The Maine Educational Opportunity Tax Credit seemingly, silently began in 2008. I say silently because many people still don’t know about it. The program provides a Maine income tax credit for Maine residents who received an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from an accredited Maine college. You must be working in Maine and repaying student loans. In 2016, the credit expanded to include an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from a non-Maine college. It also now includes graduate degrees obtained from a Maine college after 2015. If your degree is in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (referred to as a “STEM”degree) the credit is refundable. For other degrees, the credit can reduce your tax to zero and any unused portion will carry forward for up to ten years.
In its’ simplest form, the credit works like this:
Maine resident student started college in 2008, received a bachelor’s degree in 2012 from a Maine college and begins paying student loans January of 2013. The individual makes 12 equal loan payments of $342. This amount is coincidently the “benchmark amount” which is the maximum the state allows for the credit. This individual’s credit would be $4,116 (12 x 342). If they obtained a STEM degree this credit would be refundable, meaning if their Maine income tax was zero, they would receive a refund of $4,116. If they did not obtain a STEM degree, still assuming the Maine income tax was zero, the $4,116 would apply to a future Maine income tax liability. Either way this can be a powerful credit.
However, as with any tax credit, it isn’t that simple. The student could have started college before 2008, transferred to a college outside of Maine for a period of time, worked outside of Maine for a period of time, made unequal or sporadic loan payments, all which alter the calculation, perhaps drastically. Let One River CPAs help you sort out the complexities and variations of the credit to ensure you get the maximum benefit.
About the Author: Lynn Stover is an integral part of the PFBF CPAs tax team and a valued senior tax specialist. She operates primarily from the mid-coast Bath location, meeting with clients for tax planning and preparation. You can contact her at email@example.com or 207-371-8003.