Can we use a 529 plan to pay for private high school?


Q. Our son will graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy on May 28, 2021. He attended since June 2017. He did a post-graduate high school year at the Hill School in 2016-2017 to prepare. We paid $33,000 for the Hill School and the school and Naval Academy paid the rest. Can we use his 529 money for the Hill School?
— Mom

A. Congratulations on your son’s graduation.

In general, you must reimburse yourself for education expenses from a 529 account in the year the expenses were incurred, said Ken Van Leeuwen, a certified financial planner with Van Leeuwen & Company in Princeton.

“Unfortunately, the IRS has not given explicit guidance on how long a person has to reimburse themselves,” he said.

But there are a few things to note.

The new tax law, effective Jan. 1, 2018, allows 529 plans to be used to pay for up to $10,000 of tuition at elementary or secondary public, private or parochial schools.

And the SECURE Act of 2019 allows you to use 529 plan money to pay for up to $10,000 in student loans. So if the money you paid is now in the form of a loan, you can explore a partial payoff.

It would make sense to speak to a financial professional who can look at the specifics of your situation to see your options.

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This story was originally published on May 17, 2021. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.