What happens to my 529 if my child gets a scholarship?
If your child receives a scholarship you might not need all the money you've saved up in your 529 plan for college expenses. You generally have three options at that point. The first is to earmark the 529 funds for some future use by that child, perhaps for graduate school. The second is to direct it to another family member, such as a current sibling or a future grandchild. You can make the change in beneficiary anytime before the second family member actually goes to college. The third option is to withdraw the extra funds. The earnings in your account will be subject to income tax either on your return or your child’s. Normally, there would be a a 10% additional federal tax on the earnings portion as well, which is penalty for taking a nonqualified withdrawal, but the penalty is waived when scholarships are the reason for it. In effect, the scholarships have turned your tax-free 529 investment into a tax-deferred 529 investment. Of course, many parents will still be able to use their entire 529 balance on other non-scholarship expenses such as room and board, books, and supplies, and so the scholarships received by their children will not lessen the tax benefit of the 529 plan.