Monday, October 17, 2016
Stephanie Hoffer (Ohio State) presents Will Treasury's Final Regulations Fix the ABLE Act?, 153 Tax Notes 265 (Oct. 10, 2016), at Loyola-L.A. today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Ellen Aprill and Katherine Pratt:
Passed as part of the Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 (ABLE Act), section 529A allows states to build tax-preferred savings programs for individuals with qualifying disabilities. The law is similar to section 529, which governs college savings programs, and it is a game-changer for the disability community. Account principal and investment earnings can be withdrawn from the account tax free for qualified disability-related expenditures, and if used appropriately, withdrawals will not affect the beneficiary’s eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and other federal supports for people with serious disabilities. But Treasury will determine how truly able the law is to achieve its dual goals of allowing individuals with disabilities to cover their own expenses and save for the future. The law contains both annual and aggregate contribution limits, and interpretation is up for grabs. Under one reading of the law, an account could accept no more than the annual limit, regardless of withdrawals from the account. Under an alternative reading that is more in keeping with the spirit of the law, dollars contributed and then withdrawn in the same year would not count against the annual contribution limit.
This article describes the contours of the ABLE Act, examines the statutory language that Treasury is now working to interpret, and concludes that the latter interpretation is stronger because it is supported by the canons of interpretation and because it is the only reading that accomplishes both stated purposes of the law.
The commentators are Ruth Phelps (Phelps Law Group) and David Rice (David Rice Professional Law Corp.).