Amid the evolving assortment of education tax breaks is a benefit that has survived with few changes over the years: the education savings bond program. When you qualify for this federal income tax exclusion, the interest you receive from bonds redeemed to pay for certain college expenses may be tax-free.
Are bonds you bought years ago eligible? It depends on when you bought them and how they’re titled. Eligible bonds include Series EE or Series I savings bonds you purchased after 1989, as long as you were at least 24 years old when they were issued. The age restriction rules out bonds you put in the names of your kids or grandkids, though the children can be named as beneficiaries.
Once you’re sure your bonds qualify for the exclusion, the next step is to find out if you meet the income limitation. In 2013, you can exclude all the interest income you receive from eligible savings bonds when you file a joint return and your modified adjusted gross income is less than $112,050 ($74,700 for singles). A partial exclusion is available until your income reaches $142,050 ($89,700 for singles), at which point the exclusion is no longer available.
Finally, the bonds must be redeemed in the same year you pay qualifying educational expenses for yourself, your spouse, or your dependent child. What expenses qualify? The definition includes tuition and fees that you pay out-of-pocket and for which you claim no other deduction or credit. You can also claim the exclusion when you use the bond proceeds to fund a 529 college savings plan or a Coverdell education savings account.
Savings bonds offer additional, less restrictive opportunities for education and tax planning. For instance, it may make sense to put the bonds in your child’s name and report the interest on an annual basis. Depending on your child’s income, the interest could remain tax-free. Alternatively, you may choose to defer recognizing interest on bonds issued in your child’s name until the bonds are redeemed.
Please call us to discuss these strategies and others that can help ease the burden of college costs.