If you receive educational assistance benefits from your employer
under an educational assistance program, you can exclude up to $5,250
of those benefits each year. This means your employer should not
include the benefits with your wages, tips, and other compensation
shown in box 1 of your Form W-2. This also means that you do not
have to include the benefits on your income tax return.
You must reduce your deductible educational expenses by
the amount of any tax-free educational assistance benefits you
received for those expenses.
Educational assistance program.
To qualify as an educational assistance program, the plan must be
written and must meet certain other requirements. Your employer can
tell you whether there is a qualified program where you work.
Tax-free educational assistance benefits include payments for
tuition, fees and similar expenses, books, supplies, and equipment.
The payments must be for undergraduate-level courses that begin before
January 1, 2002. The payments do not have to be for work-related
Educational assistance benefits do not include payments
for the following items.
- Meals, lodging, transportation, or tools or supplies (other
than textbooks) that you can keep after completing the course of
- Education involving sports, games, or hobbies unless the
education has a reasonable relationship to the business of your
employer, or is required as part of a degree program.
- Graduate-level courses that are normally taken under a
program leading to a law, business, medical, or other advanced
academic or professional degree.
Benefit over $5,250.
If your employer pays for more than $5,250 of educational benefits
for you during the year, you must generally pay tax on the amount over
$5,250. Your employer should include in your wages (box 1 of your Form
W-2) the amount which you must include in income.
Working condition fringe benefit.
However, if the payments also qualify as a working condition fringe
benefit, your employer does not have to include them in your wages. A
working condition fringe benefit is a benefit which, had you paid for
it, you could deduct as an employee business expense.
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