Are you married, but only one of you owes federal student loans? Are you struggling to make the monthly payment, or worse, are you behind? Do you file your tax returns jointly?

If the answer to all of these questions is yes, then I have some good news for you. You might be able to lower your monthly payment!

The average amount of student loan debt being carried in this country is close to $30,000! Professionals, like teachers, lawyers, doctors, and chiropractors, can have much more than this, often upwards of $100,000! In this bad economy, making the payments on this much debt can be a struggle. Enter the income based repayment plan.

What Is an Income Based Repayment Plan?

The Department of Education has established three payment plans that are based on your debt-to-income ratio:

The "debt" is your total student loan debt, and the "income" is your adjusted gross income (AGI) from your last year's tax return as compared to your family size.

What's the Problem with Joint Tax Returns?

The problem with this can come in where a married couple files a joint tax return where only one spouse owes federal student loans. In that instance the income is the joint AGI, not the income of just the borrower. This can make a big difference in the payment you would be required to make if you qualified for one of these programs.

In this situation, you should talk to a student loan lawyer and a tax professional to see if filing separate tax returns might make sense. For example, let's say that filing separate tax returns would result in paying $1,500 more in federal taxes.

However, when using just your AGI to calculate a payment in an income based plan, you save $250 per month, that's $3,000 per year and a net savings of $1,500!  Depending on your income and loan balance, the savings could be a lot more!

So What Do I Do?

If you live in southern New Jersey and would like to consult with me on getting a better payment plan on your loans, please feel free to call my office at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule an appointment in my Woodbury office to discuss your case.

If you would like more information about student loans, you can dowload my free book, I Graduated; Now What? A Guide to Dealing with Your Student Loans.

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Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.