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Paying for College

Tax-Free Interest on Savings Bonds for College Tuition

If you meet the age and income requirements, interest on your I and EE savings bonds is tax-free if you cash in the bonds to pay tuition and fees.

Question: What are the rules about cashing in savings bonds tax-free for college costs? Which bonds are eligible?

Answer: If you cash in I bonds or EE bonds issued after 1989 and use the money for eligible college costs, you may not have to pay taxes on the interest you earned. To qualify for the tax break, the bond owner must use the money to pay qualified education expenses for himself, his spouse or a dependent (tuition and fees qualify; room and board do not). The owner also must have been at least 24 years old when the bond was issued. That means the bonds must generally be owned by a parent, not a child. The child can be a beneficiary of the bonds but cannot be a co-owner.

You must also meet income requirements to qualify. You can qualify for the full interest exclusion if your modified adjusted gross income in 2016 is less than $116,300 if married filing jointly or $77,550 for single filers. You can take a partial exclusion if your income is less than $146,300 for joint filers or $92,550 for single filers. The tax break disappears if your income is higher than that.

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For more information about calculating the tax-free amount, see IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education. Also see the Treasury Department’s Using Savings Bonds for Education.

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