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Illinois – Tax Credits for Educational Expenses

Illinois – Tax Credits for Educational Expenses

Illinois’ Tax Credits for Educational Expenses program was enacted in 1999 and launched in 2000 to help families afford the public, private or home school options that fit their children’s needs. Learn more about the program’s details on this page, including eligibility, funding, regulations, legal history and more.

Program Fast Facts

  • One of four tax credit programs for educational expenses nationwide

  • 285,972 participating taxpayers (2014)

  • 100 percent of taxpaying families with children eligible statewide

  • Average tax credit value: $280 (2014)

  • Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 2 percent

Program Details

Illinois’s Tax Credits for Educational Expenses Participation

Tax Returns Claiming Credit
Tax Year

Click the + symbols to learn more about this program’s details.

Illinois allows individuals to claim a credit for educational expenses for dependent students attending a private or public school or being homeschooled. Qualified expenses include tuition, books and lab or activity fees. The credit is worth a maximum of $500.

Student Funding

Parents receive a tax credit worth 25 percent of their expenditures after the first $250, up to a maximum credit of $500 per family. To get the maximum $500 credit, parents must spend $2,250 on educational expenses; they also must have a state tax liability of at least $500 because the credit is nonrefundable and thus cannot reduce an individual’s tax burden to less than zero.

Student Eligibility

Educational expenses must be for students who are residents of Illinois, who are younger than 21, have attended kindergarten through 12th grade in a public or private school in Illinois or were homeschooled. Qualified expenses include tuition, books and lab or activity fees.

EdChoice Expert Feedback

On student eligibility, the Illinois’ individual tax credit program is accessible to all students statewide. Moreover, there are no unreasonable regulations placed on private schools. Those strong features are hurt, however, by the fact participants have very little funding power with a maximum available credit of just $500. Illinois could improve this program dramatically by raising the tax credit to at least the state’s average per-pupil expenditures in public schools and providing a refundable credit (similar to Alabama’s) so that lower-income families can participate.

Rules and Regulations

  • Income Limit: None
  • Prior Year Public School Requirement: None
  • Geographic Limit: Statewide
  • Enrollment Cap: None
  • Individual Credit Cap: $500
  • Testing Mandates: None


Parent Requirements:

  • Parents must ensure students are residents of Illinois, under the age of 21 at the close of the school year and were full-time pupils in grades K–12 in any qualifying public or nonpublic elementary or secondary school

Governing Statutes

35 ILCS5/.201(m)

Legal History

In 1999, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Education Association, and the People for the American Way brought two lawsuits in state court arguing the program violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and religion clauses of the Illinois Constitution. Illinois appellate courts upheld the programs and the Illinois Supreme Court refused to grant appeals. Toney v. Bower, 744 N.E.2d 351 (Ill. App. 4th Dist. 2001), appeal denied, 195 N.E.2d 573 (Ill. 2001); Griffith v. Bower, 747 N.E.2d 423 (Ill. App. 5th Dist. 2001), appeal denied, 755 N.E.2d 477 (Ill. 2001).

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