Copyright © Daniel Cullinane CPA.
There are education incentives that provide tax benefits to assist you in funding the cost of a college education for your family members but some of them are subject to phase outs based on AGI, thereby limiting the incentives that may be available to you.The tax credits and deductions available to help pay college costs include
Section 529 plans
American Opportunity Credit
Education deductions including student loan interest.
Probably the most popular tax incentive college funding method is a Section 529 plan (qualified tuition program) since it is available to all taxpayers, regardless of their income. These plans offer the following benefits
Distributions are tax free if usd to pay qualified education expenses at any accredited college,university or graduate school and most community college and certified technical training schools in the United States as well as many schools abroad
Distributions can be used to pay for a computer, computer software and even internet expenses, so long as the computer is used fore college work Allowable computer software must be predomatily educational in nature, so software designed for games, sports or hobbies are excluded
Control of the funds remains inn the hands of the account owner(not the beneficiary ) even after the beneficiary reaches legal age, permitting you to change beneficiaries at any time and for any reason. You might need to charge the beneficiary to another child if the original beneficiary does not go to college, or excess funds remain in one child's account after college You can also change beneficiary to your self if a financial emergency requires you to have access to the funds. However any distributions representing income earned within the plan will be taxable if not used for qualified education purposes.
Age and income restrictions do not apply to the account owner or beneficiary unlike other tax incentive education plans
You are not limited to just the plans offered by the state you live in . In addition, you can change your choice of plan very 12 months and roll over plan funds to a new plan, This gives you more investment options and possible higher contribution ceilings.
Funds deposited into a Section 529 plan for the benefit of another person are considered a gift for gift tax purposes. Although the plan's assets are excluded from your estate, there are gift taxx considerations. For 2014 and 2015, you can use tp to five years of annual gift exclusion up front allowing you to gift as much as $70,000 per beneficiary , $140,000 if married, without using any of your lifetime credit gift tax exclusion or incurring a gift tax. However, to the extent you used your annual gift exclusion to fund a 529 plan, you will have to reduce other tax - free gifts to stay within the annual exclusion amount of $14,000 per donee. Also, if your state of residence allows a deduction for the contributions to the plan, you generally only be allowed to take the deduction in the initial year that you fund the plan for one year's amount.
Private institutions can offer a prepaid tuition program if they satisfy Section 529 requirements. Distributions from these private plans used for a qualified education expenses will also be tax free.
Section 529 plans also have their disadvantages. Contributions to the plans are not deductible for federal income tax purposes. In addition, you lose some control of future investment decisions although you do retain investment option flexibility within the plan's choices. Also, even though you can withdraw funds for uses other than qualified higher education expenses, you will have to pay a 10% penalty on the earnings, similar to a premature distribution from a retirement account.
AMERICAN OPPORTUNITY AND LIFETIME LEARNING CREDITS
The American Opportunity credit and Lifetime learning Credit are available if you pay qualified tuition and related education expenses which includes course materials such as books, supplies, and equipment. Room and board expenses do not qualify for either credit. However these credits have income limitations which phase out the available credits. The AOC is phased out ratably with AGI between $80,000 and $90,000 if single or head of household and $160,000 to $180,000 if married jointly. The Lifetime Learning Credit is phased out ratable with AGI between $55,000 and $65,000 for 2015 is single or head of household and $110,000 to $130,000 for 20154 if filing jointly
American Opportunity Credit A $2,500 annual credit per student is available for the first four years of post - secondary education with enrollment on at least half-time basis in a program leading to a degree
Life learning Credit A $2,000 annual credit per taxpayer is available for an unlimited number of years of post secondary , graduate or certain other courses to acquire or improve your job skills. The credit is equal to 20% of the first $10,000 of qualified expenses up to a maximum amount of $2,000
Daniel Cullinane CPA
25 Plaza 5 25th fl Jersey City NJ phone 732-516-1648 fax 732-516-9778
2500 Plaza 5 25th fl Jersey City NJ 07311 phone 732-516-1648 fax 732-516-9778