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Analysis: Gore tuition tax credit doesn't hold up under scrutiny

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Whether it's on the airwaves or the campaign stump, it is hard to miss Vice President Al Gore talking up his plan to make college tuition costs up to $10,000 a year tax-deductible.

"Al Gore will fight for families," the narrator of a recent Gore ad pledges. "Tax cuts for middle class families, including a $10,000 a year tax deduction for college deduction."

College students
Vice President Al Gore's college tuition tax credit would not apply to room and board, books, supplies, or travel  

But the Democratic nominee isn't really telling the whole story about his tuition deduction, he's making it sound a whole lot better than it really is.

The fact is, parents already get federal tax breaks for college tuition. Although the Gore campaign has pledged to modestly increase that amount, it fails to mention that millions of families and students would be ineligible for the break.

Gore would expand the existing 20 percent tuition tax credit to 28 percent, and the maximum benefit would go from $2,000 under present law to $2,800.

And millions of Americans won't see a dime of the benefit -- including most students who work their way through college. The reason is most students don't make enough to pay any federal income taxes, so Gore's expanded deduction does them no good.

In all, about 30 million low-income households would get no benefit at all under the Gore plan, which also excludes couples earning more than $120,000 a year -- an estimated 5 million families.

The Gore plan also only covers tuition and fees -- there is no deduction or credit for room and board, books, supplies, travel, and others cost that can easily total half of a college bill.

The Gore campaign stretches the truth by advertising their plan as a $10,000 deduction. For families in the 28 percent tax bracket a $10,000 deduction is worth the same as as the maximum $2,800 credit. And almost none in higher brackets would qualify.

But a $10,000 deduction sounds so much better than a $2,800 credit -- unless you check the facts.

 
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THE STATES
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Wednesday, September 27, 2000


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