I am confused about the changes to the Student Services Charge. Why is it more for the first child and less for the second child in a family?
Currently third-level students pay an annual Student Services Charge (also known as a registration fee) of €1,500. For the new academic year 2011/12 this charge has been replaced by a flat-rate Higher Education Student Contribution of €2,000 per year. Part-time students pay €1,000 per year. All eligible students will have to pay this contribution.
Students who qualify for third-level grants do not have to pay it and families whose reckonable income is below certain limits pay a half-rate contribution (visit citizensinformation.ie to check the limits for your family). You can pay the contribution in two instalments.
You cannot claim tax relief on the current Student Services Charge since it is not considered a fee. (If third-level students pay fees they can claim tax relief on these fees under certain conditions.)
However the new Student Contribution will be eligible for tax relief in some circumstances. This is where the difference between the first and second children in a family arises. You cannot claim tax relief on the first €2,000 payable by your family (e.g. your first child). However you can claim tax relief on any other student contributions you pay (e.g. any other children in higher education). The tax relief is at the standard rate of 20%. In effect, this means that the second and subsequent siblings pay a student contribution of €1,600 instead of €2,000. If your children are studying part-time the first €1,000 is not eligible for tax relief.