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How to Help Pay a Grandchild's Tuition

Learn what you can pay for and what will get taxed.

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I plan to pay my grandson’s college tuition by making payments directly to the university. Are these payments subject to limits or gift taxes? - R.V., Waco, Texas

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Ordinarily, you’d need to file a gift-tax return if you were to give more than $15,000 in 2018 to any individual (couples may give up to $30,000), but any money you pay directly to the college for your grandson’s tuition isn’t subject to those limits. (Money that goes toward room and board is subject to the limits, however.)

You can also transfer money out of your estate by contributing up to five times the gift-tax limit to a 529 college-savings plan in one year (for a total of $75,000 in 2018) without suffering any gift-tax consequences. (You won’t be able to give your grandson any more money for five years.) Distributions from a grandparent-owned 529, though, could reduce the amount of your grandson’s financial aid award.

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