Illinois college parents, students can get up to $2,500 in tax credit

By:  Mary Houlihan
Chicago Sun-Times

The American Opportunity Tax Credit, a recently renewed item in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, allows Illinois families a credit of up to $2,500 per student on their 2009 and 2010 tax returns. But, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, less than half of eligible Illinois families claimed the credit on their 2009 taxes.

“More than $1 billion in tax credit is unclaimed by students’ families in Illinois,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) Sunday at the University of Illinois Chicago. “This is a helping hand especially beneficial to working class families that is going unused by many.”

The college tuition credit provides middle-class families with $1 back on their taxes for every $1 spent on tuition for the first $2,000 and 25% of the next $2,000 for up to $2,500 per year.

Ken Thomas, a 19-year-old UIC sophomore from Mundelein, said his single mother is working two jobs to put two children through college.

“It’s very difficult and this tax credit really helps us out,” Thomas said. “It’s an opportunity that really makes a difference.”

The average Illinois credit is $1,859 in tax savings, but only 38 percent of eligible taxpayers claimed the credit in 2009.

Luci Salinas, who lives in Uptown and is the first in her family to attend college, admits her family didn’t know about the credit.

“I never thought college would be a reality for me,” Salinas, 19, said. “Raising the awareness of the tax credit is another step in helping me continue my education.”

Those eligible can still claim credits for 2009, Durbin said.

Links to the forms needed to determine tax credit eligibility are available at