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Thousands may be losing out on tax relief for third-level fees

People have been urged to check if they’re eligible ahead of what can be a very expensive time for students and their families.

Image: Shutterstock/Mr.Nikon

THOUSANDS OF PARENTS and students may be missing out on tax relief on qualifying third-level education fees because they are not claiming it.

In the 2014/15 academic year, 86,000 students paid fees in excess of the Student Contribution Charge. Some 94,000 students did so in 2015/16.

However, there were in the region of just 24,000 claims for tax relief in both 2014 and 2015.

The figures were released to Fianna Fáil’s Spokesperson on Finance Michael McGrath in response to a parliamentary question.

McGrath said the figures point to a significant under-claiming of this tax relief.

“It seems to me that the level of awareness of the tax relief that applies to certain third-level fees is quite low and as a result millions of euro of tax relief is not being claimed by parents and students.”

Tax relief is given at the standard rate of 20% on a maximum of €7,000 of fees per person per course. The relief is available on certain full-time or part-time undergraduate or postgraduate courses at private and publicly-funded colleges.

McGrath said that, while there is no tax relief on the first €3,000 of any claim (including the Student Contribution Charge, which stands at €3,000), “many parents do not realise that there is tax relief on the Student Contribution Charge payable for second and subsequent children in the same year”.

“In other words, a single disregard of €3,000 applies to a claim relating to qualifying undergraduate course fees irrespective of how many children are being claimed for.”

McGrath urged people to check if they are eligible to claim the tax relief as we approach “a very expensive time for families who have students starting or returning to third-level college in the autumn”.

Means-tested

When asked about the topic in the Dáil, Education Minister Richard Bruton said the State pays all or part of the Student Contribution Charge for approximately 43% of undergraduate students as they qualify on means-tested grounds for an exemption from the contribution under the Student Grants Scheme.

Tax relief provisions are also available so that second and subsequent siblings do not have to bear the full cost of the student contribution.

“Additionally, some students may also be requested by their respective institutions to pay an additional student levy. The determination of the level and payment of such levies are a matter for the institutions themselves and are not collected centrally by my Department,” Bruton said.

More information on tax relief for third-level fees can be read here.

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Órla Ryan

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