Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

Get advice on money matters from The Bee's Claudia Buck and a panel of local experts

August 22, 2012
What tips do you have to help pay for graduate school?

Q: I am entering a graduate program not related to my current job. Are there any tax deductions or any write-offs for the large expense I will be incurring? Do you have any ideas on handling this large expense? There is money in my IRA plan from my retirement in 2008. Or should I get a student loan? Thanks -- Carrie, Orangevale

"A:" The tax code offers the following options to help defray your educational expenses:

Lifetime Learning Credit

You can reduce your income taxes owed by up to $2,000 per year. To claim this tax credit, you must be able to document expenses for tuition, enrollment fees, required books, etc.

To qualify for a portion or all of this credit, your income must be no more than $61,000, if you are filing as single, or $122,000, if you are filing a joint return.

Remember that a tax credit is a direct reduction of your tax liability, as opposed to a tax deduction, which reduces your income when determining your tax liability.

Student Loan Interest Deduction

You can deduct up to $2,500 per year, for interest on loans for educational expenses, e.g., tuition, enrollment fees, books, supplies, equipment, room & board, and other necessary expenses.

To qualify for a portion or all of this deduction, your income must be no more than $75,000, if you are filing as single, or $150,000, if you are filing a joint return.

Tuition and Fees Deduction

You can deduct up to $4,000 per year, for tuition and enrollment fees. No other educational expenses are eligible for this deduction.

To qualify for a portion or all this deduction, your income must be no more than $80,000, if you are filing as single, or $160,000, if you are filing a joint return.

You can only use "one" of the above three tax beneftis in any one year.

Education Exception to Additional Tax (Penalty) on Early IRA Distribution

Early (under age 59 ½) IRA distributions for educational expenses, e.g., tuition, enrollment fees, books, supplies, equipment, room & board (if at least a half-time student), and expenses for special needs services, are exempt from the 10% early distribution penalty.

There is no income phase out for this tax benefit.

In addition to looking at student loans and pulling money from your IRA, you should also pursue scholarships and grants. Websites that can help you with this include: and

About Comments

Reader comments on are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "report abuse" button below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.

What You Should Know About Comments on is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "report abuse" button to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific user, click on his profile name and send him a direct message.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "report abuse" button to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them, but you may ask our staff to retract one of your comments by sending an email to Again, make sure you note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us your profile name.

hide comments

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.

Meet Our Financial Experts

Claudia Buck

Claudia Buck is The Sacramento Bee's personal finance columnist. Read all her columns here. Contact her at

Terri Carpenter

Terri Carpenter offers advice on job hunting, retraining and career counseling. Carpenter works at Sacramento Works Inc., the career and job training arm of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA). With 15 years in the field, she has hands-on experience with everyone from first-time job seekers to career professionals seeking advice after a layoff or looking for a mid-career change. Ask her a question.

Carlena Tapella

Carlena Tapella is a partner in the law firm of Webb & Tapella Law Corp. in Sacramento. The firm specializes in estate planning and probate, such as estates, trusts, conservatorships and litigation. She is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association's Estate Planning & Probate Section. Ask her a question.

Kimberly Foss

Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner, is the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville. With nearly 30 years in the financial industry, her clients include women in transition, small business owners, retirees and "pre-retirees." Ask her a question.

Jesse Weller

Gregory Burke, a CPA and tax expert with John Waddell & Co. in Sacramento since 1984, worked as an IRS tax auditor for six years. He’s a past chairman of the California Society of CPAs. Ask him a question.

Daniel Tahara

Daniel Tahara takes your questions about California taxes. Tahara, a spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board, has 10 years of experience as a tax auditor. Ask him a question.

Personal Finance columns

October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31