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Tax Break for College Tuition Payments

If you are writing a college tuition check, there may be a hidden tax break that will allow you to deduct a part of your college tuition payment. In order to do this, you must utilize a 'Section 529' College Savings Plan in one of the 26 states that provide a tax deduction or credit when you deposit the money.

College TuitionPeople currently using Section 529 plans are well aware of these popular tax breaks. However, there are still plenty of others that currently pay state tuition but don't participate in the Section 529 plan. By first depositing the funds into a Section 529 plan and then withdrawing for the state tuition payment, you may qualify for deducting your state tuition. The deduction is allowed (in most cases) without regard to your income status.

A 'Section 529' College Savings Plan is best known for its Federal Benefits. The earnings on the plan are tax free if you use them for higher education expenses. The current Federal law is set to expire in 2010 unless an extension is passed. Most states conform to the Federal law in allowing tax free earnings on the Section 529 plan. However, they also award a state tax break for residents' contributions to the state's own 529 plan. Kansas and Maine, starting next year, will give deductions for deposits into any state's plan.

Since the state deduction to the plan is immediate, you can deposit the funds into the '529' account then withdraw from the account within a short period. The worth of the deductions depends on your state's tax rate and whether your annual tax break is limited for making a 529 deposit.

To take advantage of the 529 Savings Plan, visit savingforcollege.com, click on "529 Plans", then click on "529 Plan Details." Click on the state in which you reside for details on its savings plan. Then browse through the state's homepage to read up on how to open an account and to withdraw money later.

Many state officials do not like their plans to be used as tax breaks, but few actually try to prevent it. So if you plan on keeping money there for only a short time, you should choose the most conservative investment option. New Mexico is one of the states where the account must be open for a year before money can be withdrawn from it. The state of Michigan has limits as well.

States prefer that residents start saving early, to benefit from compounding and in order to get tax breaks for 20 to 25 years instead of just four. It is a good idea to try out this plan with your tuition money though, as four years of deductions is better than none.

Maximum Annual DeductionsHere are the maximum annual deductions or credits available. If your state isn't here, it either doesn't have income taxes or doesn't offer a tax break for "529" deposits.

State/District - Annual Cap on the Tax BreakColorado: Unlimited deductions up to the amount of your taxable income*Connecticut: $5,000 deduction; $10,000 for married couple filing jointlyDistrict of Columbia: $3,000 deduction; $6,000 for married couple filing jointly; a couple with one child must have two accounts to get the full $6,000Georgia: $2,000 deduction per beneficiary; declines above $50,000 in income or $100,000 for married couple filing jointlyIdaho: $4,000 deduction; $8,000 for married couple filing jointlyIllinois: $10,000 deduction; $20,000 for married couple filing jointlyIndiana: $1,000 tax credit (20% of deposit up to $5,000) starting in 2007Iowa: $2,500 deduction per beneficiary; $5,000 for married couple filing jointlyKansas: $3,000 deduction for each beneficiary; $6,000 for married couple filing jointlyLouisiana: $2,400 deduction per beneficiary per year; $4,800 for married couples filing jointly; state matches deposits on up to 14% of deposit depending on incomeMaine: $250 deduction per beneficiary starting in 2007 if income is below $100,000 (or $200,000 for married couple filing jointly)Maryland: $2,500 per account holder per beneficiary (or $10,000 if each parent maxes out the deduction in both of the state's 529 plans)Michigan: $5,000 deduction; $10,000 for married couple filing jointlyMississippi: $10,000 deduction; $20,000 for married couple filing jointlyMissouri: $8,000 deduction; $16,000 for married couple filing jointly (both spouses must have income and separate accounts)Montana: $3,000 deduction; $6,000 for married couple filing jointlyNebraska: $1,000 deduction per householdNew Mexico: Unlimited deductions up to the amount of your taxable income*New York: $5,000 deduction; $10,000 for married couple filing jointlyOhio: $2,000 deduction per beneficiary per householdOklahoma: $10,000 deduction; $20,000 for married couple filing jointlyOregon: $2,000 deduction per householdRhode Island: $500 deduction; $1,000 for married couple filing jointlySouth Carolina:

Unlimited deductions up to the amount of your taxable income*Utah: $1,560 deduction per beneficiary; $3,120 for married couple filing jointlyVermont: $100 tax credit (5% of deposit up to $2,000) per beneficiary; $200 for married couple filing jointlyVirginia: $2,000 deduction per year, per account. Multiple accounts are fine, up to certain limitsWest Virginia: Unlimited deductions*Wisconsin: $3Health Fitness Articles,000 deduction per beneficiary per household*These states (and others) limit the total amount you can have deposited in a 529 plan at any one time.

Article Tags: $5,000 Deduction $10,000, Married Couple Filing, $10,000 Deduction $20,000, State Tuition, Savings Plan, Unlimited Deductions, $5,000 Deduction, Deduction $10,000, Married Couple, Couple Filing, $3,000 Deduction, Filing Jointly, $2,000 Deduction, $10,000 Deduction, Deduction $20,000

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Alan Olsen is the managing partner at Greenstein Rogoff Olsen & Co., a top Bay Area CPA firm. He focuses on developing innovative strategies for business enterprises and individuals. A specialist in income tax planning, he frequently lectures and writes articles on tax issues for professional organizations and community groups. His website is ranked among the top in the nation for accounting firms: Tax Planning and Business Leadership



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