With today’s tuition costs at astronomically high levels, paying for a child’s college education can feel like extortion. If your child is an adult, you may have decided that it’s up to him or her to pay for tuition, but if you do want to help your adult child (or grandchild) with college tuition, there is a way to do that—at least part of it—tax free.
One method is to hire your child as an employee and set up a Qualified Educational Assistance Plan, which allows employers to provide up to $5,250 per year, per employee, in tax-exempt tuition benefits.
Under Section 127 of the federal tax code, employers can offer this tuition assistance to employees (who don’t have to report it as income) and then deduct the cost of the benefit as a business expense on their company’s taxes. What’s more, the assistance includes any form of instruction or training that improves or develops the capabilities of an employee, not just job-related or degree programs.
Seems like a win-win, right? It definitely is, as long as certain requirements are met. First off, the money can be used for tuition, fees, books, equipment, and supplies, but it can’t go toward meals, lodging, or transportation costs. And the equipment and supplies (other than textbooks) aren’t eligible if the employee gets to keep them at the end of the course.
Beyond those stipulations, an adult child is eligible if he or she:
is age 21 or older,
a legitimate employee of the business,
doesn’t own more than 5% of the company, and
is not a dependent of the parent/business owner.