What is Income Based Repayment?
Income based repayment (IBR) for student loans is just as the name implies, a repayment plan that is based on your income. There are various types of repayment plans that are offered for each type of student loan, the income based repayment plan is primarily designed for those at a low level of income or for those that are having difficulty making their payments. For those that are not having difficulty making payments or are at a high level of income, there are other repayment plans that they can utilize.
The IBR program that is available for federal student loans is available for the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) programs and all of the Direct Loan programs including the graduate PLUS program but not the parent PLUS program. In order to qualify for this program the loan must not be currently in default. This does not mean that it was never in default, it simply means that the payments must be current at the time of application.
How are the payment amount calculated?
The biggest factor within the IBR program is the way in which your payment is calculated. The IBR program uses your income, your debt, and your amount owed in student loans to determine a specific payment plan given your overall financial situation. For very low income earners, those below 150% of the federal poverty level, that select this repayment option the payment will be zero. For those that are making more than 150% of the federal poverty level will have a payment that will be no greater than 15% of the amount of money that they make over the 150% of federal poverty level. This payment is adjusted every year and can change relative to changes in your underlying income.
The IBR plan does allow for a consolidation analysis for those that are married and it does allow all of the federal poverty income calculations to be based on the total income for the family. For special hardship considerations both spouses need to qualify for that hardship. There are many factors that need to be considered when applying for the IBR plan when you are married. The way in which you file your taxes and if you should consolidate your application or not can affect the resulting IBR payments. It is best to seek counseling and advice of how applying under different circumstances will affect the analysis and your resulting payment.
For all loans that are issued prior to July 1, 2014 the loan will be completely discharged if the borrower makes payments within the IBR program for 25 years. For loans issued after that date they will be discharged after IBR payment for 20 years. When a loan is discharged it is different than if the loan is payed for you or forgiven. Under this program if the debt is discharged or canceled it will have an impact on your taxes for the year of discharge. For more information on how this may impact your tax return you should seek the advice of a tax professional. You should also be prepared for ways in which this discharge may affect any other low income programs that you are qualified under.
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