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Can I afford tutoring for my child, and what help is available?

By Jon, published on 30/09/2017 Blog > Tutoring > Advice for Students > How to pay for a private tutor

Have you found a private tutor for your son or daughter, like the growing number of Americans?

There are many things to think about when paying for private one on one tutoring.

Tutoring services are a huge industry in the US – parents paying for home tutoring for their children have created a whopping $7 billion market.

In this article, we’ll look at finding and hiring supplemental instruction for your children to improve their study skills, and how to pay for hourly test prep.

This article can also help teachers who are interested in becoming a tutor or looking for tutor jobs.

Reasons to find a tutor for your child

The demands of school no longer allow students to get good grades without hard worker and good study skills.

Children can benefit from one on one tutoring in order to achieve academic success.

Tutoring can take the form of private one-on-one tutoring in-home, online tutoring, or tutoring programs at a tutoring center.

It’s one of the best ways for students to overcome struggles at school, especially given all the criticism you see in the media of the public school system.

Tutoring can be helpful in any situation, whether it’s a math tutor or a chemistry tutor.

Math tutoring is often especially popular, but writing tutors and English tutors to help improve grammar are often not far behind.

Foreign language classes are also popular with some parents – speaking French or Spanish to a high level, with a good grasp of pronunciation, grammar, and spelling is a great skill to have, especially when it comes time to fill out those college applications.

Depending on a student’s individualized needs, finding a biology tutor or someone to help with test prep can be key to finding academic success.

There’s also a number of websites that’ll help you find the best tutor for your particular subject and town, or find someone for online tutoring.

Struggling in science class? Find a tutor

Different tutoring formats

There are three main forms of supplemental instruction:

  1. one on one
  2. in a small group
  3. or online tutoring

For each, you could choose regular hourly tutoring or intensive programs during school vacations.

According to what you’re looking for, you can sign up with tutoring companies, or find a private tutor. Tutoring centers usually use set methods and curriculum, and charge a commission.

There are also some organizations which specialize in specific subjects – Alliance Francaise for French classes, or the Cervantes Institute for Spanish.

Other tutoring programmes have an army of tutors ready and will cover any topic, from the PSATs to school math to the GMAT. For these, you’ll surely be familiar with the names of Sylvan Learning or Kumon Learning Centers.

Structured curriculum and individualized learning plans help provide the best academic support for young students.

Independent teachers (who are often present on databases like Superprof) are often able to charge more affordable hourly rates, which are generally somewhat linked to their experience and education. In general, a tutor might cost between $15-$50, depending on their background.

The market for tutors in vast and open, and there is often a wide range able to meet all tutoring needs if you’re willing to look.

Different ways to pay your child’s tutor

A French study in 2013 found that almost 90% of private tutors were being paid under the table. We haven’t seen a similar study from the IRS, but we’d imagine it’s something similar here.

This staggering percentage only helps to evidence the vastness of the market for private tutors and the causal way in which most parents pay their tutors.

In contrast to what you might think, ways to pay tutors don’t vary too much, whether you’ve found them through a tutoring center or independently. The parents often pay the tutor directly, and if they were sourced through a company, pay an additional commission to the tutoring business.

Often, the entity providing the introduction between parents and tutors will charge a small fee, whether it’s a one-off charge, membership fee, or commission. Academic support companies are really just recruiters, using a well-known brand and platform to guarantee the quality of their tutors.

Working through an academic support company is also a good way to know that everything is on the up and up. If your private tutoring is following a set structure, you might also just be paying the tutoring fees through the company, which the tutor then receives in a paycheck every few weeks.

If you’re buying a block of classes or tutoring credits ahead of time, it’s worth checking to find out what happens if you don’t end up using them. You don’t want to accidentally end up in some kind of contract violation.

Tutors are often paid by checks or cash. Although academic support companies and learning centers will sometimes pay via bank transfer, it’s quite rare for freelancers.

There can also be a bit of price inflation sometimes, depending on how you’ve hired a tutor.

Private tutors – qualified teacher or an eager college student?

Tax deductions for tutors

Although you can find some good deals, the cost of private tutoring is not negligible and it’s always good to claim tax deductions wherever you can. The high demand for tutoring services has created a vast market for homework help and learning centers, and of course, the IRS is happy to tax this market.

Unfortunately, there is technically no tax deductions available for tutoring services.

However, what there is is a child care tax credit, worth up to 35% of the first $3000 spent on child care for one child under the age of 13, or $6000 for two children.

The tax credit can be claimed by any custodial parent who is either in full-time work, education, or looking for work. As far as the IRS is concerned, as long as the person or service you’re using is providing child care while you work, they can be doing anything – cleaner, a cook, a qualified tutor…

Of course, this does rule out a lot of learning centers, but if you want to go through an organized company, plenty of after-school programmes offer tutoring services, and it’s well worth exploring the options at those.

We should add, there are two exceptions to the lack of tax deductions on tutoring services – you can claim a tax deduction for your child’s preschool, but not for anything at an older age. And if your child has a learning disability, and a doctor suggests tutoring as part of their treatment…well then, then it’s a different kettle of fish! You will need to have tutoring suggested as part of medical treatment, however.

And finally – we aren’t tax experts, just trying to help you find ways to cover the cost of academic tutoring for your child. Always consult a tax professional if there’s something you aren’t sure about.

Of course, since it’s a tax deduction it’s up to you to pay everything up front, and then make the claims when you file with the IRS in April. And if they’re being picky, they’ll have to agree that your costs do also cover childcare.

Ways to pay your child’s tutor – checks, cash, or transfer via an app

Possible support to pay for tutoring

Academic support and tutoring services, therefore, exist in a bit of a grey area, where there’s the possibility of a tax deduction, but unless you’re savvy you probably need to foot the bill yourself. For parents on a low income this can be a real challenge, and in a world of competitive college applications and intensive test prep for the perfect SAT score, seems to leave poorer children at a disadvantage.

However, there are numerous organizations that have sprung up (Posse perhaps being the best known, but also 826 in San Francisco and New York, and of course, the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs) which aim to make sure that every child has a chance of academic success.

Sometimes support is available in the form of very affordable after-school programmes or free tutoring assistance at a local library or YMCA.

Other organizations are more targeted and partner directly with schools and families, and then help them to access what they need to succeed academically.

Sometimes local businesses will also run enrichment or tutoring services with nearby schools as a form of corporate social responsibility. All of these things sometimes lack publicity, so whatever your family income, it’s worth enquiring with your child’s teacher and school secretary, as well as more widely with the local rec center and public library about what academic support services might be available.

Work on your finances and find creative ways to pay for your child’s academic tutoring and test prep.

Academic support and tutoring are real investments in your child’s future and academic success, and while the price can sometimes seem daunting, there are creative ways to receive deductions on your income taxes with the child care credit, as well as possible sources of support from local charities and companies.

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