Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the Arizona Family College Savings Program?
The Arizona Family College Savings Program is Arizona’s version of the savings plans permitted under IRS code section 529. These plans are designed to encourage individuals to save for future education expenses. The Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education (ACPE) is the state agency that administers the program.
Who can contribute to an account?
Any person who desires to save for qualified higher education expenses, even for oneself. Once an account is established, anyone can contribute to that account.
Who qualifies as a beneficiary?
Any person interested in pursuing post high school training and educational opportunities may be designated as a beneficiary of an account. Parents can save for their children. Grandparents can save for their grandchildren. Aunts and uncles can save for their nieces and nephews. Friends can save for their friends. You can even save for yourself.
Is there an application fee for the program?
There is no application fee.
Are there tax benefits?
Earnings grow tax-free and will have no federal income taxes on withdrawals used for qualified higher education expenses. For designated beneficiaries who are Arizona residents, funds are exempt from state taxation when used to pay qualified higher education expenses of the designated beneficiary.
Can the funds be used for any college or university?
In developing the program, flexibility was an important consideration. Funds from the Arizona program can be used at accredited institutions anywhere in the country. This includes two-year and four-year public or private colleges, universities, community colleges, or technical training schools. To be eligible the student must attend a college, university or vocational program accredited by an agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
How can the money in the account be used?
The program is designed to pay for qualified postsecondary education expenses, including tuition, fees, supplies, room and board, books and required equipment.
I have more than one child. Should I establish an account for each of my children?
Yes. Each account can have only one designated beneficiary. However, a contributor may open an account for one child and, at a later date, change the designated beneficiary to another member of the former designated beneficiary's family.
Is there a maximum account balance limit that can be saved for the beneficiary?
The State of Arizona has established a maximum account balance limit of $431,000 effective October 1, 2016 for contributions to the account(s) of each designated beneficiary.
What if the beneficiary for whom I establish the account decides not to attend college?
If the beneficiary does not attend college or does not finish college the account owner maintains control of the account. Another member of the designated beneficiary's family can be designated as the new beneficiary. Funds may be left in the account for the current beneficiary in the event he or she returns to school. If the money is withdrawn and not used for qualified higher education expenses, investment earnings will become subject to federal and state income tax, and a federal 10 percent penalty will be imposed.
If I open an Arizona Family College Savings Program account, will the beneficiary still be eligible for financial aid?
For state financial aid, the balances in an account will not be treated as income of the parents, nor of the student when determining financial need. Federal based programs may take the account balance into consideration as a parental asset when determining eligibility.
What happens if the beneficiary receives a scholarship, becomes disabled, or dies?
In the cases named above the account owner may withdraw the assets in the account without incurring the 10% federal tax penalty applicable for non qualified withdrawals. however, only the assets up to the amount of the scholarship can be withdrawn without penalty. In all cases when not used for qualified expenses, the earnings will be subject to federal income tax.
If I move out of Arizona, what happens to my account?
If you move to another state, you can continue to invest in the account.
Are my investments guaranteed?
Investments in an account are neither insured nor guaranteed by the State of Arizona or the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education. Please contact the individual financial institutions for additional information.
Can I "rollover" the account?
An account may be “rolled over” or transferred to another account within a financial institution in the Arizona Family College Savings Program or to another provider in the AFCSP (without penalty) once per calendar year. However, this must be a transfer or “rollover” not a withdrawal, or it will be deemed an unqualified withdrawal and be subject to penalties and taxes. You can also “rollover” your account to another state’s plan, if so desired.
Are there any estate-planning benefits?
Yes. Currently, you may gift up to $70,000, or $140,000 per couple, without gift tax consequences if an election is made by you to treat the gift as being made over a five-year period. Currently, any money contributed to a 529 Plan is out of the contributor’s estate for estate tax purposes.
Can I change investment options after I have opened an account?
According to IRS Notice 2001-55, authority is given to account owners to change investment options one time per calendar year or when the designated beneficiary is changed.
Is there a tax benefit for investing in the Arizona 529 Plan?
Yes, the state offers a tax deduction for investing in the Arizona 529 Plan of up to $4,000 for married tax filers who file a joint return and $2,000 for single filers.
Do my account balance limitations include account earnings?
Yes and No. In determining if additional contributions can be made to the account, the earnings are counted. If your previous contributions and earnings equal or exceed the contribution limit, no additional contributions can be made. However, once you have made qualified contributions, you will not be penalized for good investment performance. The account can grow to any size.
How do I get started?
The next step involves determining which savings program is best suited for your investment goals and contacting the financial institutions in the Arizona Family College Savings Program to determine which offerings best meet your investment goals. Each financial institution has customer representatives who can answer your questions and explain the details of their investment choices. For links to the three program providers please return to the home page.
The Arizona Family College Savings Plan is not insured by the State of Arizona or any of the program providers. Neither the principal deposited nor the investment return is guaranteed by the State of Arizona or the program providers.