Just in time for holiday giving, the U.S. Congress last week approved legislation that includes computer equipment and related technology and services as “qualified higher education expenses” for beneficiaries of state-sponsored 529 college savings plans like the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust (NEST), State Treasurer Don Stenberg said today.
The new tax law, “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015,” which was passed Friday by Congress, is expected to be signed by President Obama.
Among other provisions, the new tax law makes the purchase of laptops, computers and related technology and services a “qualified higher education expense” when purchased for use primarily by the beneficiary of a state-sponsored 529 college savings plan like NEST at an institution of higher education, Treasurer Stenberg said.
The change is retroactive for NEST account owners who purchased these kinds of items from January 1, 2015, on, Stenberg said. NEST accounts can be used at four-year colleges, community colleges, technical schools, and graduate programs.
“We want all NEST account owners to be aware of this action on the national level as soon as possible so they can take advantage of this long sought-after change in the definition of qualified higher education expenses. In particular, we want account owners to be aware that this change is retroactive to any computer purchased for use by a student at an institution of higher learning on or after January 1, 2015,” Treasurer Stenberg said.
“We all know the essential role that laptops and other technological devices play in the education of our young people. And we thank Congress for providing greater flexibility and recognizing that laptops, computers, and related technology should be considered qualified expenses, just like tuition, fees, textbooks, supplies and equipment, and, in some cases, room and board,” Stenberg said.
Treasurer Stenberg also reminded account owners that contributions to NEST accounts must be postmarked by Dec. 31 to qualify for the 2015 tax year state income tax deduction. The maximum deduction is $10,000 for a couple filing jointly or for a single tax filer. Account owners who contribute to their accounts electronically have until 10:59 p.m., CT, on Dec. 31 to make their contributions.
The Nebraska Educational Savings Trust, which is made up of four college savings plans, has more than 232,000 accounts nationwide, including 69,000 in Nebraska. By law, State Treasurer Stenberg is Trustee of the program. First National Bank of Omaha is program manager.