The college savings plans known as 529 plans are a way for parents to invest money for their children’s college education while taking advantage of significant tax breaks. Now there are also ways for friends and family members to more easily contribute to the savings plans, which is becoming a popular graduation or birthday gift option.
Several companies operate websites that allow you to set up a profile for the beneficiary of a 529 plan and then let friends and family know that they can give through the site. The services deduct a fee of between 2 and 5 percent before the money is made available for parents to transfer to the 529 account.
The College Savings Plans Network has raised the question of whether these companies should register under federal and state securities laws. One site, GiftofCollege.com, has taken the step of registering as a broker-dealer.
Without the use of these services, parents could see whether their 529 plan accepts contributions from third parties, and then give the account information to friends and family.
Another option is available from Upromise Investments Inc., which administers plans in 16 states, including New York. The company’s Ugift program allows parents to send friends and family a digital invitation to contribute. The invitation allows recipients to print out a coupon with a bar code and account number, which they can mail in with a check. There is no fee for the service.
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