students still won't have to pay income taxes on the tuition waivers they get from their schools.

Employer-Paid Tuition and Other Tax Benefits for Students Remain

Employers sometimes help their employees pay for tuition. Currently, workers may deduct up to $5,250 in employer-paid tuition from their taxable yearly income, and the award is also tax-free under the tax law. Also, the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit, remain in the tax rules.

What Tax Law is Changing Under The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act?

These parts of the tax code will be different under the 2017 tax law.

Death and Disability Student Loan Forgiveness Tax Repealed

Federal student loans are typically dischargeable if the borrower is totally and permanently disabled. Also, a student’s death (or a parent's death in the case of a parent PLUS loan) wipes out any outstanding amount owed on federal student loans. Prior to this bill, the forgiven amount counted as taxable income.

Under the 2017 tax law, though, if a student loan borrower becomes permanently disabled, the forgiven amount is excluded from taxable income. The law also excludes the amount of the loan forgiven in the event of death. These exclusions are applicable after December 31, 2017, but will not apply to discharges after December 31, 2025.

Certain states, though, might consider forgiven student loan debt as taxable income, even if the federal government does not.

529 Saving Accounts Expansion

Under the 2017 tax law, money from a 529 account can be withdrawn tax-free to cover to cover the cost of sending a child to a K-12 public, private, or religious elementary or secondary school, as well as to cover some expenses related to homeschooling. All families, no matter their income level, may deposit $10,000 per beneficiary, per year into these accounts.

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