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IRS.gov Website
Publication 970
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178531

Are Distributions Taxable(p55)

rule
The part of a distribution representing the amount paid or contributed to a QTP does not have to be included in income. This is a return of the investment in the plan.
The designated beneficiary generally does not have to include in income any earnings distributed from a QTP if the total distribution is less than or equal to adjusted qualified education expenses (defined under Figuring the Taxable Portion of a Distribution, below).
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178533

Earnings and return of investment.(p55)

rule
You will receive a Form 1099-Q, Payments From Qualified Education Programs (Under Sections 529 and 530), from each of the programs from which you received a QTP distribution in 2010. The amount of your gross distribution (box 1) shown on each form will be divided between your earnings (box 2) and your basis, or return of investment (box 3). Form 1099-Q should be sent to you by January 31, 2011.
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178534

Figuring the Taxable  
Portion of a Distribution(p55)

rule
To determine if total distributions for the year are more or less than the amount of qualified education expenses, you must compare the total of all QTP distributions for the tax year to the adjusted qualified education expenses.
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178535

Adjusted qualified education expenses.(p55)

rule
This amount is the total qualified education expenses reduced by any tax-free educational assistance. Tax-free educational assistance includes:
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178540

Taxable earnings.(p55)

rule
Use the following steps to figure the taxable part.
  1. Multiply the total distributed earnings shown in box 2 of Form 1099-Q by a fraction. The numerator is the adjusted qualified education expenses paid during the year and the denominator is the total amount distributed during the year.
  2. Subtract the amount figured in (1) from the total distributed earnings. The result is the amount the beneficiary must include in income. Report it on Form 1040 or Form 1040NR, line 21.
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178541

Example 1.(p55)

In 2004, Sara Clarke's parents opened a savings account for her with a QTP maintained by their state government. Over the years they contributed $18,000 to the account. The total balance in the account was $27,000 on the date the distribution was made. In the summer of 2010, Sara enrolled in college and had $8,300 of qualified education expenses for the rest of the year. She paid her college expenses from the following sources.
 Gift from parents$1,600 
 Partial tuition scholarship (tax-free)3,100 
 QTP distribution5,300 
    
Before Sara can determine the taxable part of her QTP distribution, she must reduce her total qualified education expenses by any tax-free educational assistance.
 Total qualified education expenses$8,300 
 Minus: Tax-free educational assistance−3,100 
 Equals: Adjusted qualified
 education expenses (AQEE)
$5,200 
Since the remaining expenses ($5,200) are less than the QTP distribution, part of the earnings will be taxable.
Sara's Form 1099-Q shows that $950 of the QTP distribution is earnings. Sara figures the taxable part of the distributed earnings as follows.
 1.$950 (earnings)×  $5,200 AQEE  
$5,300 distribution
   
   = $932 (tax-free earnings) 
 2.$950 (earnings) − $932 (tax-free earnings) 
   = $18 (taxable earnings)
Sara must include $18 in income (Form 1040, line 21) as distributed QTP earnings not used for adjusted qualified education expenses.
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178546

Coordination With American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits(p55)

rule
An American opportunity or lifetime learning credit (education credit) can be claimed in the same year the beneficiary takes a tax-free distribution from a QTP, as long as the same expenses are not used for both benefits. This means that after the 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.
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178547

Example 2.(p55)

Assume the same facts as in Example 1, except that Sara's parents claimed an American opportunity credit of $2,500 (based on $4,000 expenses).
 Total qualified education expenses$8,300 
 Minus: Tax-free educational assistance−3,100 
 Minus: Expenses taken into account
 in figuring American opportunity credit
−4,000 
 Equals: Adjusted qualified
 education expenses (AQEE)
$1,200 
    
The taxable part of the distribution is figured as follows.
 1.$950 (earnings)×  $1,200 AQEE  
$5,300 distribution
   
   = $215 (tax-free earnings) 
 2.$950 (earnings) − $215 (tax-free earnings) 
   = $735 (taxable earnings)
  
Sara must include $735 in income (Form 1040, line 21). This represents distributed earnings not used for adjusted qualified education expenses.
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178552

Coordination With Coverdell  
ESA Distributions(p55)

rule
If a designated beneficiary receives distributions from both a QTP and a Coverdell ESA in the same year, and the total of these distributions is more than the 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.
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178553

Example 3.(p56)

Assume the same facts as in Example 2, except that instead of receiving a $5,300 distribution from her QTP, Sara received $4,600 from that account and $700 from her Coverdell ESA. In this case, Sara must allocate her $1,200 of adjusted qualified higher education expenses (AQHEE) between the two distributions.
 $1,200 AQHEE× $700 ESA distribution 
$5,300 total distribution
=$158
AQHEE (ESA)
 
 $1,200 AQHEE×$4,600 QTP distribution
$5,300 total distribution
=$1,042
AQHEE (QTP)
 
Sara then figures the taxable portion of her Coverdell ESA distribution based on qualified higher education expenses of $158, and the taxable portion of her QTP distribution based on the other $1,042.
Note.If you are required to allocate your expenses between Coverdell ESA and QTP distributions, and you have adjusted qualified elementary and secondary education expenses, see the examples in chapter 7 under Coordination With Qualified Tuition Program (QTP) Distributions.
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000236329

Coordination With  
Tuition and Fees Deduction(p56)

rule
A tuition and fees deduction can be claimed in the same year the beneficiary takes a tax-free distribution from a QTP, as long as the same expenses are not used for both benefits. This means that after the 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 deduction.
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000236330

Example 4.(p56)

In 2005, Devin Smith's parents opened a savings account for him with a QTP maintained by their state government. Over the years they contributed $30,000 to the account. The total balance in the account was $35,000 on the date the distribution was made. In the summer of 2010, Devin enrolled in college and had $6,000 of qualified education expenses ($2,000 room and board and $4,000 tuition and fees) for the rest of the year. He paid his college expenses from a $6,000 QTP distribution, $1,000 of which is earnings.
The Smiths claim a $4,000 tuition and fees deduction based on the $4,000 tuition expense, and used the $2,000 room and board expenses to reduce the taxable amount of distributed earnings from the QTP.
 Total qualified education expenses$6,000 
 Minus: Expenses taken into account in figuring
 tuition and fees deduction
−4,000 
 Equals: Adjusted qualified
 education expenses (AQEE)
$2,000 
    
They have taxable earnings of $667. This is figured as follows.
 1.$1,000 (earnings)×  $2,000 AQEE  
$6,000 distribution
   
   = $333 (tax-free earnings) 
 2.$1,000 (earnings) − $333 (tax-free earnings) 
   = $667 (taxable earnings)
  
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178559

Losses on QTP Investments(p56)

rule
If you have a loss on your investment in a QTP account, you may be able to take the loss on your income tax return. You can take the loss only when all amounts from that account have been distributed and the total distributions are less than your unrecovered basis. Your basis is the total amount of contributions to that QTP account. You claim the loss as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on Schedule A (Form 1040), line 23 (Schedule A (Form 1040NR), line 11), subject to the 2%-of-adjusted- gross-income limit.
If you have distributions from more than one QTP account during a year, you must combine the information (amount of distribution, basis, etc.) from all such accounts in order to determine your taxable earnings for the year. By doing this, the loss from one QTP account reduces the distributed earnings (if any) from any other QTP accounts.
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178560

Example 1.(p56)

In 2010, Taylor received a final distribution of $1,000 from QTP #1. His unrecovered basis in that account before the distribution was $3,000. If Taylor itemizes his deductions, he can claim the $2,000 loss on Schedule A.
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178561

Example 2.(p56)

Assume the same facts as in Example 1, except that Taylor also had a distribution of $9,000 from QTP #2, giving him total distributions for 2010 of $10,000. His total basis in these distributions was $4,500 ($3,000 for QTP #1 and $1,500 for QTP #2). Taylor's adjusted qualified education expenses for 2010 totaled $6,000. In order to figure his taxable earnings, Taylor combines the two accounts and determines his taxable earnings as follows.
 1.$10,000 (total distribution) − $4,500 (basis portion of distribution)
   = $5,500 (earnings included in distribution)
 2.$5,500 (earnings)x  $6,000 AQEE  
$10,000 distribution
   
   = $3,300 (tax-free earnings) 
 3.$5,500 (earnings) − $3,300 (tax-free earnings)
    = $2,200 (taxable earnings)
        
Taylor must include $2,200 in income on Form 1040, line 21. Because Taylor's accounts must be combined, he cannot deduct his $2,000 loss (QTP #1) on Schedule A. Instead, the $2,000 loss reduces the total earnings that were distributed, thereby reducing his taxable earnings.
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178566

Additional Tax on  
Taxable Distributions(p57)

rule
Generally, if you receive a taxable distribution, you also must pay a 10% additional tax on the amount included in income.
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178567

Exceptions.(p57)

rule
The 10% additional tax does not apply to distributions:
  1. Paid to a beneficiary (or to the estate of the designated beneficiary) on or after the death of the designated beneficiary.
  2. Made because the designated beneficiary is disabled. A person is considered to be disabled if he or she shows proof that he or she cannot do any substantial gainful activity because of his or her physical or mental condition. A physician must determine that his or her condition can be expected to result in death or to be of long-continued and indefinite duration.
  3. Included in income because the designated beneficiary received:
    1. A tax-free scholarship or fellowship (see  
      chapter 1),
    2. Veterans' educational assistance (see chapter 1),
    3. Employer-provided educational assistance (see chapter 11), or
    4. Any other nontaxable (tax-free) payments (other than gifts or inheritances) received as educational assistance.
  4. Made on account of the attendance of the designated beneficiary at a U.S. military academy (such as the USNA at Annapolis). This exception applies only to the extent that the amount of the distribution does not exceed the costs of advanced education (as defined in section 2005(d)(3) of title 10 of the U.S. Code) attributable to such attendance.
  5. Included in income only because the qualified education expenses were taken into account in determining the American opportunity or lifetime learning credit (see Coordination With American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits, earlier.
Exception (3) applies only to the extent the distribution is not more than the scholarship, allowance, or payment.
taxmap/pubs/p970-039.htm#en_us_publink1000178572

Figuring the additional tax.(p57)

rule
Use Part II of Form 5329, Additional Taxes on Qualified Plans (Including IRAs) and Other Tax-Favored Accounts, to figure any additional tax. Report the amount on Form 1040, line 58, or Form 1040NR, line 56.