Does the new tax bill affect 529 Plans?

Q: I have contributed to a 529 Plan to help pay for the costs of college for my child. Did the new tax law change something about how I can use the 529 Plan?

A: Yes, with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Section 529 plan savings may now be used for K-12 tuition as well as for higher education costs.  Here’s what you need to know:

2018 tax changes: 529 plans

Over 20 years ago, federal lawmakers authorized states to create tax-exempt “qualified tuition programs” — Section 529 plans — to help taxpayers fund the cost of higher education. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 expands Section 529 by allowing tax-free account withdrawals not only for qualified higher education expenses but also for tuition at public, private, or religious elementary and secondary schools.

Tax-free 529 withdrawals for K-12 are capped at $10,000 a year, per student

If a child is the beneficiary of multiple 529 plan accounts, the $10,000 may be distributed from one or more of the accounts. Withdrawals in excess of $10,000 would be taxed according to the Section 529 rules (generally as part nontaxable return of principal and part distribution of earnings subject to both income taxes and a 10% penalty).

529 plans typically have generous
contribution limits

Since most states’ 529 plans have relatively high limits on contributions, using one or more 529 plans to save for both K-12 tuition and higher education expenses may be a practical option for families who expect to incur those costs. Although 529 plan contributions are not deductible for federal income tax purposes, many states provide residents a state tax deduction for contributions to their plans.

Contributions to Coverdell education savings accounts, which also allow tax-free withdrawals for qualified K-12 and college expenses, are restricted to $2,000 a year (per beneficiary) and are phased out for higher-income taxpayers. There are no such limits on 529 plan contributions. Both types of accounts allow any investment earnings to build up deferred of federal income taxes.

Rollovers to ABLE accounts are permitted

Federal tax law allows 529 plan savings for a beneficiary to be rolled over tax-free within 60 days of distribution to another 529 account for the same beneficiary. Tax-free rollovers of 529 plan funds are also permitted from one beneficiary to another beneficiary who is a member of the same family (e.g., a sibling or other relative defined in the law). This flexibility can be useful in the event the original 529 account beneficiary doesn’t need the money for educational expenses or uses only a portion of the account balance.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provides another rollover option by allowing 529 plan savings to be rolled over tax and penalty free (within limits) to an ABLE account owned by the designated beneficiary or a member of the beneficiary’s family. ABLE accounts are tax-advantaged accounts for disabled individuals. Unless it is extended or made permanent, the 529-to-ABLE account rollover provision will expire after 2025.

This is just an overview of the new 529 plan tax provisions. Please consult your tax advisor for more information about the rules and how they apply in your specific situation. 


Jeremy R. Gussick is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional affiliated with LPL Financial, the nation’s largest independent broker-dealer.* Jeremy specializes in the financial planning and retirement income needs of the LGBT community and was recently named a 2017 FIVE STAR Wealth Manager as mentioned in Philadelphia Magazine.** He is active with several LGBT organizations in the Philadelphia region, including DVLF (Delaware Valley Legacy Fund) and the Independence Business Alliance (IBA), the Philadelphia Region’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce. OutMoney appears monthly.  If you have a question for Jeremy, you can contact him via email at [email protected]

Jeremy Gussick is a Registered Representative with, and securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC.

Prior to investing in a 529 Plan investors should consider whether the investor’s or designated beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other state benefits such as financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors that are only available for investments in such state’s qualified tuition program. Withdrawals used for qualified expenses are federally tax free. Tax treatment at the state level may vary. Please consult with your tax advisor before investing.

This article was prepared with the assistance of DST Systems Inc. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor. Please consult me if you have any questions. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.  LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

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*As reported by Financial Planning magazine, June 1996-2017, based on total revenues.

**Award based on 10 objective criteria associated with providing quality services to clients such as credentials, experience, and assets under management among other factors. Wealth managers do not pay a fee to be considered or placed on the final list of 2017 Five Star Wealth Managers.