Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal:
President Obama is pitching his new tax plan as a way to help the middle class at the expense of the rich. But middle-class savers are bound to notice if he achieves two of the White House’s stated goals—to “roll back” tax benefits of 529 college savings plans and “repeal tax incentives going forward” for Coverdell Education Savings Accounts.
Both plans allow parents, grandparents or anyone looking to help fund a kid’s education to contribute after-tax dollars into accounts that grow tax-free. There is also no tax when the money is withdrawn, provided it is used for qualified educational expenses such as tuition, fees, books, room and board.
Mr. Obama wants to allow the IRS to tax as income any withdrawn earnings from future 529 contributions. This would make them less attractive. The White House goal seems to be to discourage private thrift, and encourage greater use of government benefits, when paying for college.
If the plans are closed to new investments and savers, those who stand to lose aren’t the 1%. As of June 30, 2014 there were 11.8 million 529 accounts holding $244.5 billion in assets, according to the College Savings Plans Network, a a group of state officials who administer the plans. The average account balance was $20,671. That sounds like “the middle class.”