A 529 plan is a college savings plan designed to help build wealth to pay for college expenses. Each 529 plan has a single named beneficiary whose college education can be funded with the 529 funds. The major benefit of all 529 plans is that money invested in them enjoy tax-advantaged growth and withdrawals for qualified educational spending are not charged federal or state income tax.
Pennsylvania allows contributors to 529 plans to take a tax deduction each year up to the gift tax exclusion.This is the maximum annual amount in personal gifts that you can give without triggering the gift tax. In 2012, Pennsylvania taxpayers could claim a tax deduction of up to $13,000 per individual or $26,000 for a married couple on 529 contributions. Contributors to 529 plans are not limited to the account owners. In fact, anyone can contribute to a 529 plan, including the grandparents of the beneficiary of an account. Grandparents can also serve as the account owners of 529 plans.
State 529 Plans
Pennsylvania offers two 529 plans. One is called the Guaranteed Savings Plan, and the other is called the College Investment Plan. The Guaranteed Savings Plan, which is a prepaid tuition plan, offers the capability to lock in tuition rates and mandatory fee levels at participating schools, ensuring that your investment will keep up with rising higher education expenses. The College Investment Plan, which is a college savings plan, provides a vehicle to invest money so that it can grow in value and be used for college expenses. Tax deductions for contributions are the same for each plan.
Pennsylvania is one of 34 states that provides a state tax deduction for contributions to 529 plans. Nine states do not offer a deduction at all, and another seven states do not have a state income tax. Most states limit deductions to the 529 plans that they solely sponsor. Pennsylvania joins Arizona, Kansas, Maine and Missouri in offering a tax deduction to state taxpayers who invest in any state's 529 plan.
Other Tax Impact
Grandparents and other contributors do not receive a federal tax deduction for contributions that they make to a 529 plan. However, Pennsylvania offers an inheritance tax exclusion for assets held in one of the Pennsylvania 529 plans. For instance, if a grandparent who owned a Pennsylvania 529 plan to benefit a grandchild died, then the grandchild would not be charged an inheritance tax on the contents of the plan. Grandchildren in Pennsylvania typically are charged a 4.5 percent inheritance tax on the total value of assets that they inherit from grandparents.