Know the Higher Education Expenses Covered by Your IRA Account

College Education spells costs. Savings nowadays accumulate just minimal interest rates; not enough to cover your entire child’s education. Good thing there are IRA assets. IRA stands for Individual Retirement Account and owning one can save you from the stress of financing your children’s education after high school. Using the IRA to cover for the qualified higher education expenses at a qualified educational institution gives a lot of convenience to parents nowadays.

What are higher education expenses and what measures are used to determine if the expenses are qualified? Section 529 Chapter 3 of Internal Revenue Code defines “qualified higher education expenses” as a term denoting the essential college expenses. Essential college expenses constitute equipment, supplies, books, tuition and fees needed for attendance or enrollment in a qualified educational institution. If your child is a half time student, these expenses can also include his room and board.

Be cautious however and remember that not all higher education expenses are covered by IRA. By law, it is required that the expenses should be coordinated with the other educational benefits of the student. On the recent rules released by Commissioner Gorski of the United States Tax Court, IRA distributions should be used to pay certain equipment or supplies necessary for enrollment or attendance; these expenses are penalty free. Moreover, the owner should withdraw his contributions for qualified higher education expenses the same year the expenses are incurred.

IRA does not cover all expenses! This should be stressed to all IRA owners since most of the times, there are confusions as to what can be regarded as expense or not. Simple guidelines will be:

a. Proper and complete documentation is necessary for purchase of books. The documentation is needed to show that the expense is really incurred during appropriate tax year.

b. Household items are not needed for enrollment. These items are not higher education expenses and thus are not qualified.

c. Laptop computers are important educational equipment needed by students nowadays. Although this maybe the case, these computers are not required for a student to be enrolled; and just the same, these will not qualify as higher educational expenses since schools will not require students to purchase one.

As you can notice, the rules are basic and direct. The US Court definitely requires that the eligible educational institution should be the ones stating their specific requirements. What is set by the educational institution as school expenses will then be the basis of IRA’s higher education expenses.

Being an IRA owner, you can choose to utilize all or just some of your IRA assets to help you settle your children’s education. Your distribution, when withdrawn before your age of 591/2, will be subject to 10% penalty tax and federal income tax. Nevertheless, the IRC allows several kinds of distribution exempted from the 10% penalty tax; this includes those distributions utilized to pay qualified expenses. Remember that if the amount you withdrew from your IRA account in a year does not exceed your eligible higher education expenses, the penalty tax of 10% will not be applied, however, you will still pay the regular income tax.

With the bulging costs of higher education nowadays, it’s a good thing people are getting wiser by investing their money for future. Individual Retirement Account is good for supporting your child’s education. Proper preparation is vital and owners must be responsible enough to know which will qualify as higher education expenses and which are not.