More than 61 percent of Athens County residents who attend college are missing out on government tuition credit — a total loss of more than $4 million.
The American Opportunity Tax Credit is a federal fund available to students and families whose annual income is $80,000 or less, or $160,000 or less for households after taxes, according to an Internal Revenue Service news release.
Last tax year, there were more than 3,400 Athens County residents eligible to receive the credit, but more than 2,000 did not because they failed to file or claim the funds, said Lauren Kulik, spokeswoman for Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
“Most families with students in college either don’t know about the new tax credit or they don’t realize they qualify for it,” Kulik said.
Rep. Debbie Phillips (D-92nd) said in an e-mail that residents should see if they are eligible for the funds because of the costs of tuition and school supplies.
“It’s important to our state and our country to encourage higher education, and this is a great way to help make college more affordable. It’s not hard to find out if you’re eligible, and it’s certainly worth checking,” Phillips said.
Those enrolled in college classes and who are from the surrounding six counties of Meigs, Washington, Vinton, Hocking, Perry and Morgan lost more than $10.3 million in unclaimed funds, according to Brown’s website.
Residents can receive up to $2,500 per academic year, Kulik said. The funds can go toward tuition costs and other higher education fees, such as course materials and other supplies, for all four years of college, she added.
Of the more than 600,000 Ohio residents eligible for the credit, about 61 percent, more than 380,000, did not claim funds, which left the state with more than $700 million, according to Brown’s website.
The American Opportunity Tax Credit expanded the Hope Tax Credit to a broader amount of people and went into effect in 2009, according to the IRS website.
The Hope Tax Credit was enacted in 1998 and allowed students to receive up to $1,500 per year toward college for educational expenses.
Athens residents should be sure to take advantage of the new tax credit, said Hannah Collins, spokeswoman for Athens County Job and Family Services.
“The cost of college is increasing, and these funds will be very beneficial to Ohio families, especially in Athens County,” she said.