Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship Program

EMPOWER ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION OPENS TUESDAY, FEB 27. AT 7:00 PM.
Click here for more information on the new application process.

For detailed information on applying and donating to the Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship Program, please visit EmpowerIllinois.org.


Applying for an Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship

This new Tax Credit Scholarship for Illinois residents will cover up to 100% of private school tuition up to a maximum of the average Illinois cost to educate. Families of K-12 students can apply for scholarships beginning on Tuesday, February 27 at 7:00 pm. The Tax Credit Scholarships are for the 2018-19 academic year and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Scholarships will be awarded to priority students February – April. After April 1, additional awards will be sent.

Tax Credit Scholarships are need based and do not take academic performance into consideration.

Empower Illinois – What you Need to Apply from Empower Illinois on Vimeo.

Scholarship Eligibility:

K-12 students from low-income families are eligible to receive a Tax Credit Scholarship. See the chart below for more details.

From January to April, priority will be given to students who:

– Are members of a household whose previous year’s total annual income does not exceed 185% of the federal poverty level; or
– Reside within a focus district and whose household income is within 300% of the federal poverty level. See the list of focus districts here.

After April 1, all other qualifying students will be considered for scholarships, subject to availability of funding.

2017 Federal Poverty Level (FPL) Chart

Household members               185% FPL      250% FPL      300% FPL
1                                              $22,311          $30,150          $36,180
2                                              $30,044          $40,600          $48,720
3                                              $37,777          $51,050          $61,260
4                                              $45,510          $61,500          $73,800
5                                              $53,243          $71,950          $86,340
6                                              $60,976          $82,400          $98,880
7                                              $68,709          $92,850          $111,420
8                                              $76,442          $103,300       $123,960

Note: If more than eight people in your household, for each additional person, add $4,180 to the baseline FPL number for a family of 8 ($41,320) and then multiply by 1.8, 2.5 and 3 to arrive at the corresponding income limits.

For 2018-19 scholarships, 2016 or 2017 federal adjusted gross income is the basis. This amount does not include the income of children under 18 attending elementary or secondary school on a full-time basis. Foster children are deemed to have a household income that does not exceed 185% of the federal poverty level.

The Process

1. Go to EmpowerIllinois.org to start your application.
2. Complete the form with your name and contact information to timestamp your application. Note: This step will determine your place in line for the first-come, first-served scholarships.
3. Also submit your home address, the names of your children, their dates of birth, and your preferred school. Note: Only one reservation and application are allowed per family even if you are applying for several students.
4. Take note of your confirmation code after completing your reservation.
5. Wait to receive an email link to your unique application where you will complete it and upload all required documents. Emails will be sent on a rolling basis and may take several weeks.
6. You will have 3 days to complete your application once your link has been sent. Complete it at a time convenient for you and be sure all documents are provided.

*The school admission process is separate from the scholarship process. A scholarship does not guarantee admittance.

Application Checklist:

This is the list of documents you will need to complete the full application, after you have reserved your place in line.

– Adjusted Gross Income*, such as ONE of the following, as indicated at the end of the application: Federal Tax Return pages 1 & 2, W-2, 1099/s, Year-end pay stub, or a letter on letterhead from employer/s indicating cash wages paid.

-Proof of Illinois residency, such as ONE of the following for the residential parent/custodian: Illinois driver’s license or identification card, utility bill in the custodian’s name, statement of benefits from WIC or SNAP, W-2, 1099, or residential lease in the parent/custodian’s name.

-Documentation of the student’s age (applicable to students entering kindergarten and first grade only), such as ONE of the following: a copy of the student’s birth certificate, Federal or State ID, or a passport.

-The following document is optional at the time of application, but will be required prior to the student receiving scholarship dollars: Enrollment or acceptance letter from the private school the student will attend. The letter needs to be on school letterhead, state the student’s name, and acknowledge the student will attend the school for the school year in which the application applies.

Click here for Students Applying Frequently Asked Questions PDF


Donating to an Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship

Illinois enacted the Invest in Kids Scholarship Tax Credit Program in 2017. This program offers a 75 percent income tax credit to individuals and businesses that contribute to qualified Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs). The SGOs then provide scholarships for students whose families meet the income requirements to attend qualified, non-public schools in Illinois.

Empower Illinois is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit SGO responsible for serving approximately 80% of participating private schools statewide; including all of Illinois’ Catholic Dioceses, most area Jewish schools, Lutheran Schools, secular schools and many more. Empower Illinois is responsible for:

– Processing donations from individuals and corporations;
– Accepting scholarship applications from students/families; and
– Distributing scholarships to eligible students/families in accordance with the law

Individuals may direct their donations to a particular school or subset of schools, but not to an individual student or group of students. Corporate donors cannot designate their donations to a particular school.

Anyone considering making a tax credit scholarship donation need to have an account on mytax.illinois.gov BEFORE applying for a tax credit. This process can take up to 10 days and involves a mailed Letter ID. We encourage you to register as soon as possible. Learn more at www.EmpowerIllinois.org/donors. We appreciate your support and generosity.

Registering is a two-step process:

Part I: Request a Letter ID at Mytax.illinois.gov

You will need:
– The primary taxpayer’s Social Security Number (SSN)
– One of the following: Illinois Driver’s License number, Illinois State ID number
– Adjusted Gross Income from 2016

You will find “Request a Letter ID” under the “Individuals” tab at the top of the screen. Follow the prompts. You should receive your Letter ID in the mail within 7-10 business days.

Part II: Activate Your Mytax.illinois.gov Account Using Your Letter ID

You will need:
– Your Letter ID
– Primary taxpayer’s SNN and one of the approved documents from above

Click the “Sign Up Now!” button next to the login box and follow the prompts. Using your information, you will be able to look up your “IL-PIN”. Use your pin and Letter ID to set your Username and Password and Activate Your Account.

Once your account is active, and after January 2, 2018, you will be able to reserve your tax credit.

Before you can reserve your tax credit, you’ll need to activate your mytax.illinois.gov account.

Learn more about how to activate your account at www.EmpowerIllinois.org/donors/register.

How to Reserve Your Tax Credit and Make Your Donation

1. Visit the Illinois Department of Revenue to reserve your tax credit. Make sure to select EMPOWER ILLINOIS as your SGO.
2. The Illinois Department of Revenue will email your Contribution Authorization Certificate (CAC) within 3 days of approval of your applications.
3. Once you have your certificate, return to Empower Illinois’ Donation page to make your donation.

When reserving your tax credit, be sure your certificate lists the donation amount (not the tax credit amount).

Click here for Donors Frequently Asked Questions PDF