Common 529 plan questions

General

The Vanguard 529 Plan maximum contribution limit is $500,000. So although you can't make any additional contributions to your account once you've reached that limit, your account can continue to have the potential to grow over time.

If the money isn't used for qualified higher-education expenses or K–12 tuition, a 10% penalty tax on earnings (as well as federal, state, and local income taxes) may apply. However, there are a few options to get around this:

  • You can use the money to pay for more than just "college"—trade and vocational schools and apprenticeship programs,* for example.
  • You can give the money to someone else (a qualified family member) to use for college.
  • You can leave the money in the plan in case your child (or grandchild) decides to attend school later (there's no age limit on using it).

Yes, the IRS allows one tax-free rollover of a 529 account per beneficiary in a 12-month period. (If you violate the 12-month rule, you must treat the transaction as a nonqualified distribution and pay federal income tax and a 10% penalty on the earnings.)

Keep in mind that when you roll over to another state's plan, some states require you to pay the state income tax on any contributions you previously received a deduction for.

To roll over your current 529 account to The Vanguard 529 Plan (known as a direct rollover), you'll first need to open a new account in the plan and select With a rollover or transfer when asked to pick a funding method. Then print out your Incoming Rollover Form and mail it to your current plan.

Open a Vanguard 529 Plan

If you prefer, you can instead withdraw the money in your current plan and then send us the check along with an Enrollment Application for a new account (known as an indirect rollover). In order for the transaction to be treated as a rollover, you must redeposit the money within 60 calendar days of withdrawing it, and the application must indicate that the initial contribution is an indirect rollover. You'll also need to enclose documentation that shows a breakdown of contributions and earnings in the account. (If documentation isn't included, we'll treat the entire amount as earnings, which could have negative tax consequences for you.)

Yes, you can move money from a Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) or Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) account to The Vanguard 529 Plan (subject to the laws of the state under which the UGMA/UTMA account was opened).

As with the original account, the money in a 529 UGMA/UTMA account will belong to the minor who owns it—meaning that it can't be transferred to a different beneficiary. In addition, the custodian will be required to transfer control of the account to the beneficiary once he or she becomes an adult.

You'll need to sell all assets in the UGMA/UTMA before moving the money to the 529, and this could trigger capital gains taxes.

Because money gifted to a child in an UGMA/UTMA account is irrevocable, you shouldn't mix UGMA/UTMA and non-UGMA/UTMA assets in the same 529 account. You should consult with a tax advisor before transferring UGMA/UTMA assets to a 529 plan.

Find out if converting an UGMA/UTMA account to a 529 plan makes sense for you

Almost anyone—parents, grandparents, other relatives, and friends. You can even open a 529 account for yourself!

Yes, 529 plans are especially popular with grandparents who want to save for a grandchild's future and reap estate planning benefits at the same time.

Beginning January 1, 2022, you can contribute up to $16,000 per year ($32,000 if married filing jointly) to a single beneficiary without triggering a federal gift tax.

And if you want to gift a larger amount, you can contribute up to $80,000 ($160,000 if married filing jointly) per beneficiary and then treat it as though you contributed that amount over a 5-year period.** (However, you can't make additional gifts to the beneficiary during that time without triggering gift tax.)

Yes, more than one account can be opened on behalf of the same beneficiary. In fact, only account owners are generally eligible for state tax deductions. So if that's a benefit you're looking for, you might be better off opening a separate account for your beneficiary even if one already exists.

Only the person who opens the account (the account owner) has access to it, unless the owner, using necessary documentation, grants permission to someone else.

So, for instance, if you're a grandparent who opens an account for your grandchild, the child's parents won't automatically have access to the account—i.e., the ability to check balances, change investments, or withdraw money from the account.

If you and your spouse open an account, keep in mind that one parent will be designated as the account owner and only that parent will automatically have access to the account.

IRS regulations only allow you to exchange money from your current 529 investment options to a different option twice per calendar year. (The automatic changes within Target Enrollment Portfolios don't count.)

However, you can change the investment options for your future contributions anytime you want.

Through a prepaid tuition plan, you buy credits for tuition, usually at a specific state college or state college system, at today's prices. If the beneficiary attends a different college or doesn't attend college at all, you may not get back the full value of the credits.

Through a college savings plan, you contribute to a fund or a portfolio of funds offered by the plan. You can use this investment to pay for tuition, room and board, books, supplies, and other qualified expenses at any accredited vocational school, college, or graduate school in the United States or abroad. You can also use your 529 college savings plan assets for K–12 tuition of up to $10,000 per student per year at a public, private or religious school.

Use our college savings planner to see if you'll have enough for college

Use our college savings planner to see if you'll have enough for college

The Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan is a Nevada Trust administered by the office of the Nevada State Treasurer.

*Earnings on nonqualified withdrawals may be subject to federal income tax and a 10% federal penalty tax, as well as state and local income taxes. The availability of tax or other benefits may be contingent on meeting other requirements. State tax treatment of withdrawals used for i) expenses for tuition in connection with enrollment or attendance at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school, ii) expenses related to apprenticeship programs, or iii) student loan repayments is determined by the state(s) where the taxpayer files state income tax. If you are not a Nevada taxpayer, please consult with a tax advisor.

**In the event the donor does not survive the 5-year period, a prorated amount will revert back to the donor's taxable estate.

For more information about The Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan, call 866-734-4533 or obtain a Program Description (PDF), which includes investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information; read and consider it carefully before investing. Vanguard Marketing Corporation, Distributor.

For more information about any 529 college savings plan, contact the plan provider to obtain a Program Description, which includes investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information; read and consider it carefully before investing.

If you are not a Nevada taxpayer, consider before investing whether your or the designated beneficiary's home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such state's qualified tuition program.

The Vanguard Group, Inc., serves as the Investment Manager for The Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan and through its affiliate, Vanguard Marketing Corporation, markets and distributes the Plan. Ascensus Broker Dealer Services, Inc., serves as Program Manager and has overall responsibility for the day-to-day operations. The Plan's portfolios, although they invest in Vanguard mutual funds, are not mutual funds. Investment returns are not guaranteed and you could lose money by investing in the Plan.

All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest.