Updated for 2019. When choosing a 529 college savings plan, you can open a 529 plan from any state. However, each state can vary widely in what they offer in terms of tax deductions and/or matching grants. 16 states offer no tax break on contributions and 7 states give you the same tax benefit no matter which 529 plan you pick. The remaining 27 states do offer some sort of tax benefit, so you’ll have to weigh your in-state benefits against the superior investment options from an out-of-state plan.
Morningstar has just published their 529 College-Savings Plan Landscape report for 2019, which included a state-by-state summary of the tax benefits:
They also have a new article When It Comes to 529s, How Good Is Your State’s Tax Benefit? that helps to quantify how good the tax benefit is, in terms of how many years of investment expenses it offsets for a theoretical household. More years (darker blue) is better:
These days, for the most part, if your state offers a tax benefit, it’s worth sticking with your in-state 529 plan as long as you are choosing the low-cost index fund “autopilot” options. The formerly “bad” plans have gotten closer the rest of the pack. You might still prefer another state plan for a specific investment option, I suppose.
They also updated this chart that quantifies tax benefits for a hypothetical family with a $60,000 income.
If you really like another state plan, you can look into their “recapture” rules as to what happens if you roll over your assets to another state plan later down the road after your initial contribution. Sometimes you can wait out the recapture period and then roll funds over to a better state 529 plan for free (once every rolling 12 months).
Again, if your state has no special tax break or it does “tax parity” – meaning it offers the same tax benefits for any 529 plan – then I would simply choose from this list of best nationwide 529 plans.
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