Ask the tax adviser
Is private-school tuition deductible?
Dear Tax Talk:
My son goes to a Catholic elementary school. Am I able to claim
the amount of the tuition as a deduction? A tax adviser I spoke
to said yes. The school, however, said no. Which is the correct
Your tax adviser is only trying to sell you on his services.
Although the checks you write to pay for your son's
education may be payable to a charitable organization, that does
not mean they are necessarily deductible.
Contributions to any charitable organization are not
deductible to the extent they represent quid pro quo or, in other
words, you receive something of value for your contributions. For
example, payments for a child's attendance at Sunday school are
not deductible, the same as payments for a child's tuition for regular
In fact, contributions of $250 or more during the
year to any one organization requires the organization to provide
you substantiation that you did not receive goods, services, benefits
or privileges in exchange for the contribution. The exception to
this rule is the intangible religious benefit received from donating,
for example, to your place of worship. You must obtain the substantiation
for your contribution prior to filing your tax return.
This latter requirement is probably the basis for
the school telling you that the payments for the tuition are not
deductible. The school probably will not acknowledge the contribution
as it represents a quid pro quo. Of course, contributions
you make to the school in excess of your child's tuition remain
-- Posted: Jan. 25, 2002