Overfunding a 529 plan? The results may surprise you
The results are in: A new J.P. Morgan study finds that a 529 account is the most tax-efficient way to save for a student’s education—but only if that account is depleted by the time the student completes their education.1
Further, our analysis of the 529 plans’ 25-year history found that these accounts:
- Work best as a vehicle for funding the education of a single beneficiary and/or relatives of the same generation
- Are not a good way to create an educational nest egg for multiple generations
Indeed, if one’s aim is to build wealth for multiple generations, the most tax-efficient choices would be the pay-as-you-go approach to funding education–or creating Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) accounts for members of younger generations.
The tax cost of overfunding a 529 account
Some taxpayers have deliberately overfunded 529 accounts, thinking they would benefit multiple generations by doing so. This can be a mistake—as they’ll find themselves facing an unpleasant (i.e., taxable) choice when the initial beneficiary finishes school:
- They could take back the money in the 529 account, or give it to the student. However, in both cases, taxes and penalties must paid on the earnings at the recipient’s ordinary income tax rate.
- Or, they could pass the account on to a lower generation (e.g., grandchildren). But there would be a tax price for this option as well. The initial beneficiary might have to use some of the $12.06 million gift tax exclusion when a new beneficiary is named.
Weigh your options
Consider the choices a father (Tom) had for funding the education of a daughter (Jane) born on January 1, 1997, the first full year after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code was enacted. Tom could have:
- Taken a pay-as-you-go approach—Paid Jane’s higher education costs as she incurred them, understanding the risks involved. (Would he still have enough money? Would he still be alive?)
- Funded an UTMA account—Funded the account annually with the annual exclusion amount ($10,000 in 1997, now $16,000). Jane would have gained full control of any assets in the account when she turned 21 (per the law in most states).
- Set up a trust for Jane’s benefit—Funded a trust each year with the annual exclusion amount, accepting that trusts (especially smaller ones) are costlier to create and administer than UTMA accounts. A grantor trust (i.e., the grantor pays the tax on trust income) would be more tax efficient than a non-grantor trust (the trust or beneficiary pays the taxes).
- Funded or super-funded a 529 account—Funded a 529 account with the annual exclusion amount. Or, as the law allows, super-funded a 529 account with five times the annual exclusion amount. Tom chose to super-fund in 1997, 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017.2
* After Jane's schooling is complete
Source: J.P. Morgan as of 5/15/2022
Note: This data reflects two assumptions: 1) Jane went to an average-priced college as a full-time student for four years starting in 2015, when she turned 18; and 2) Tom made the maximum contribution to the account each year.
The tax bill comes due
When Jane graduated, Tom had to deal with the assets remaining in the account. One potential option—to name as a new beneficiary another child or relative in the same generation as Jane—was not available to him. Thus, Tom’s choices were:
- Take the distribution himself. Tom could take back the assets and pay taxes on the earnings (not on the original contribution), which would be subject to income tax at ordinary rates, plus a 10% penalty. If Tom is in the highest tax bracket (which he would be if he were single and his taxable income exceeded $539,000 in 2022), that would mean a 37% levy on the earnings, plus the penalty.
- Distribute everything to Jane. The advantage here is that Jane would probably be in a lower tax bracket than Tom. If she were earning the average salary of a recent college graduate (around $55,000), she would be in the 22% bracket. Thus, even if Tom were to distribute to her all $347,000—not all of which would be considered earnings subject to tax and penalty—it is possible that none of that distribution would be subject to tax at 37%.3
- Name a new beneficiary in a lower generation (presumably a grandchild). The problem with this approach is that proposed regulations would consider this change a gift by Jane of the account balance (not just the earnings) to the new beneficiary. As such, it would consume some of Jane’s lifetime gift-tax exclusion (currently, $12.06 million)—although the impact of the gift would be ameliorated by Jane’s use of her $16,000 annual exclusion. Our analysis shows this is economically among the least-attractive alternatives.
** After 529 assets distributed or beneficiary changed
Source: J.P. Morgan as of 5/15/2022
Note: Data assumes that Tom and Jane are in the same tax bracket.
A more tax-efficient path
In sum: A 529 account is the most tax-efficient education savings alternative, but only if the account is exhausted when the student’s education is completed.
If a significant balance remains when a student’s education is completed (as in our example): After factoring in the taxes and penalties due after a distribution to either Tom or Jane, or after naming Jane’s child as a beneficiary, the pay-as-you go method is actually the most tax-efficient approach.
Remember the states
One additional thought: States treat 529 accounts differently. For example, some states allow for state income tax deductions for the amount contributed; others don’t. Similarly, only some states allow for tax-free payments of up to $10,000 of qualified education expenses for kindergarten through 12th grade (a provision Congress adopted in 2017). In considering the impact of 529 accounts on family wealth, bear in mind the impact of state tax laws as well.
We can help
Your J.P. Morgan team can help you evaluate various options for funding education expenses for younger family members. For more information, ask your J.P. Morgan team for a copy of The Well-Prepared Family: Funding Education.
Depending upon the laws of the home state of the customer or designated beneficiary, favorable state tax treatment or other benefits offered by such home state for investing in 529 Plans may be available only if the customer invests in the home state‘s 529 Plan. Any state-based benefit offered with respect to a particular 529 Plan should be one of many appropriately weighted factors to be considered in making an investment decision; and you should consult with your financial, tax or other adviser to learn more about how state-based benefits (including any limitations) would apply to your specific circumstances.
JPMorgan Chase & Co., its affiliates, and employees do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal and accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any financial transaction. Investment trends may not materialize. Sustainable Investing and investment return are not always aligned, and may lose value.
This material is for informational purposes only, and may inform you of certain products and services offered by J.P. Morgan’s wealth management businesses, part of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (“JPM”). Products and services described, as well as associated fees, charges and interest rates, are subject to change in accordance with the applicable account agreements and may differ among geographic locations. Not all products and services are offered at all locations. If you are a person with a disability and need additional support accessing this material, please contact your J.P. Morgan team or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. Please read all Important Information.
GENERAL RISKS & CONSIDERATIONS
Any views, strategies or products discussed in this material may not be appropriate for all individuals and are subject to risks. Investors may get back less than they invested, and past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results. Asset allocation does not guarantee a profit or protect against loss. Nothing in this material should be relied upon in isolation for the purpose of making an investment decision. You are urged to consider carefully whether the services, products, asset classes (e.g., equities, fixed income, alternative investments, commodities, etc.) or strategies discussed are suitable to your needs. You must also consider the objectives, risks, charges, and expenses associated with an investment service, product or strategy prior to making an investment decision. For this and more complete information, including discussion of your goals/situation, contact your J.P. Morgan team.
Certain information contained in this material is believed to be reliable; however, JPM does not represent or warrant its accuracy, reliability or completeness, or accept any liability for any loss or damage (whether direct or indirect) arising out of the use of all or any part of this material. No representation or warranty should be made with regard to any computations, graphs, tables, diagrams or commentary in this material, which are provided for illustration/reference purposes only. The views, opinions, estimates and strategies expressed in this material constitute our judgment based on current market conditions and are subject to change without notice. JPM assumes no duty to update any information in this material in the event that such information changes. Views, opinions, estimates and strategies expressed herein may differ from those expressed by other areas of JPM, views expressed for other purposes or in other contexts, and this material should not be regarded as a research report. Any projected results and risks are based solely on hypothetical examples cited, and actual results and risks will vary depending on specific circumstances. Forward-looking statements should not be considered as guarantees or predictions of future events.
Nothing in this document shall be construed as giving rise to any duty of care owed to, or advisory relationship with, you or any third party. Nothing in this document shall be regarded as an offer, solicitation, recommendation or advice (whether financial, accounting, legal, tax or other) given by J.P. Morgan and/or its officers or employees, irrespective of whether or not such communication was given at your request.
J.P. Morgan and its affiliates and employees do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any financial transactions.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR INVESTMENTS AND POTENTIAL CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
Conflicts of interest will arise whenever JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. or any of its affiliates (together, “J.P. Morgan”) have an actual or perceived economic or other incentive in its management of our clients’ portfolios to act in a way that benefits J.P. Morgan. Conflicts will result, for example (to the extent the following activities are permitted in your account): (1) when J.P. Morgan invests in an investment product, such as a mutual fund, structured product, separately managed account or hedge fund issued or managed by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. or an affiliate, such as J.P. Morgan Investment Management Inc.; (2) when a J.P. Morgan entity obtains services, including trade execution and trade clearing, from an affiliate; (3) when J.P. Morgan receives payment as a result of purchasing an investment product for a client’s account; or (4) when J.P. Morgan receives payment for providing services (including shareholder servicing, recordkeeping or custody) with respect to investment products purchased for a client’s portfolio. Other conflicts will result because of relationships that J.P. Morgan has with other clients or when J.P. Morgan acts for its own account.
Investment strategies are selected from both J.P. Morgan and third-party asset managers and are subject to a review process by our manager research teams. From this pool of strategies, our portfolio construction teams select those strategies we believe fit our asset allocation goals and forward-looking views in order to meet the portfolio’s investment objective.
As a general matter, we prefer J.P. Morgan managed strategies. We expect the proportion of J.P. Morgan managed strategies will be high (in fact, up to 100 percent) in strategies such as cash and high-quality fixed income, subject to applicable law and any account-specific considerations.
While our internally managed strategies generally align well with our forward-looking views, and we are familiar with the investment processes as well as the risk and compliance philosophy of the firm, it is important to note that J.P. Morgan receives more overall fees when internally managed strategies are included. We offer the option of choosing to exclude J.P. Morgan managed strategies (other than cash and liquidity products) in certain portfolios.
The Six Circles Funds are U.S.-registered mutual funds managed by J.P. Morgan and sub-advised by third parties. Although considered internally managed strategies, JPMC does not retain a fee for fund management or other fund services.
LEGAL ENTITY, BRAND & REGULATORY INFORMATION
In the United States, bank deposit accounts and related services, such as checking, savings and bank lending, are offered by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. Member FDIC.
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. and its affiliates (collectively “JPMCB”) offer investment products, which may include bank-managed investment accounts and custody, as part of its trust and fiduciary services. Other investment products and services, such as brokerage and advisory accounts, are offered through J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (“JPMS”), a member of FINRA and SIPC. Annuities are made available through Chase Insurance Agency, Inc. (CIA), a licensed insurance agency, doing business as Chase Insurance Agency Services, Inc. in Florida. JPMCB, JPMS and CIA are affiliated companies under the common control of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Products not available in all states.
In Luxembourg, this material is issued by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. (JPMBL), with registered office at European Bank and Business Centre, 6 route de Treves, L-2633, Senningerberg, Luxembourg. R.C.S Luxembourg B10.958. Authorized and regulated by Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) and jointly supervised by the European Central Bank (ECB) and the CSSF. J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. is authorized as a credit institution in accordance with the Law of 5th April 1993. In the United Kingdom, this material is issued by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., London Branch, registered office at 25 Bank Street, Canary Wharf, London E14 5JP. Authorized and regulated by Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier and jointly supervised by the European Central Bank and the CSSF. Deemed authorized by the Prudential Regulation Authority. Subject to regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and limited regulation by the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details of the Temporary Permissions Regime, which allows EEA-based firms to operate in the United Kingdom for a limited period while seeking full authorization, are available on the Financial Conduct Authority’s website. In Spain, this material is distributed by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Sucursal en España, with registered office at Paseo de la Castellana, 31, 28046 Madrid, Spain. J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Sucursal en España is registered under number 1516 within the administrative registry of the Bank of Spain and supervised by the Spanish Securities Market Commission (CNMV). In Germany, this material is distributed by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Frankfurt Branch, registered office at Taunustor 1 (TaunusTurm), 60310 Frankfurt, Germany, jointly supervised by the Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) and the European Central Bank (ECB), and in certain areas also supervised by the Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (BaFin). In Italy, this material is distributed by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Milan Branch, registered office at Via Cordusio 3, 20123 Milano, Italy, and regulated by Bank of Italy and the Commissione Nazionale per le Società e la Borsa (CONSOB). In the Netherlands, this material is distributed by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Amsterdam Branch, with registered office at World Trade Centre, Tower B, Strawinskylaan 1135, 1077 XX, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Amsterdam Branch is authorized and regulated by the Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) and jointly supervised by the European Central Bank (ECB) and the CSSF in Luxembourg; J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Amsterdam Branch is also authorized and supervised by De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) and the Autoriteit Financiële Markten (AFM) in the Netherlands. Registered with the Kamer van Koophandel as a branch of J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. under registration number 71651845. In Denmark, this material is distributed by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg, Copenhagen Br, filial af J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. with registered office at Kalvebod Brygge 39-41, 1560 København V, Denmark. J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg, Copenhagen Br, filial af J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. is authorized and regulated by Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) and jointly supervised by the European Central Bank (ECB) and the CSSF. J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg, Copenhagen Br, filial af J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. is also subject to the supervision of Finanstilsynet (Danish FSA) and registered with Finanstilsynet as a branch of J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. under code 29009. In Sweden, this material is distributed by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Stockholm Bankfilial, with registered office at Hamngatan 15, Stockholm, 11147, Sweden. J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Stockholm Bankfilial, is authorized and regulated by Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) and jointly supervised by the European Central Bank (ECB) and the CSSF. J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Stockholm Bankfilial is also subject to the supervision of Finansinspektionen (Swedish FSA). Registered with Finansinspektionen as a branch of J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. In France, this material is distributed by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (“JPMCB”), Paris branch, which is regulated by the French banking authorities Autorité de Contrôle Prudentiel et de Résolution and Autorité des Marchés Financiers. In Switzerland, this material is distributed by J.P. Morgan (Suisse) S.A., which is regulated in Switzerland by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).
In Hong Kong, this material is distributed by JPMCB, Hong Kong branch. JPMCB, Hong Kong branch is regulated by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, we will cease to use your personal data for our marketing purposes without charge if you so request. In Singapore, this material is distributed by JPMCB, Singapore branch. JPMCB, Singapore branch is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Dealing and advisory services and discretionary investment management services are provided to you by JPMCB, Hong Kong/Singapore branch (as notified to you). Banking and custody services are provided to you by JPMCB Singapore Branch. The contents of this document have not been reviewed by any regulatory authority in Hong Kong, Singapore or any other jurisdictions. You are advised to exercise caution in relation to this document. If you are in any doubt about any of the contents of this document, you should obtain independent professional advice. For materials which constitute product advertisement under the Securities and Futures Act and the Financial Advisers Act, this advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. is a national banking association chartered under the laws of the United States, and as a body corporate, its shareholder’s liability is limited.
With respect to countries in Latin America, the distribution of this material may be restricted in certain jurisdictions. We may offer and/or sell to you securities or other financial instruments which may not be registered under, and are not the subject of a public offering under, the securities or other financial regulatory laws of your home country. Such securities or instruments are offered and/or sold to you on a private basis only. Any communication by us to you regarding such securities or instruments, including without limitation the delivery of a prospectus, term sheet or other offering document, is not intended by us as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any securities or instruments in any jurisdiction in which such an offer or a solicitation is unlawful. Furthermore, such securities or instruments may be subject to certain regulatory and/or contractual restrictions on subsequent transfer by you, and you are solely responsible for ascertaining and complying with such restrictions. To the extent this content makes reference to a fund, the Fund may not be publicly offered in any Latin American country, without previous registration of such fund’s securities in compliance with the laws of the corresponding jurisdiction. Public offering of any security, including the shares of the Fund, without previous registration at Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commission—CVM is completely prohibited. Some products or services contained in the materials might not be currently provided by the Brazilian and Mexican platforms.
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (JPMCBNA) (ABN 43 074 112 011/AFS Licence No: 238367) is regulated by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. Material provided by JPMCBNA in Australia is to “wholesale clients” only. For the purposes of this paragraph the term “wholesale client” has the meaning given in section 761G of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). Please inform us if you are not a Wholesale Client now or if you cease to be a Wholesale Client at any time in the future.
JPMS is a registered foreign company (overseas) (ARBN 109293610) incorporated in Delaware, U.S.A. Under Australian financial services licensing requirements, carrying on a financial services business in Australia requires a financial service provider, such as
J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (JPMS), to hold an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL), unless an exemption applies. JPMS is exempt from the requirement to hold an AFSL under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (Act) in respect of financial services it provides to you, and is regulated by the SEC, FINRA and CFTC under U.S. laws, which differ from Australian laws. Material provided by JPMS in Australia is to “wholesale clients” only. The information provided in this material is not intended to be, and must not be, distributed or passed on, directly or indirectly, to any other class of persons in Australia. For the purposes of this paragraph the term “wholesale client” has the meaning given in section 761G of the Act. Please inform us immediately if you are not a Wholesale Client now or if you cease to be a Wholesale Client at any time in the future.
This material has not been prepared specifically for Australian investors. It:
- May contain references to dollar amounts which are not Australian dollars;
- May contain financial information which is not prepared in accordance with Australian law or practices;
- May not address risks associated with investment in foreign currency denominated investments; and
- Does not address Australian tax issues.
References to “J.P. Morgan” are to JPM, its subsidiaries and affiliates worldwide.
© 2022 JPMorgan Chase & Co. All rights reserved.