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cmaeavery
New Member

Can I claim the expense of a laptop that I purchased for school as a qualified education expense?

If I receive scholarship money (e.g. grants, stipends) that come directly to me to cover my expenses, can the purchase of a laptop count as a qualified education and therefore reduce the amount of the scholarship that is taxable income? While I have in-person classes, assignments, quizzes, and tests are often administered and/or submitted online, effectively necessitating my regular access to a computer to participate in my classes. When you say that an educational expense has to be required to attend or enroll to qualify as non-taxable, does this count? 

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4 Replies

Can I claim the expense of a laptop that I purchased for school as a qualified education expense?

A computer nowadays is generally accepted as necessary for college and would be a qualified education expense. 

Hal_Al
Level 15

Can I claim the expense of a laptop that I purchased for school as a qualified education expense?

Simple answer: yes.

But, you're not going to get a clear cut answer. 

The IRS says:  "Whether an expenditure for a computer qualifies for the credit depends on the facts. An expenditure for a computer would qualify for the credit if the computer is needed as a condition of enrollment or attendance at the educational institution".  https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/american-opportunity-tax-credit-questions-and-answers

 

Apparently, the tax court has ruled on this. 

https://www.currentfederaltaxdevelopments.com/blog/2016/8/25/purchase-of-computer-from-local-retaile...

The Tax Court concluded that the cost of a computer is not eligible for the AOTC unless the school requires the student to have one.

Some have translated this to:  The IRS has indicated a computer does qualify if it is needed for attendance at the educational institution. Generally, in this day and age, a computer is necessary ("required").

 

Be assured: "everybody" is doing it. 

 

Carl
Level 15

Can I claim the expense of a laptop that I purchased for school as a qualified education expense?

If the need for a computer is either specified directly or implied indirectly in any one class syllabus, then the cost of a computer would fall into the lab fees category.

Typically, if an educational institution offers the use of a computer lab 24/7, then that would generally nix this. However, now-a-days I am not aware of any college that offers such on a round-the-clock basis.

Can I claim the expense of a laptop that I purchased for school as a qualified education expense?

There are two different tax credits you might qualify for.

 

For the Lifetime Learning Credit, the only eligible costs are tuition and fees paid directly to the college.  For a laptop to count, it must be purchased from the college and be required for your specific course of study.

 

For the American Opportunity Credit, you can deduct tuition, fees, and other "necessary" expenses, even if items are not purchased directly from the college.  Whether a laptop is really necessary, see the comments by the other experts. 

 

Turbotax will ask separately about necessary expenses purchased from the college, and necessary expenses purchased elsewhere, for this reason, and will apply whichever expenses are eligible for which of the credits you are claiming. 

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