|Expanded 'kiddie tax' impacts savings
2. Fund a 529.
Earnings in these plans grow tax free, and monies can be withdrawn
without tax levies, too, as long as they are used for legitimate
college expenses such as tuition, room, board and books. Moreover,
students applying for financial aid are less likely to be penalized
if their education savings are held in a 529 plan, since colleges
include the plans among parents' holdings.
"From a financial aid standpoint, (529s) have become
less and less damaging. Parents should be more encouraged about
using 529s," says KC Dempster at College Money, a New Jersey college
financial planning firm.
3. Consider a Coverdell.
You may stash up to $2,000, annually, per child in these plans,
and earnings can grow and be withdrawn tax-free. If that doesn't
sound like much, consider this: Families who begin saving $2,000
a year in a Coverdell for a newborn will have about $75,000 by the
time he or she is an 18-year-old college freshman, assuming an annualized
return of 8 percent.
Plus, unlike 529s, Coverdells can be used for earlier education expenses. "Money in a Coverdell can be used for kindergarten to high school education expenses, not just college. It's a great deal," says Dee Lee, a certified financial planner and author of "Women and Money."
4. Hire your kid.
Want to shift savings to your children? Give them a job. They'll
pay very little income tax and, as long as they're under 18 and
not working at a "principal" job (that's IRS parlance for a full-time
career), they won't owe Social Security taxes, either. Another benefit:
As a business owner, you can deduct their wages, too. Keep in mind
that the IRS takes a dim view of inflated salaries, so pay a realistic
amount. And don't try to pass your toddler off as a bookkeeper or
you might trigger an audit.
"You can't hire your kid at $40 an hour if they empty
trash cans. That's unreasonable. But if a kid is computer-literate,
they can help with a variety of things," says Phil Johnson, a certified
financial planner in Clifton Park, N.Y.
5. Have grandparents pay tuition.
As long as the check is made out to the school directly, grandparents (or anyone, for that matter) won't owe gift tax on money they contribute toward a student's education.
6. Fund your own retirement.
Planners agree, that when it comes to priorities, retirement comes
first. After all, there's no retirement scholarship for old age.
Also keep in mind that you can elect to use retirement
funds toward college expenses if you feel you must. For example,
you won't owe the usual 10-percent penalty if you tap your IRA for
college expenses before you hit the required minimum age of 59½,
for penalty-free withdrawals. Nor will you owe taxes or penalties
if you withdraw Roth contributions early. Meanwhile, some employer-sponsored
retirement funds, such as 401(k) or 403(b) plans, let workers borrow
7. Keep an eye on Washington.
Tax perks for 529 savings plans are scheduled to expire in 2010. At that point, students would owe their own tax rate on earnings, so they'd still be a relatively good deal. To date, individuals have amassed a whopping $89 billion for future college costs in more than 8.5 million 529 plans, according to the College Savings Plan Network.
Politicians are well aware of the plans' popularity,
and at least 70 senators have signed legislation co-sponsored by
Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Max Baucus, D-Mont., to make
529s permanently tax free. Similar changes are being considered
in the House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, some groups are not thrilled that teenagers
are now subject to higher taxes. Americans for Tax Reform, which
lobbies for lower taxes, has started campaigning against the expanded
kiddie tax, says its president, Grover Norquist.
"We're supportive of a rollback," says Norquist. "This is something that families are concerned about."