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Understand and reporting 1099-Q

Me as the father (F) set up a Coverdell ESA for my son (S)

Father F withdrew X dollars from this account to pay for college

Father F received 1099-Q form with following information:

  • Recipient TIN: SSN of S
  • Box 1: X dollars
  • Box 2: Empty
  • Box 3: Empty
  • Box Coverdell ESA: Yes
  • Box Distribution Code: 1
  • Box Fair Market Value: ZERO dollars

The distributions reported on 1099-Q are less than the total qualified educational expenses

 

Father F and son S are filing 2023 tax returns separately. In TT how should the the following questions be answered by father F and son S in their tax returns:

  • Were you the beneficiary of a Coverdell ESA
  • Did you receive a form 1099-Q for distributions from a Coverdell ESA

Since the distributions are less than QEE, can they answer NO to the above questions i.e. ignore the form completely. If not who should answer YES. I am assuming that only of them must answer the question as YES

 

please advise

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1 Reply
Hal_Al
Level 15

Understand and reporting 1099-Q

Q. Since the distributions are less than QEE, can they answer NO to the above questions i.e. ignore the form completely. 

A. Yes. Better yet, do not even enter that section of the interview. 

If it did need to be entered, it would go on the son's return, since he is the "recipient" (Recipient TIN: SSN of S).

 

You can just not report the 1099-Q, at all, if your student-beneficiary has sufficient educational expenses, including room & board (even if he lives at home) to cover the distribution. When the box 1 amount on form 1099-Q is fully covered by expenses, TurboTax will enter nothing about the 1099-Q on the actual tax forms. But, it will prepare a 1099-Q worksheet for your records. You would still have to do the math to see if there were enough expenses left over for you to claim the tuition credit. You also cannot count expenses that were paid by tax free scholarships. You cannot double dip! 

References:

  1. On form 1099-Q, instructions to the recipient reads: "Nontaxable distributions from CESAs and QTPs are not required to be reported on your income tax return. You must determine the taxability of any distribution." 
  2. IRS Pub 970 states: “Generally, distributions are tax free if they aren't more than the beneficiary's AQEE for the year. Don't report tax-free distributions (including qualifying rollovers) on your tax return”.

 

Read on for a detailed explanation.  If you do need to report it, you will need to calculate the earnings (box2) from your own records. 

 

Qualified Tuition Plans  (QTP 529 Plans) Distributions

General Discussion

It’s complicated.

For 529 plans, there is an “owner” (usually the parent), and a “beneficiary” (usually the student dependent). The "recipient" of the distribution can be either the owner or the beneficiary depending on who the money was sent to. When the money goes directly from the Qualified Tuition Plan (QTP) to the school, the student is the "recipient". The distribution will be reported on IRS form 1099-Q. 
The 1099-Q gets reported on the recipient's return.** The recipient's name & SS# will be on the 1099-Q.
Even though the 1099-Q is going on the student's return, the 1098-T should go on the parent's return, so you can claim the education credit. You can do this because he is your dependent.

You can and should claim the tuition credit before claiming the 529 plan earnings exclusion. The American Opportunity Credit (AOC or AOTC) is 100% of the first $2000 of tuition and 25% of the next $2000 ($2500 maximum credit). The educational expenses he claims for the 1099-Q should be reduced by the amount of educational expenses you claim for the credit.
But be aware, you can not double dip. You cannot count the same tuition money, for the tuition credit,  that gets him an exclusion from the taxability of the earnings (interest) on the 529 plan. Since the credit is more generous; use as much of the tuition as is needed for the credit and the rest for the interest exclusion. Another special rule allows you to claim the tuition credit even though it was "his" money that paid the tuition.
In addition, there is another rule that says the 10% penalty is waived if he was unable to cover the 529 plan withdrawal with educational expenses either because he got scholarships or the expenses were used (by him or the parents) to claim the credits. He'll have to pay tax on the earnings, at his lower tax rate (subject to the “kiddie tax”), but not the penalty.

 

Total qualified expenses (including room & board) less amounts paid by scholarship less amounts used to claim the Tuition credit equals the amount you can use to claim the earnings exclusion on the 1099-Q. 
Example:
  $10,000 in educational expenses(including room & board which is only qualified for the 1099-Q)

   -$3000 paid by tax free scholarship***

   -$4000 used to claim the American Opportunity credit

 =$3000 Can be used against the 1099-Q (on the recipient’s return)

 

Box 1 of the 1099-Q is $5000

Box 2 is $2800

3000/5000=60% of the earnings are tax free; 40% are taxable

40% x 2800= $1120

There is  $1120 of taxable income (on the recipient’s return)

 

**Alternatively; you can just not report the 1099-Q, at all, if your student-beneficiary has sufficient educational expenses, including room & board (even if he lives at home) to cover the distribution. You would still have to do the math to see if there were enough expenses left over for you to claim the tuition credit. Again, you cannot double dip!  When the box 1 amount on form 1099-Q is fully covered by expenses, TurboTax will enter nothing about the 1099-Q on the actual tax forms. But, it will prepare a 1099-Q worksheet for your records, in case of an IRS inquiry.

On form 1099-Q, instructions to the recipient reads: "Nontaxable distributions from CESAs and QTPs are not required to be reported on your income tax return. You must determine the taxability of any distribution." 

***Another alternative is have the student report some of his scholarship as taxable income, to free up some expenses for the 1099-Q and/or tuition credit. Most people come out better having the scholarship taxable before the 529 earnings. 

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