Monday, October 20, 2014 · 10:07 p.m.
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The TNStars College Savings 529 Program unveiled a new interactive guide on its website Wednesday.

The online tutorial is designed to help Tennesseans quickly and easily learn about new college savings program, and the guide is free to all website visitors.

The guide helps people explore options for saving for college education expenses, from calculating how much to save each month to learning about myths regarding 529 plans. Quizzes test how much site users have learned. 

The TNStars College Savings 529 Program is a tax-advantaged college savings plan that is designed to help Tennessee parents, grandparents and friends support the educational needs of loved ones. The plan takes its name from Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service Code, which authorized the creation of tax-advantaged plans in 1996.

“Tennessee needs a highly educated workforce to continue to attract businesses that bring new jobs to the state,” Treasurer David H. Lillard Jr. said in a prepared statement. “And the TNStars College Savings 529 Program offers Tennesseans a low-cost way to save for children’s college expenses with attractive investment options and special tax advantages.”

The Tennessee Department of Treasury also recently announced that an incentive for the program was being extended. When it first launched last September, the treasury department offered a $50 match on the first $50 invested in a new account and a $100 incentive for new accounts rolled over from other 529 plans. 

They were initially only offered through Dec. 31, but the incentives have been extended through June 30. 

Participation in the program itself is open to anyone, but only Tennessee residents are eligible for incentives. 

Officials said that benefits include:

—Low fees that will be on par with the top-rated plans in the nation

—14 investment options and an age-based option covering a wide array of investment strategies

— Federal tax-free earnings if the money is used for higher education expenses

—Availability to anyone, regardless of income level 

—Contributions qualify for a $13,000 annual federal gift tax exclusion, and a lump sum of $65,000 may be contributed to a 529 plan and treated as if it were made over a five-year period to completely avoid the federal gift tax

—Plan contributions aren’t considered to be a part of an estate for federal tax purposes (account owners still retain control of the accounts but do not pay federal estate taxes on the value of the accounts, but if a gift is spread over five years and the account owner passes away within the five years, a portion of the gift will be included in the estate)

Anyone interested in opening an account with the TNStars College Savings 529 Program can learn more by visiting www.tnstars.com or by calling 855-386-7827 toll-free. Businesses are also encouraged to make it easier for their employees to save by offering payroll deductions to the program. 

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