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How debt can reduce your taxes

One upside to having an outstanding student loan or other type of debt -- tax breaks.

By Money Staff Apr 14, 2014 10:53AM
This post comes from Christine DiGangi at partner site on MSN MoneyDebt is not necessarily the most terrible thing ever. Sometimes, debt is a good thing -- it can help you fund college, build credit and can even help you save money on your taxes.

Mortarboard , diploma and money © Comstock, Getty ImagesTaking on debt can be beneficial in many ways -- student loans are an investment in your future, for example -- and sometimes that means a tax break. This is the part where you can get (a little) excited about tallying up interest you paid on some of your debts last year. Not all loan interest corresponds with a tax deduction, but it's important to see if you qualify for one. After all, who doesn't like saving money?

A lot of these deductions are straightforward, but they also have some limits. If you're unsure whether you meet the requirements for a certain deduction, you should consult with a tax professional before plugging the numbers into your tax return. And you better hurry up!

Student loans

Let's keep with the student loan example: If you're in repayment, your loan servicer or servicers will issue you an IRS Form 1098-E, on which it will show how much of your loan payments in the last year went toward interest. How much you get depends on a few things, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst for Wolters Kluwer, CCH.

You can deduct a maximum of $2,500 per year, but that limit could be lower (or zero), depending in your income.


Interest on a home loan is deductible, as long as the principal balance of the loan does not exceed $1 million. The same goes for loans used to construct or remodel a home. You can claim this deduction for up to two mortgages.


If you use a home equity line of credit for something other than home improvement, you can still deduct interest on a HELOC, but the maximum principal in this case is $100,000.

Business debt

If you carry a balance on a business credit card, that interest can be tax deductible.

"Anyone that utilizes a credit card for business expenses whether they are freelance, small business or partnership/corporation can deduct the interest and bank fees incurred in these transactions," said Vincenzo Villamena, a certified public accountant (CPA) and managing partner of Online Taxman, in an email to

If you took out a loan for business expenses, you can write off that interest, as well, Luscombe said.

Investments with borrowed money

If you invest with borrowed money, known as investing on margin, the interest you pay on your margin balance is tax deductible.

The nice thing here is that if you're not familiar with any of these products, you probably don't have them and therefore do not need to be concerned with their associated tax deductions. Keep these in mind if you take on any of these debts in coming tax years so you can take appropriate advantage of them, but you'll want to watch out for any tax law changes that may pop up in the meantime.

A final note: If you have a high income level, you could be subject to the alternative minimum tax, which takes away some of these and other tax deductions, because some tax benefits significantly reduce a taxpayer's regular tax amount. The AMT was designed to keep high-income earners from avoiding income tax by loading up on deductions, and there are tools online you can use to find out if you'll fall into this category.

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Apr 15, 2014 8:50AM
Sorry, but though debt may be necessary for a college education or to buy a house or car, it is NEVER a good thing and should ALWAYS be paid off as soon as possible.  There is no freedom like freedom from debt.
Apr 15, 2014 11:47AM
Most debt is ridiculous.  This article furthers that.  The average worker who has a college degree doesn't need student debt.  Go to school local, go part time, work while you're in school.  Once you add up all the interest on that debt, the small tax deduction isn't worth it.  The same with mortgages.  Depending on the rate and term, you will almost pay what you paid for the house in interest over a 30 year period. ($100,000 house at 4.5% interest over 30 years is $82,406.71 in interest alone - then you pay the $100,000 but you pay more interest up front and then the majority of the interest is in the last 10 years).  The banks get theirs first and that's the moral of the story.  Same with cars.  Who really needs a $50,000 car that you can have for less than $25,000 once it's off lease?  There's nothing about car interest that can be deducted anymore unless it's a business.  We as Americans need to learn how to live on less and save more.  The economy won't crash because you take control of your financial life and stop financing a CEO's golden parachute.
Apr 15, 2014 5:23PM
What's better than getting a tax deduction on debt? Paying off the debt and getting the standard deduction for not paying interest. Makes a lot more sense.
Apr 23, 2014 3:41PM

So happy to read the previous comments.  I read the article and was appalled. Very little if any is good to have.  I've been paying interest for over 60 years and when I finally get my interest payments to zero, there is going to be one big party.

One final comment, how can anyone in their right mind use a student loan as a positive example?  I'm not a CPA, but you only take a student loan if you need one and two, you pay it off as soon as possible.  Why? Because my understanding is areas of what one owes in case of your "untimely death" like Credit Card debt is forgiven.  NOT SO with your student loan-it not only follows you to the grave but is still owed by your beneficiary or a family member. My goodness, it's one thing to take on debt or risk while you are alive, but why would you want to hold debt or interest (on a Student Loan) and pass the responsibility of payment on to a loved on?  If there is a CPA reading this, please correct me if I'm wrong. I realize this might be comparing apples to oranges (i.e. student loan debt vs. student loan interest) but come on people, our country is in debt up to it's eyeballs and gov't just keeps spending more.  Debt and interest are both bad unless they can be repaid in a timely manner.

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