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At the end of 2019 I opened and funded a 529 plan account. Now in 2020, not having yet filed my federal or state tax return for 2019, I find that this was a poor decision.

The account has earned a negligible capital gain at this point. What penalties will I face if I close the account (taking the full amount as a distribution now)? What penalties will I face if I take a distribution for the basis amount but leave the account open with a balance of the current earnings?

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  • "The account has earned a negligible capital gain at this point." Well, what did you expect in so short a time?
    – glglgl
    Feb 7 '20 at 8:19
  • About what happened? I was trying to provide all information that might be relevant to answering the question. Feb 7 '20 at 13:10
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The benefit at the federal level is the ability to avoid taxes on the growth, if it is used for qualified educational purposes. If you pull money out of the account there is tax on the growth, and a 10% penalty on the growth. The federal tax would depend on the tax bracket you are in. But it will still only be a portion of the small gains you have.

On the state level you would have to check the state tax law. In some states you can take a state tax deduction for your contributions, in others there is no deduction. If you pull it out of the account some states will want their tax deduction money back. But if you started the account in 2019, you haven't had time to claim the deduction. I don't know if the state will assume that you claimed it, and try and get the money back even though you didn't take the deduction.

What penalties will I face if I take a distribution for the basis amount but leave the account open with a balance of the current earnings?

The Virginia 529 would not allow this. All distributions were part principal and part gains.

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