What is "IRS section 529"?

IRS section 529 or Qualified Tuition Programs (QTP's) are found under Title 26, Subtitle A, Chapter 1, Subchapter F, Part VIII, Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code or "IRC". It is considered the most complicated and hard to read section of the Code and a good treatment for insomnia. This section deals with special tax breaks for families, hence the "insomnia effect".

Parents who desire to overcome the skyrocketing tuition costs can utilize IRS section 529 to start saving early for their children's school expenses. Parents have a direct control over how and where their money is being invested. Under the college savings plans investors are not subject to any minimum income restrictions or area-specification where savings plans are concerned.

The Plan does not restrict participation eligibility; anyone can participate regardless of income. Participants name the beneficiary of the account and he will be the one using the money for educational expenses. The owner of the account can change the beneficiary at any time and maintain control of the account for the purpose of determining assets for the expected family contribution for college expenses.

Participants can contribute up to $13,000 per person for each beneficiary they have without having to pay a federal gift tax. Married participants can contribute a total of $26,000 per beneficiary. Participants can contribute up to $335,000 per account. The value of the account may rise above this amount because of increases in the investments but once this amount is reached or surpassed participants can no longer contribute to it.

One of the benefits that attract families to the 529 plan is the friendly tax treatment it offers. Funds withdrawn for educational expenses are not subject to Federal tax and some states allow the participant/investor to deduct the contributed amount from state tax.

Generally speaking there are two types of529 plans -Prepaid plans and Savings plans. A Prepaid Plan is effective when one wishes to buy tuition credit at the present rate to be used later and the Savings Plan is dependant solely upon the market performance of principal investments. Most 529 savings plans offer age-based asset allocation choices where the underlying investments become more conservative as the recipient approaches the college-going age.

I can go on and on about the pros and cons of the 529 Plan but I would like to shift gears here and look at the 529 Plan treatment in a bankruptcy proceedings.

A 529 college-savings plan assets are not exempt under bankruptcy law if it is held for less than one year. The law exempts 529 assets held for at least two years. If assets are held between one to two years the exemption is limited to $5,000.00. In other words, individuals who participate in 529 Plans and find themselves in need for bankruptcy protection should look carefully at how long their 529 Plans have been in effect before deciding to file.