Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship Program

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

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.

An eligible student is a member of a household whose federal adjusted gross income the year before he or she initially receives a scholarship under this program, as determined by the Department, does not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level and, once the child receives a scholarship, does not exceed 400% of the federal poverty level.

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.

Scholarship Eligibility:

To be considered for a 2018-19 scholarship, K-12 students must come from a household with income below 300% of the federal poverty level ($73,800 for family of four). Prior to April 1, priority will be given to:

– Students from households below 185% of the federal poverty level ($45,510 for family of four).
– Students who reside in a “focus district” (low-performing public schools).

The Process

1. Families submit a complete application.
2. Families are notified of their application status.
3. Students begin school admission and enrollment process.*
4. Scholarship award notifications are sent to families beginning in February and continue until available funds are used.
5. Funds will be distributed to schools at the start of the 2018-19 school year. Empower Illinois will work directly with schools and organizations to distribute funds.

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

Students can being applying at February 27. 2018 at 7:00 pm. Go to for the online application.

The application process will take about 15-20 minutes. Use the checklist below to gather everything you will need before you begin.

Application Checklist:

– A copy of your family’s 2016 or 2017 federal tax return. If the family did not file a 2016 or 2017 tax return, the family may submit a 1099, W-2 or pay stub showing that their annualized income is either below the minimum required to file a federal tax return, or would be low enough to qualify the student when accounting for the (federal) standard deduction.
– Proof of Illinois residency, such as: current utility bill or current drivers license
– Documentation of the student’s age, such as: a copy of the student’s birth certificate, Federal or State ID, a password, or if available, a letter of acceptance or enrollment at an eligible, participating, non-public school

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 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 We appreciate your support and generosity.

Registering is a two-step process:

Part I: Request a Letter ID at

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 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 account.

Learn more about how to activate your account at

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