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tax deduction for contributions to college savings accounts

Did you know that if you are resident of New York State there are tax deductions waiting for you in the form of a college savings account?  As a resident of NYS you are allowed to take a NYS tax deduction for contributions to a NYS 529 Plan up to $5,000 for a single filer or $10,000 for married filing joint.   These limits are hard dollar thresholds so it does not matter how many kids or grandchildren you have.


529 Accounts


529 accounts are one of the most tax efficient ways to save for college. You receive a state income tax deduction for contributions and all of the earnings are withdrawn tax free if used for a qualified education expense.  These accounts can only be used for a college degree but they can be used toward an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, masters, or doctorate.  You can name whoever you want as a beneficiary including yourself.  More commonly, we see parents set these accounts up for their children or grandparents for the grandchildren.

Can they go to college in any state?


If you setup a NYS 529 account, the beneficiary can go to college anywhere in the United States. It’s not limited to just colleges in New York.  As the owner of the account you can change the beneficiary on the account whenever you choose or close the account at your discretion.

What if they don’t go to college?


The question we usually get is “what if they don’t go to college?”  If you have a 529 account for a beneficiary that does not end up going to college you have a few choices.  You can change the beneficiary listed on the account to another child or even yourself.  You can also decide to just liquidate the account and receive a check.  If the account is closed and the balance is not used for a qualified college expense then you as the owner receive your contributions back tax and penalty free.  However, you will pay ordinary income tax and a 10% penalty on just the earnings portion of the account.

What if my child receives a scholarship?


There is a special withdrawal exception for scholarship awards. They do not want to penalize you because the beneficiary did well in high school or is a star athlete so they allow you to make a withdrawal from the 529 account equal to the amount of the scholarship. You receive your contributions tax free, you pay ordinary income tax on the earnings, but you avoid the 10% penalty for not using the account toward a qualified college expense.

Don’t make this mistake………….


We often see individuals making the mistake of setting up a 529 account in another state because “their advisor told them to do so”.   You are completely missing out on a good size NYS tax deduction because you only get credit for NYS 529 contributions.  A little-known fact is that you can rollover a 529 with another state into a NYS 529 account and that rollover amount will count toward your $5,000 / $10,000 deduction limit for the year.  If a client has $30,000 in a 529 account outside of NYS we typically advise them to roll it over in $10,000 pieces over a three year period to maximize the $10,000 per year NYS tax deduction.


Michael Ruger

About Michael………

Hi, I’m Michael Ruger. I’m the managing partner of Greenbush Financial Group and the creator of the nationally recognized Money Smart Board blog . I created the blog because there are a lot of events in life that require important financial decisions. The goal is to help our readers avoid big financial missteps, discover financial solutions that they were not aware of, and to optimize their financial future.

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Investment advisory services offered through Greenbush Financial Group, LLC. Greenbush Financial Group, LLC is a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through American Portfolio Financial Services, Inc (APFS). Member FINRA/SIPC. Greenbush Financial Group, LLC is not affiliated with APFS. APFS is not affiliated with any other named business entity. There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not ensure against market risk. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.