Thursday, December 13, 2012

California has a "529" Tax-Favored College Savings Program

In case you didn't know it, California maintains a tax-favored "529" savings program for college tuition (and related college expenses) that works something like an IRA.  It can be used for any qualified institution nationwide, not just UC.

Details are at


Contributions and Any Earnings Used to Pay for Qualified Higher Education Expenses are Federal and California Income Tax-free.
The earnings portion of any distributions used to pay for qualified higher education expenses will be free from federal and California income tax.
Federal Estate and Gift Tax Benefits
Contributions to ScholarShare may reduce the taxable value of your estate. For example, contributions to the Plan, together with all other gifts from the account owner to the beneficiary, may qualify for an annual federal gift tax exclusion of $13,000 per donor ($26,000 for married contributors), per beneficiary. If an account owner's contribution to a ScholarShare account for a beneficiary in a single year exceeds $13,000 ($26,000 for married contributors), the account owner may elect to treat up to $65,000 of the contributions, or $130,000 for joint filers, as having been made over a period of up to five years for federal gift tax exclusion. Consult your tax advisor.
Flexible Features
Anyone May Open an Account
Parents, grandparents, relatives and friends who are U.S. citizens or resident aliens and at least 18 years of age may open an account and contribute to ScholarShare on behalf of a beneficiary*. California state residency is not required. However, investors residing outside of California should consider their own state's plan first as it may have tax advantages that are only available through that state's plan.
Funds Can be Used at Eligible Schools Nationwide
Whether your beneficiary decides to go to a private or public college or university, in-state or out-of-state, trade or graduate school, funds in the account may be used at any eligible higher educational institution in the nation and many abroad.
Funds Can be Used for a Variety of Qualified Expenses
Funds can be used for tuition, mandatory fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for enrollment or attendance; certain room and board costs, certain expenses for "special needs" students...
Yours truly was reminded of this program by a blog note from the Sacramento Bee mentioning that the account limit in this program was likely to be raised to $371,000 per beneficiary from $350,000.  See [scroll down]

And as it happens, there is a report on the use of such accounts today in Inside Higher Ed with a link to a GAO study:

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