CSS/Profile how to estimate 2016 tuition/fee deduction

D1 will be a new college freshman in 2016 and I’m filling out the Profile for the one school she applied to that requests it. I can estimate all the info for 2016 fairly well, but I’m unsure about how to do the tuition/fees deduction expected to be received because it will be new to us. I see on the IRS publication that we definitely meet eligibility and between student loans and our expected payment, I imagine that will be an amount higher than the $4k credit. Should I just list $4k tuition deduction in the CSS worksheet for 2016 estimates?

^Are your incomes too high for AOTC?


No, our income is not too high for the credit. Is the AOTC credit the first choice of what to take, if we are able?

Absolutely. A tax credit is almost always better than a tax deduction.


Most parents (as least for me) are claiming the tax benefits in this order:

Tuition & Fees Deduction

Claiming (up to) $2000 of AOTC would saves you $2000 in income taxes; claiming (up to) $4000 of AOTC would saves you $2500 in income taxes.

Tuition & Fees (above the line) Deduction will not saves you that much in taxes.

See IRS pub 970

Is there a place on the Profile that I need to list that then? I’m doing the worksheet PF-115A. I would imagine it would fall under “all other untaxed income and benefits expected to be received” at the end of the sheet?

Is a tax refund considered any kind of income?


A state tax refund is, if you itemize deductions on your federal return and the previous year you deducted your state income tax payments.

thumper1, for us our tax refund was the EIC and the Additional Child Tax Credit, which were both reported on their own lines in the worksheet. So effectively, yes, our refund is being considered income.

Is there a phone number to call? Either the Collegeboard CSS profile help line or the FA office of college?

If you expect to have $4k in QEE then you could expect to get $2,500 for AOTC (if income is under threshold).

Sorry I never had to do CSS profile and FAFSA asks about education credit in the tax year it was claimed, not anticipated. So we did not have to worry about it for the first FAFSA.

But for that school, what does the NPC say? If you get scholarships or grants from that school, that might reduce QEE you can claim for AOTC. For example some schools give a tuition scholarship so then there is only fees and books left as QEE to claim for AOTC. Since room and board are not considered QEE for AOTC unfortunately.

I think it’s crazy that they are asking what credit you might get next year when you don’t even know your final FA award yet.

Yes, that’s why I’m having trouble figuring it. There are so many variables. We could be on the line for some EIC as well, but I think it’s asking too much to be able to estimate because each of those credits is dependent on a whole host of factors. 2015 was doable to estimate since all our income is known, but trying to first estimate 2016 and figure out factoring in new circumstances is a bit much. I put the full $2500 credit but I don’t know if that will be the case.

The school is St. Olaf which claims to meet 99% of need but I’m not sure how they arrive at that figure. The NPC leaves us with $6390 before work study (our EFC is 1515). The NPC shows scholarships/grants through the school covers all but about $5k of the tuition. Including Pell, most of tuition is covered. So maybe we won’t be able to claim this credit, or at least not the entire amount?

Don’t knock yourself out trying to estimate 2016 financials. These numbers are not used to calculate financial aid; they are asked for in order to provide greater context to your family’s financial situation. The school understands that things could (and probably will) change, and you will not be held to your 2016 estimates as long as they are made in good faith.

As far as Pell goes I do believe you can switch that to room and board expenses. Freeing up the remaining $5k for tuition. So yes in your case I would estimate that you get the full $2,500 credit.

They will see next year what it actually was on the 2016 tax return, if your D ends up going there.

Estimating is all you can do. Like how much you will earn in 2016 or your D will earn, etc. You don’t know that yet.

@kelsmom, do you have any more advice?

I always thought the CSS profile asked for the current and previous year income, I had no idea it also asked for future income.

Isn’t the next Profile going to use 2015 tax returns for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years?

Yes, but Profile also asks for some information from the year prior to that of the base year and estimates for the year following the base year

Is the second year of college considere a “base year”?

“Base year” meaning the primary year of financial/tax information that is used to compute a need-based financial aid award.

Estimating is just that … estimating. My personal opinion is that few have a clue when it comes to those Profile estimates. We all just wing it as best we can, and I doubt it really comes into play. I agree that the purpose is to provide context.

I don’t work at a Profile school, so I don’t really know what changes there will be in info collection for the transition year (next year) - but once that year is over, things will just hum along in whatever “new” way they will.