By Curtis Loftis, South Carolina Treasurer
It’s been a mad rush of holiday gatherings since late November, and the end of another year is fast approaching. It’s also the time when the mad scramble to gather all your records and track down those missing receipts has begun. The good news is that you may still have time to claim another 2018 tax deduction and do something wonderful for your children or grandchildren at the same time.
Here’s how. In many states, contributions you make to your child or grandchild’s 529 college savings plan are deductible or provide a credit on your state income tax return. For example, South Carolina residents can deduct 100 percent of contributions made to their Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan by April 15, 2019, from their 2018 state income taxes. So be sure to check your state’s plan for details on the tax benefits it offers.
The money you save in a 529 account grows free of state and federal income taxes. When your child or grandchild is ready for college, any withdrawals you make for college expenses are tax-exempt, too. Paying less in taxes certainly makes 529 college plans a smart way to save for college.
And every dollar saved in a 529 plan today will result in less money that may need to be borrowed down the road. Nationally, student debt now totals about $1.5 trillion, surpassing credit card debt held by Americans.
There are other benefits beyond reduced taxes for 529 plans. First, the initial investment required to open an account is minimal, and in some states, like South Carolina, no contribution is needed to an open account. Then, once the account is established, parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends can easily make contributions at any time. Better still, unlike other college savings vehicles, you remain in control of the funds. You can even redirect the money to another child if needs or plans change down the road.
I encourage you to join the 13.6 million households already participating in 529 college savings plans across the country. Tax time or anytime, investing in a 529 plan, like Future Scholar, really is the smart, easy way to save for college.
Curtis Loftis is South Carolina’s State Treasurer. He administers the Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan. Visit treasurer.sc.gov or futurescholar.com for more information on ways to save through a 529 plan.