Does using a distance learning program mean I can use 529 funds?

 

If you are homeschooling using an accredited, distance learning program like Mother of Divine Grace where you pay tuition, can you then use your 529 plan money?

Katie in Indiana

 

Katie,

529 plans have been a popular way to save for college expenses and have the gains be tax-free when used for qualified educational expenses. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act or 2017 expanded the use of 529 plans to include K-12 expenses. The laws says this about using 529 plans for K-12 expenses:

the term ‘qualified higher education expense’ shall include a reference to expenses for tuition in connection with enrollment or attendance at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school.” (emphasis added)

There are 2 conditions for you to use 529 funds for K-12 expenses:

1) the costs must be for tuition and

2) the institution you pay must be “a public, private, or religious school

Mother of Divine Grace (MODG) is a California for profit corporation that describes itself as a private school and a private distance school in their California filings.

So if your children are enrolled at MODG (or similar private schools offering distance learning), you paid MODG tuition, and MODG is a school, then you can use your 529 plan to pay for tuition.

Homeschool parents should check with the program to whom they are paying tuition to determine if it is a school according to their state’s definition. If you have any concern about their status as a school, then do not use 529 funds to pay for the tuition. Withdrawals from a 529 fund that are not “qualified” (i.e. tuition paid to a public, private, or religious school) then you must pay income tax and a penalty of 10%. Ouch!

Your other homeschool-related expenses such as books, supplies, equipment, and payments to organizations that are not schools (like a homeschool co-op) cannot use 529 funds.

Carol Topp, CPA

 

 

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