Who can open an account?2016-11-08T12:34:06-06:00

An account can be established by an individual, a UGMA/UTMA custodian, certain legal entities, or a trust. There are no income or residency requirements.

How do I open an account?2016-04-13T15:00:45-05:00

Your investment professional can guide you through the steps to get enrolled.

Who can be a beneficiary?2016-04-13T15:00:31-05:00

Anyone, including yourself, can be named as a beneficiary. There are no age, income, or residency limitations. Each account can have one designated beneficiary.

Who can make contributions?2016-04-13T15:00:13-05:00

Parents, grandparents, other relatives—anyone, really—can contribute to a CollegeCounts 529 Fund account on behalf of the beneficiary.

What is the Alabama state income tax deduction for contributions to the CollegeCounts 529 Fund?2016-10-10T14:26:32-05:00

Contributions to the CollegeCounts 529 Fund are Alabama tax deductible up to:

  • $5,000 per Alabama taxpayer;
  • $10,000 for married Alabama taxpayers filing a joint return where both taxpayers are making such contributions.

Individuals who file an Alabama state income tax return are eligible to deduct for Alabama state income tax purposes up to $5,000 per tax year ($10,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly if both actually contribute) for total combined contribu­tions to the Plan and other State of Alabama 529 programs. The contributions made to such qualifying plans are deductible on the tax return of the contributing taxpayer for the tax year in which the contributions are made. In the event of a Nonqualified Withdrawal from the Plan, for Alabama state income tax purposes, an amount must be added back to the income of the contributing taxpayer in an amount of the Nonqualified Withdrawal plus ten (10%) percent of such amount withdrawn. Such amount will be added back to the income of the contributing taxpayer in the tax year that the Nonqualified Withdrawal was distributed. Please consult with your tax professional.

How are contributions made?2016-11-08T12:34:06-06:00

The plan is very flexible. You can contribute by:

  • Sending a check.
  • Establishing an automatic investment plan.
  • Rolling over funds from another 529 plan.
  • Inviting family and friends to make a contribution to your account through CollegeCounts GiftED.
  • Establishing payroll contributions at work (check with employer for availability).
  • Transferring reward dollars earned with a CollegeCounts 529 Rewards Visa® Card.
Can I transfer assets from another 529 plan?2016-04-28T19:03:08-05:00

Yes. You can complete a rollover form to transfer assets from another 529 plan and gain the benefits of the Alabama state income tax deduction. A same-beneficiary rollover/transfer is allowed once in a 12-month period. Additional transfers are allowed but require a change of beneficiary. For additional information see the Tax Q&A. Check with your investment professional for further assistance with rollovers.

Is the program audited?2016-10-05T09:58:30-05:00

Each year, an independent public accountant selected by the program manager will audit the plan. The auditors will examine financial statements for the plan. The board may also conduct audits of the program and Trust.

Where can I obtain a copy of the audited financial statements?2024-01-04T15:59:56-06:00
Does the beneficiary have to attend a school in Alabama?2016-04-13T14:50:47-05:00

No. Many beneficiaries will attend Alabama schools; however, funds may be used at eligible schools nationwide and some foreign schools too.

Which schools are eligible institutions?2021-10-11T15:28:44-05:00

Any postsecondary educational institution that meets accreditation criteria and is eligible to participate in Federal Student Aid programs is eligible. This includes institutions such as public and private colleges and universities; vocational, trade, technical, and professional institutions; and even some foreign schools. Check out a listing of eligible schools from the Department of Education.

What are qualified higher education expenses?2021-06-30T08:47:08-05:00

Qualified higher education expenses (as defined in Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code) include:

  • tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for the enrollment or attendance of a Designated Beneficiary at an eligible educational institution;
  • expenses for room and board (with certain limitations) incurred by the Designated Beneficiary who are enrolled at least half-time;
  • expenses for the purchase of computer or peripheral equipment, computer software, or Internet access and related services, if such equipment, software, or services are to be used primarily by the Designated Beneficiary during any of the years the Designated Beneficiary is enrolled at an eligible educational institution;
  • expenses for special needs services in the case of a special needs beneficiary which are incurred in connection with such enrollment or attendance;
  • expenses for fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for the participation of a Designated Beneficiary in an apprenticeship program registered and certified with the Secretary of Labor under section 1 of the National Apprenticeship Act;
  • up to a lifetime maximum of $10,000 paid as principal or interest on any qualified education loan of the Designated Beneficiary or a sibling of the Designated Beneficiary. A sibling includes a brother, sister, stepbrother, or stepsister. For purposes of the $10,000 limitation, amounts treated as a qualified higher education expense with respect to the loans of a sibling of the Designated Beneficiary are taken into account for the sibling and not for the Designated Beneficiary.
  • up to a maximum of $10,000 per year in tuition expenses, incurred by a Designated Beneficiary, in connection with enrollment or attendance at an eligible elementary or secondary public, private or religious school.
When I withdraw funds for college what additional items should I consider?2016-11-08T12:34:06-06:00

Document Qualified Higher Education Expenses
You should retain documentation of all of the designated beneficiary’s qualified higher education expenses for your records because money in your account may be withdrawn free from federal and Alabama state income tax. This should be done only if it is used to pay the designated beneficiary’s qualified higher education expenses. The account owner or designated beneficiary is responsible for determining whether a distribution from an account is a qualified or non-qualified withdrawal and for pay­ing any applicable taxes or penalties. Please be aware, the Internal Revenue Service or state tax officials may subject you to an audit and require proof of the use of withdrawal to pay for the designated beneficiary’s qualified higher education expenses.

The tax benefits afforded to 529 plans must be coordinated with other programs designed to provide tax benefits for meeting higher education expenses in order to avoid the duplication of such benefits. You should consult with a qualified tax advisor with respect to the various education benefits.

Taxable Portion of a Distribution
The part of a distribution representing the amount paid or con­tributed to a qualified tuition program doesn’t have to be includ­ed as income. This is a return of the investment in the plan. The designated beneficiary generally doesn’t have to include any earnings distributed from a qualified tuition program as income, if the total distribution is less than or equal to adjusted quali­fied education expenses. To determine if total distributions for the year are more or less than the amount of adjusted qualified education expenses, you must compare the total of all qualified tuition program distributions for the tax year to the adjusted qualified education expenses. Adjusted qualified education expenses are the total qualified higher education expenses reduced by any tax-free educational assistance. Tax-free educa­tional assistance includes the tax-free part of scholarships and fellowship grants; Veterans’ educational assistance; the tax-free portion of Pell grants; employer-provided educational assistance; and any other nontaxable (tax-free) payments (other than gifts or inheritances) received as educational assistance.

Coordination With American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits
An American Opportunity or Lifetime Learning Credit can be claimed in the same year the designated beneficiary takes a tax-free distribution from a qualified tuition program as long as the same expenses aren’t used for both benefits. This means that after the designated beneficiary reduces qualified educa­tion expenses by tax-free educational assistance, he or she must further reduce them by the expenses taken into account in determining the credit.

Coordination With Coverdell Education Savings Account Distributions
If a designated beneficiary receives distributions from a qualified tuition program and a Coverdell Education Savings Account in the same year, and the total of these distributions is more than the designated beneficiary’s adjusted qualified higher education expenses, the expenses must be allocated between the distributions. For purposes of this allocation, disregard any qualified elementary and secondary education expenses.

Coordination With Tuition and Fees Deduction
A tuition and fees deduction can be claimed in the same year the designated beneficiary takes a tax-free distribution from a qualified tuition program as long as the same expenses aren’t used for both benefits.

How can I request a withdrawal from my account for qualified college expenses?2020-03-26T16:45:07-05:00
  1. The quickest and easiest way is online. Log in and request a withdrawal.
  2. Complete and mail the Withdrawal Request Form.
  3. Call with any questions and we’ll be happy to assist (toll-free at 866.529.2228 from 7:30 a.m.–6:00 p.m., Central, Monday–Friday).
What can I do if I receive a refund from an Eligible Educational Institution?2020-04-16T12:49:40-05:00

If you receive a refund from an Eligible Educational Institution for Qualified Higher Education Expenses that were paid from money withdrawn from your Account, you can:

  • Pay for Other Qualified Higher Education Expenses – you can use the funds to pay other Qualified Higher Education Expenses incurred by that Beneficiary in the same calendar year.
  • Recontribute Refunded Amounts to a 529 Account – if a student receives a refund of Qualified Higher Education Expenses that were treated as paid by a 529 distribution, the student can recontribute these amounts into any 529 account for which they are the beneficiary within 60 days after the date of the refund.  The amount recontributed cannot exceed the amount of the refund.
    • EXTENSION OF TIME – for refunds made on or after February 1, 2020 and prior to May 16, 2020 the IRS has extended the time to recontribute funds to the greater of 60 days or July 15, 2020.

You should consult with your financial, tax or other advisor regarding your individual situation.

What if my beneficiary does not go to college or does not use all of the funds?2016-10-18T11:39:39-05:00

If you do not use all the funds in your account – you have a number of options.

  1. You can leave the funds in the account in the event your beneficiary (or another member of the family) goes back to school at a later date.
  2. You can change the beneficiary to another member of the family for their college expenses.
  3. You can withdraw the funds as a nonqualified withdrawal. The earnings portion (not the amount you contributed) is subject to federal and state income taxes and a 10% federal penalty tax. Alabama tax filers: In the event of a nonqualified withdrawal from the Plan, for Alabama state income tax purposes, an amount must be added back to the income of the contributing taxpayer in an amount of the nonqualified withdrawal plus ten (10%) percent of such amount withdrawn. Such amount will be added back to the income of the contributing taxpayer in the tax year that the nonqualified withdrawal was distributed. Please consult with your tax professional.
What are the limitations and restrictions of a 529 Rollover to a Roth IRA?2024-01-12T13:48:54-06:00

Effective January 1, 2024, CollegeCounts 529 assets can be rolled over directly into a Roth IRA.

IMPORTANT: The following limitations and restrictions apply:

  • The CollegeCounts 529 Account must have been maintained at least 15 years.
  • Only contributions (and any earnings attributable thereto) made to the CollegeCounts Account more than five years prior can be rolled over.
  • The Roth IRA rollover must be made in a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer to a Roth IRA account maintained for the benefit of the CollegeCounts Designated Beneficiary.
  • Rollover contributions cannot exceed the IRA contribution limit for that tax year ($7,000 in 2024) and is reduced by any “regular” traditional or Roth IRA contributions made by the beneficiary in that year.
  • The aggregate amount for all years of Roth IRA Rollovers for the same Designated Beneficiary from all 529 qualified tuition programs may not exceed $35,000 per beneficiary over their lifetime.

Account Owners should consult their own tax and financial professionals before making a Roth IRA Rollover.