1098 forms and how they work with tax breaks

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In a Nutshell

There are seven different types of IRS 1098 forms. You might get one if you’ve made certain types of payments (like mortgage or student loan payments) or took some other action (like donating a vehicle to charity) that could qualify you for a tax deduction or tax credit.
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This article was fact-checked by our editors and a member of the Credit Karma product specialist team, led by Senior Manager of Operations Christina Taylor. It has been updated for the 2020 tax year.

Receiving one of several different 1098 forms isn’t quite the same thing as getting a check in the mail. But in some cases, it might not be too far off.

That’s because some 1098 forms are used to report tax-related information that you can potentially use to take a tax deduction or tax credit when you file your taxes. And because tax deductions and tax credits both help lower your overall tax liability, claiming them may help increase your chances of getting a tax refund or owing less.

Getting a 1098 form in the mail, though, doesn’t mean you automatically get a tax break. Whether or not you can claim a deduction or credit may depend on multiple factors. Let’s take a look at the different types of 1098 forms you may receive and how each could affect your federal income taxes when it’s time to file your return.

What are 1098 forms?

There are nearly 1,000 forms related to federal income taxes, and seven different types of 1098 forms. Forms that include “1098” in the title contain information about transactions you’ve made during a calendar year that could potentially affect your taxes when it’s time to file your return in the beginning of the next calendar year.

Here are the seven types of 1098 forms and a brief description of what they’re for.

  • Form 1098 (Mortgage Interest Statement) — If you paid at least $600 in mortgage interest, your mortgage company is required to provide you with this form, which may help you deduct mortgage interest.
  • Form 1098-E (Student Loan Interest Statement) If you paid at least $600 in interest on one or more qualified student loans, lenders must provide you with this form that details how much you paid them. This information might help you take a deduction for student loan interest.
  • Form 1098-T (Tuition Statement) If you paid tuition to an eligible higher education institution, such as a college or university, information on this statement may help you claim education credits.
  • Form 1098-C (Contributions of Motor Vehicles, Boats and Airplanes) If you donated a car, boat, or airplane worth more than $500 to a charity, you’ll need this form if you hope to take a charitable deduction for your contribution.
  • Form 1098-F (Fines, Penalties and Other Amounts) If you paid any court-ordered fines, penalties, restitution or remediation, information about your payment is included on this form. But these types of payments are generally not tax deductible.
  • Form 1098-MA (Mortgage Assistance Payments) If you received or paid for any homeowner assistance payments through a state Housing Finance Agency, that information will appear on this form. You may be able to deduct payments you paid, and that are reported on this form, if you meet the requirements for doing so.
  • Form 1098-Q (Qualifying Longevity Annuity Contract Information) People who receive payouts from a certain type of retirement account, called a qualified longevity annuity contract, may receive this statement.

Why did I get a 1098?

Generally, getting any kind of 1098 form is related to a financial transaction you engaged in during the tax year.

For example, if you pay tuition to an eligible education institution, your school may send you a Form 1098-T. If you paid at least $600 in interest on a mortgage, your lender will likely send you a Form 1098.

The type of transaction — and the amount you paid or donated — reported on the form determines what you can or should do with it. For example, you might be able to use the information on a 1098-T to help you claim certain education tax credits when you file your tax return. Or, if you donated a car worth more than $500 to a charity, you may get a Form 1098-C in the mail that could help you take a tax deduction for making a donation to charity.

What information is on a 1098?

The information on each type of 1098 form will vary. But all contain some basic information.

  • Your name and address
  • Your Social Security number
  • The value of what you paid or donated
  • Data on the other party involved in the transaction (for example, your mortgage or student loan lender)

Each type of 1098 form may have additional information. For example, if you earned any scholarships during the tax year while you were attending college, this may be reported in Box 5 of the Form 1098-T. Form 1098, for mortgage interest, will also show when your mortgage was originated in Box 3. And Form 1098-C will include information about the vehicle you donated, such as the odometer reading, year, make, model and VIN.

How much can I deduct for mortgage interest?

If you got your mortgage before Dec. 15, 2017, you may be able to deduct interest on up to $1 million of mortgage debt ($500,000 if you’re married filing separately). Homeowners who closed on mortgages after Dec. 31, 2017, may be able to deduct interest on up to $750,000 of mortgage debt ($375,000 if married filing separately).

What should I do with my 1098?

You know how official forms have a habit of suddenly disappearing when you need them? The best thing to do when you get any tax forms in the mail — including any Form 1098s — is to make a copy of them and put it in a safe place.

When it comes time to file your taxes, give your tax preparer a copy of the forms if you’ll be hiring someone to do it. Otherwise, have the forms handy while you do your own taxes, or if you use a tax preparation software.

You don’t necessarily need to submit a 1098 form with your tax return. The company or organization that issues the 1098 to you must also supply it to the IRS. One exception is for Form 1098-C (for charitable contributions), which you must attach with your tax return when you send it in.

Which 1098 forms am I likely to get?

Some tax forms are more well-known than others. Here are some of the 1098 forms you may be more familiar with — and are more likely to receive based on your life circumstances.

Form 1098 — Mortgage Interest Statement

Americans have more than 48 million mortgages, so this is probably one of the more common 1098 forms. Unlike the rest of them, this form doesn’t have a modifier after the number — it’s just simply “Form 1098.”

If you have a mortgage and you paid at least $600 in mortgage interest during the year, your lender is supposed to send you a Form 1098. This form is also used to report if you overpaid interest on your mortgage, if you paid any mortgage insurance premiums or if you paid any mortgage points.

You may be able to use the information listed on the Form 1098 to claim a mortgage interest tax deduction. But there’s a catch: in order to claim the deduction, you’ll need to choose to itemize your taxes instead of taking the standard deduction.

Form 1098-T

If you’ve gone off to pursue higher education at an eligible educational institution, you might find that you’ll get a Form 1098-T in the mail if you paid tuition. This one’s a bit different in that it’s not used to take a tax deduction, but rather claim education-related tax credits.

Information on Form 1098-T may help you claim either the American opportunity tax credit or the lifetime learning credit, if you’re eligible for one or the other — but you can’t claim both for the same student.

Form 1098-E

Once you’ve graduated from college, you might find that a new form applies to you: Form 1098-E, for interest you paid on your qualified student loans. If you pay at least $600 in interest on a qualified student loan per year, your lender is required to send this form out to you.

You can potentially deduct up to $2,500 from your taxable income if you qualify for the student loan interest deduction. Even better, it’s an above-the-line deduction, which means you can take this deduction even if you opt for the standard deduction — you don’t have to itemize your deductions to take this one.

Bottom line

You may not be in a position to receive a 1098-C for donating a vehicle, boat or airplane to charity, or a 1098-Q for a receiving a payout from a specialized type of annuity. But if you pay college tuition, interest on a student loan or mortgage interest, chances are you’ll see at least one 1098 form in your life.

Understanding the information on any 1098 form you receive can help you determine if you’re eligible for tax breaks that might reduce your federal income tax obligation.

Relevant sources:

About Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement | About Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement | About Form 1098-E, Student Loan Interest Statement | About Form 1098-C, Contributions of Motor Boats, Vehicles and Airplanes | About Form 1098-F, Fines, Penalties and Other Amounts | About Form 1098-MA, Mortgage Assistance Payments | About Form 1098-Q, Qualifying Longevity Annuity Contract Information

Christina Taylor is senior manager of tax operations for Credit Karma. She has more than a dozen years of experience in tax, accounting and business operations. Christina founded her own accounting consultancy and managed it for more than six years. She codeveloped an online DIY tax-preparation product, serving as chief operating officer for seven years. She is the current treasurer of the National Association of Computerized Tax Processors and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration/accounting from Baker College and an MBA from Meredith College. You can find her on LinkedIn.

About the author: Lindsay VanSomeren is a freelance writer living in Kirkland, Washington. She has been a professional dogsled racer, a wildlife researcher, and a participant in the National Spelling Bee. She writes for websites such a… Read more.