Understanding the Rules for Withdrawing from a 529 Plan

Understanding the Rules for Withdrawing from a 529 Plan

Where Can Money Be Withdrawn From My 529 Plan?

In exchange for the tax deductions and other benefits associated with a 529 plan, you are subject to certain spending requirements and restrictions. You can use the money that you have saved to pay for expenses that are directly related to the cost of your education, such as:1

Cost of Instruction and Fees

529 plans can be used to cover the cost of tuition and fees for both full-time and part-time students.

The Room and Board Charge

You are able to use the money from your 529 plan to pay for your room and board, regardless of whether you live on or off campus. If you wish to use 529 funds for your education, one important thing to keep in mind is that your off-campus housing fees cannot be higher than what you would spend to live on campus.

Books and Supplies Necessary for the Course

The funds from your 529 plan can be used to pay for the required textbooks and other classroom necessities that are outlined in the course syllabus.


When you need them for education, your new computer or tablet, your internet access, and even a printer are all covered by the financial aid package.

The funds from your 529 plan can be used to cover any special needs or adaptive equipment you might require in order to access the campus, go to class, participate in activities, or listen to lectures. In most cases, transportation costs are not covered by insurance; but, if you have certain requirements, those costs may be included in your policy.

Keep in mind that these costs can be associated with any educational establishment that meets the criteria for receiving financial assistance from the federal government. That implies it involves both public and private institutions all around the United States, as well as a few institutions in other countries. It encompasses schools for students at all levels of education, from undergraduate to graduate, and even certain vocational schools.

Costs That Do Not Qualify As 529 Contributions

The funds in your 529 account are intended for higher education, but you cannot use them to pay for certain expenses, even if those expenses are connected to the time you spend in school or the classes you take. These unreimbursed, non-deductible expenses include the following:2

Even though you will be using these modes of transportation to travel to college, you will not be able to utilize the money you save in your 529 plan to pay for your car, bus, flight, or gas expenses.

Student Loan Costs

Your 529 plan savings cannot be used to pay for your student debts or the interest on those loans.

Activities of a Physical Nature

It is not possible to use funds from a 529 plan to pay participation fees for athletics, sports clubs, or other school-sponsored groups or campus events.

Insurance for Medical Care

Medical expenses that you incur while you are enrolled in school cannot be paid for your 529 savings because you have health insurance.

Withdrawal Exceptions for the 529 Plan

Despite the fact that the regulations for withdrawing from a 529 plan are set in stone, there are ways to make non-qualified withdrawals without being subject to the 10% penalty; these include the following: 34

The student who was the recipient passed away.

The student recipient applies to join one of the military academies in the United States.
Even in these situations, you are still required to pay income taxes on profits, unless those gains are used to pay for a qualified expense. If you have more than one kid, you have the ability to alter the beneficiary of your 529 plan in the event that one of your children receives a scholarship or similar exemption.

In the event that your eldest child is awarded a scholarship or chooses to attend a U.S. service academy, you will not be subject to any penalties for early withdrawal of your money; however, you will be required to pay taxes on any gains.3 If you change the beneficiary of your 529 savings plan to one of your younger children, you won’t incur any fines, and that child will be entitled to the total amount of money you’ve saved through your 529 plan.

Considerations to Make Before You Make a Withdrawal That Is Not Qualified

Because the vast majority of non-qualified withdrawals incur penalties, you shouldn’t make one unless you’ve thoroughly considered and exhausted all of your other choices. There are numerous circumstances in which a superior plan is available, which will enable you to retain a greater portion of the funds that you have labored so diligently to obtain. B efore you decide to make a withdrawal that is not qualified, take the following into consideration.

Do you anticipate any other expenses that will count toward your deductions? You will not be subject to a penalty if you use these funds to pay for things like your rent, books, and supplies. This would be the best use of these cash.
Will your child continue their education at the graduate level? In most cases, you will be able to use the funds from your 529 savings plan to pay for your child’s graduate school, law school, or medical school tuition.
Is there an other beneficiary that you could choose? Savings from a 529 plan can be transferred to a younger child, which can help you save money and get that family member’s savings for college off to a good start.
Is it possible to take a withdrawal directly from the principal? You won’t be charged a fee for withdrawing the original sum you put in, but if you want to avoid paying fees on the increase of your investment, you should keep it there.
Possible Fees and Penalties for Withdrawing from a 529 Plan
The fact that you can always withdraw your principle without incurring any fees from your 529 plan should be the most important thing you learn about penalties and your plan. However, you may be required to pay additional taxes on any money that accumulates over time. Your college savings accounts, in contrast to standard investment accounts, are evaluated and taxed as income rather than potential capital gains whenever they accumulate growth.6

If you take money out of your 401(k) for anything that isn’t a legitimate business expense, you’ll have to pay a 10% tax on your earnings. You will be required to pay income taxes on the gains, and it is possible that you will also be required to repay any state income tax deductions that you have previously claimed.

You will be able to keep as much of your hard-earned investment as possible if you thoroughly understand the differences between qualified and non-qualified expenses and take steps to reduce your penalties before you withdraw. Because penalties do exist for non-qualified withdrawals, it is important to fully understand the differences between qualified and non-qualified expenses.

Are You Prepared to Withdraw?

After years of hard work and savings, the big day has finally arrived; what should you do now? To get started, you will need to determine how much money you will need to withdraw for your tax-deductible spending. After taking into account financial aid and any scholarships that may be applicable, you should have a general sense of how much money will be required.

When you have determined how much money you require, the next step is to choose who will receive the payments. You have the option of transferring the money to the college directly, adding it to one of your personal accounts to use for paying expenditures, or giving the money to your child, who is the beneficiary of the account. When it comes to filing your taxes, you’ll need to have all of your invoices, receipts, and other evidence.

After the monies have been transferred, you will need to submit a completed Form 1099-Q to the Internal Revenue Service. This form is designed exclusively for spending from 529 plans, and submitting it assures that your taxes are computed correctly and that you are not liable to any penalties.7 This form will be filled out by the manager or custodian of the 529 plan, and a copy will be sent to the student, the parent, and the IRS.

Questions That Are Typically Responded To (FAQs)

So, what exactly is a 529 plan?

A 529 plan is a type of tax-advantaged savings plan that can be used to pay for future educational costs. A 529 plan can either be an investment scheme or a plan for prepaying college expenses. You can invest the money in Savings Plans, which grow tax-free. You are able to pay for your tuition at participating schools and institutions in advance through the use of prepaid tuition plans.

What happens to the money in a 529 plan if it isn’t used for educational expenses?

In the event that the funds are not used for educational purposes, you have the option to take them out of the account and pay income taxes as well as a 10% tax penalty on any gains. You also have the option of transferring the benefits to an other beneficiary, such as a different kid or grandchild who might use them to pay for college, or you might use them to further your own education.

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