Update: After two years of work with many stakeholders, including colleges, Maine Revenue Services, FAME, Department of Education and others, Opportunity Maine just got a law passed that simplifies and clarifies your ability to take advantage of the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit. Implementing rules are being developed and will go into effect in September. Sign up for our email list to get further information as it comes.
Do I have to be a Maine resident to qualify?
If I participate in the Program, am I forced to live in Maine?
Can I do study abroad or transfer programs out of state?
Can I claim the tax credit even if I don’t finish my degree?
Can I claim the tax credit even if I transfer to another school?
Can I claim the tax credit even if I did some of my coursework out of state?
Can I sign up if I started college before January 2008?
Do I need to be a full-time student?
How much is the tax credit worth?
Do I need to get a degree in a particular field?
Will the Opportunity Maine Program prevent me from delaying loan repayment?
Does the Opportunity Maine Program prevent me from consolidating my loans?
How do I claim the tax credit?
Does participating in the Opportunity Maine Program make me ineligible for other loan forgiveness programs?
Is there any reason I shouldn’t get Opportunity Maine Program documentation from my financial aid office?
What is the technical name of the Opportunity Maine Program?
Can I claim the tax credit even if I did some of my coursework out of state?
PARTICIPATING IN THE OPPORTUNITY MAINE PROGRAM
1. Enroll in a Maine college or community college
You need to earn all of the credits toward your degree at a Maine college, or through a program associated with a Maine college (such as study abroad). If you think the law should be changed to include people who transfer to Maine colleges after up to a year out of state, contact your legislator..
2. Be thoughtful about your loans
The Educational Opportunity Tax Credit only applies to loans that you take out as part of your financial aid package. Loans that your family members take out will not qualify, and loans that your college does not recognize as part of your financial aid package will not qualify. You may want to take account of these factors when making borrowing decisions. Talk to your school’s financial aid office.
3. Live in Maine while you are in college
During the school year, you need to live in Maine unless you are pursuing a program outside of Maine (such as study abroad). Even if you lived outside of Maine right up until the first day of college, you are still eligible!
4. Look for information from your college
Your college is legally required to provide you information about the Opportunity Maine program several times during your college career. If that isn’t happening, let us know!
5. Earn an associate or bachelor’s degree
You can only claim the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit if you earn your degree!
6. Finalize your documentation at graduation time
Your college’s financial aid office should have the documentation you need to fill out and will help you get everything together. They will give you the documentation you need and retain a copy for 10 years. If you don’t finalize your documentation at graduation, you can come back and do it later, but some of your loan payments may not be eligible for reimbursement through the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit if you wait too long!
7. Go into loan repayment in the ordinary way
As soon as you start making regularly scheduled loan payments, you are eligible for the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit. If you get a deferment or forbearance, then return to repayment, you’re still eligible. If you consolidate your loans, you’re still eligible, as long as you don’t consolidate your student loans with other debt.
8. Try to stay in Maine!
You can only claim the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit for regularly scheduled payments made while living and working in Maine. If you leave Maine for a while and then come back, you can start claiming the credit again, but you’ll never get reimbursed for payments you made while you were out of state.
9. Claim the credit on your Maine personal income tax return
Follow any instructions from Maine Revenue Services. Currently, you need to submit the documentation from your college with the first return where you claim the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit.
10. Retain your records
You need to keep records of your loan payments for five years if you are claiming the credit.
11. Be careful about prepayment
Any prepayment of your loan is ineligible for reimbursement through the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit, so consider that before you make any prepayment.
12. Ask your employer about loan repayment
If your employer makes loan payments on your behalf, they can claim the credit on your behalf. That means you don’t have to wait to wipe out your student debt payments!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
All Maine college students are eligible. As long as you live in Maine during the school year while you attend college, you can sign up. You could move from Texas to Maine on your first day of college and still be eligible! After graduation, you can claim the credit any year you make loan payments and live and work in Maine.
No. If you decide to leave Maine to finish your degree, you simply lose your eligibility for the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit. If you leave Maine after earning your degree here, you can’t claim the credit while you’re gone, but you can start claiming it again if you move back to Maine. The Opportunity Maine Program rewards you if you stay, but doesn’t punish you if you leave.
You are still eligible if you study abroad or out of state as part of a Maine college’s academic program. Just make sure you live in Maine during the school year the rest of the time!
No. You must finish your degree, and do all of your coursework through Maine colleges.
Yes. You can transfer as much as you like, as long as you ultimately earn your degree from a Maine school, and all your coursework is done through Maine schools.
In most cases, no. You can only claim the credit if you did all of the coursework toward your degree at a Maine school, or through its programs. The one exception is that if you were enrolled in a Maine school on January 1, 2008, you only need to do all of your coursework toward your degree at a Maine school (or through its programs) from that point forward. It is alright if you did some coursework outside the state prior to that date. If you think the law should be changed to include people who transfer to Maine colleges after up to a year out of state, contact your legislator.
You can sign up, but your Educational Opportunity Tax Credit will be reduced based on how much of your coursework was done before January 2008. For example, if you have finished one-fourth of the coursework for your degree as of January 2008, you’ll be able to get a tax credit for three-fourths of what you pay in loan payments after you graduate.
No. Part time students are eligible, and get the same benefits as full-time students.
The higher your student debt, the higher the tax credit. The average Educational Opportunity Tax Credit for fully eligible students will be $2,100 each year, but the students with the highest debts will be able to claim up to about $5,900 each year. That’s $59,000 in loan repayment assistance! The maximum credit for associate degree earners will be about $1,600 each year.
No. You just have to finish an associate or bachelor’s degree in any field.
No. You are still eligible, even if you get deferment or forbearance for your loans. You can start claiming the credit when you start making payments again.
No, as long as you don’t consolidate your student loans with other debt (like credit card debt or graduate school loans).
You can claim the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit on your Maine personal income tax return. If your employer is making student loan payments for you, then the employer can claim the credit on its return. Make sure you keep a copy of your documentation and records of loan payments!
No. You can sign up for other loan forgiveness programs, and participate in Opportunity Maine too in case those other programs don’t work out.
No. Getting your documentation can only help you.
The program is actually called the Job Creation Through Educational Opportunity Program, and the tax credit is called the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit.
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