WASHINGTON, D.C. —Ohio families have more than $700 million in unclaimed college tuition tax credits, according to a new estimate released by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). During a news conference call today, Brown announced a campaign to make sure all eligible families utilize the $2,500 American Opportunity college tuition tax credit (AOTC). Brown is encouraging families to file this year for the tax credit, which was passed as part of the Recovery Act and extended by the bipartisan tax compromise.
“Middle class Ohio families are missing out on millions of dollars in tax relief for one of the most important investments they make – a college education for their children,” Brown said. “As college costs continue to rise, $2,500 can go a long way toward helping Ohio families afford college costs. While only 35 percent of Ohio families filed for this credit last year, it’s not too late for families to claim this important tax credit.”
Brown released an analysis with county-by-county figures on the number of Ohio families missing out on the credit. Last tax year, this credit provided Ohio families paying tuition with an average of $1,918 in tax relief per student.
The AOTC provides critical relief to middle class families—providing a $1 tax credit for each $1 dollar spent on college tuition—but is only utilized by an estimated 35 percent of Ohio student families. The total tax credit is worth up to $2,500, with the dollar-for-dollar match in effect for the first $2,000.
Brown’s estimate is based on a recent report released by the Treasury Department, which estimates that 35 percent of eligible families in Ohio did not file for the AOTC in 2009. This percent was then applied to the county-by-county data released by the Ohio Board of Regents on the number of students enrolled at institutions of higher education. The estimate is also based off the fact that 95 percent of Ohio families are eligible for the credit.
This analysis showed that as many as 621,628 families in Ohio that could benefit from the American Opportunity Tax Credit did not claim it during the last filing year. At an average tax credit of $1,918, this means that there were more than $736 million in unclaimed American Opportunity Tax Credits during the last filing year. Ohioans can amend their prior tax returns to claim the credit in Tax Year 2009.
Earlier this week, Sen. Brown sent a letter requesting that Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut and Ohio college and university presidents allocate all available resources to informing prospective and current students about the AOTC, along with information about their need to claim 2010 higher education expenses on their April tax filings.
Full text of the letter is below.
February 11, 2011
Dear Ohio College and University Presidents:
Ohio is the proud home of more than 90 diverse private and public institutes of higher education enrolling more than half a million students. Together, these institutions are working to strengthen Ohio’s workforce by graduating students with the skills needed for success in the twenty-first century economy.
Unfortunately, cost continues to be a significant barrier to college completion. According to a recent study on why students fail to finish college, nearly two-thirds of students cited having to work and make money as a reason why they did not complete their program. More than half of these students also cited their inability to afford school tuition and fees as a factor in their decision to drop out.
For these reasons, I ask for your help in ensuring all students are taking full advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). This credit, which was originally included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and was recently extended for two years as part of the Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, provides a maximum tax credit of $2,500 for qualified tuition and related expenses for the first four years of post-secondary education. This partially refundable tax credit, which replaced and expanded the HOPE tuition credit, is helping to make college more affordable for millions of middle-class families.
Unfortunately, in Ohio only 35% of eligible students utilized this credit in 2009. Clearly thousands of Ohioans are missing out on millions of dollars in tuition assistance. I ask that you use any resources that you have at your disposal to inform your prospective and current students about the AOTC along with information about their need to claim 2010 higher education expenses on their April tax filings. I am confident that your efforts will help lead to higher college completion rates and thus a stronger workforce.
Additional information about this tax credit is available at the IRS website: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=211309,00.html. I have also established a page on my website devoted to this important tax benefit.
Thank you in advance for your efforts to help make college more affordable and accessible for Ohioans.
United States Senator