Jeremy Olson writes about children and families, and is an overscheduled father of two. His blog tackles the best and worst of parenting, families, health and love. He wants to hear from you - what's going on in your house?
Often reporters are among the first to know something. Once in a while, they are the last. This might be a case of the latter. Four minutes before clicking send on my 2011 TurboTax tax return, the program asked me if I had any qualified education expenses for my K-12 children, including music lessons and music instrument rental. That was news to me, and I gladly took advantage of the last-minute advice and lowered my state tax debt a la my fifth-grader's trumpet and trumpet lessons.
Minnesota is unique, nationally, in allowing parents to claim education-related expenses to qualify for either a credit or income deduction on their state tax forms. (There is no comparable federal benefit.) A recent legislative analysis showed the state as only one of 10 with any kind of tax benefit for education-related expenses. In Minnesota, those expenses include:
Those expenses (except for nonpublic school tuition) can be used by lower-income families to earn an education tax credit of up to $1,000 per K-12 child. For middle- and upper-income families, all of these expenses can be used to deduct their taxable income by up to $2,500 per child in grades 7-12, and up to $1,625 per child in grades K-6.
In tax year 2009, roughly 176,000 Minnesotans claimed the deduction, and 55,958 Minnesotans claimed the credit. The total credit that year amounted to $14.7 million -- or $262 per household that claimed it, according to the legislative analysis.
So if you haven't filed yet, take a second before the deadline and review the state guidance about kids' education expenses. Whether your daughter's violin playing sounds like a beautiful melody or a shrieking cat, the instrument and lessons might have a little extra payback!