Employers that offer educational assistance programs can also use those programs to help pay their employees’ student loans.
Though educational assistance programs have been available for many years, the option to use them to pay student loans is available only for payments made after March 27, 2020. Under current law, this option will be available until Dec. 31, 2025.
Traditionally, educational assistance programs have been used to pay for books, equipment, supplies, fees, tuition and other education expenses for the employee. These programs can now also be used to pay principal and interest on an employee’s qualified education loans. Payments made directly to the lender, as well as those made to the employee, qualify. By law, tax-free benefits under an educational assistance program are limited to $5,250 per employee per year. Normally, assistance provided above that level is taxable as wages.
For information on other requirements, see Publication 15-B, Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits. Chapter 10 in Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education provides details on what qualifies as a student loan.