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Information for GET Customers Regarding Current Account Options

What’s New with GET?

UPDATES:

  • New legislation passed during the 2016 Legislative Session calls for GET to reopen later this year. GET will be able to resume selling units once a unit price is known. The unit price is typically set once the Legislative Session ends and the state’s universities have set tuition and fees for the next academic year. The Legislature is still currently in session. Once it concludes, we will have a more specific date on when a unit price will be available and customers can open new accounts and/or buy additional units.
  • On September 7, 2016, the GET Committee voted to extend the non-penalty refund deadline. Effective immediately, and until September 1, 2017, or until 60 days after a new 529 savings plan opens (whichever is later), the GET program will waive all state program refund fees and the two-year hold requirement for all account owners. During this extension, account owners will continue to have the option to withdraw their GET funds with no program penalties and receive either the current $117.82 unit payout value, or their initial contributions (whichever is greater). Be aware that federal taxes and penalties may still apply to any account gains if refunds are not deposited into another qualified 529 plan within 60 days.

During the 2015 legislative session, Washington State lawmakers passed the College Affordability Program, which lowered tuition at our state’s public colleges for two consecutive academic years. Further, the legislation states that beginning in the 2017-18 academic year, annual tuition increases may be no more than the state’s average annual growth rate in median hourly wage.

More specifically, tuition will be reduced at the state’s two research institutions (UW & WSU) by five percent in the 2015-16 academic year and by another ten percent in the 2016-17 academic year for a total two year reduction of 15 percent. This is important because these are the two institutions that GET’s unit payout value is typically based upon. In addition, the College Affordability Program also reduces tuition by 20% over the next two years at the state’s regional institutions (CWU, EWU, WWU and The Evergreen State College) and 5% in 2015-16 academic year at the state’s community and technical colleges.

Since these tuition policy changes significantly affect the growth assumptions that GET has been historically based on, the legislation also stated that for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic years, the GET Committee shall maintain the payout value for units redeemed at the 2014-15 rate of $117.82 per unit (it will not go down with reduced tuition). Further, beginning in the 2017-18 academic year, the GET Committee is required to make the necessary program adjustments to ensure GET customer accounts are not decreased or diluted as a result of lower tuition.

How Has GET Responded to the College Affordability Program and How are GET Customers Affected?

In a series of three meetings over summer 2015, the GET Committee gathered information from GET staff, heard customer testimonies, and received the State Actuary’s latest preliminary actuarial valuation that shows the program is fiscally healthy. In these meetings, the GET Committee voted to implement five new policies to protect GET Account Owners and to give them options. While the Committee is confident that the program will continue to be a great college savings resource for years to come, these decisions ensure that GET customers have flexibility with their college savings going forward. Let’s briefly review each of these decisions one-by-one. For more details about your specific situation, you can also check out our Frequently Asked Questions section below. You can also call 1.800.955.2318 or email us at getinfo@wsac.wa.gov.

  • Based on the recent passage of the College Affordability Program, effective September 2, 2015 the payout value for the GET program will remain $117.82 per unit until the time when one year of resident undergraduate tuition and state mandated fees at Washington State’s highest priced public university surpasses $11,782.
    The Committee voted to ensure that the GET payout value would not drop below $117.82 to give customers peace of mind in knowing that their investment will not lose value, even as tuition decreases at Washington public colleges and universities.
  • Based on the passage of the College Affordability Program, effective September 2, 2015 and through December 15, 2016, the GET program will waive all state program refund fees and the two-year hold requirement for all account owners. On September 7, 2016, the Committee voted to extend the deadline through September 1, 2017, or until 60 days after a new 529 college savings plan opens (whichever is later).
    Even though the Committee is confident the GET program will remain a valuable college savings resource for years to come, they understand that some customers may wish to seek other options for their college savings. Therefore, customers have the option to withdraw their GET funds with no program penalties, through September 1, 2017, or until 60 days after a new 529 college savings plan opens (whichever is later). Be aware that federal taxes and penalties may still apply to any account gains if refunds are not deposited into another qualified 529 plan within 60 days.
  • Based on the passage of the College Affordability Program, effective September 2, 2015 and through December 15, 2016, the GET program will permit account owners to receive a refund of their contributions or the payout value, whichever is greater. On September 7, 2016, the Committee voted to extend the deadline through September 1, 2017, or until 60 days after a new 529 college savings plan opens (whichever is later).
    The GET Committee recognizes that some customers who request a refund of their accounts would stand to lose money if they withdraw their GET units at the current unit payout value of $117.82/unit. To ensure that customers will not lose the money they have committed to their children’s future education, the Committee voted to allow all customers the opportunity to receive, at a minimum, their full contributions back. This refund of contributions includes finance charges paid by customers with Custom Monthly plans, if these finance charges caused the effective unit price to be greater than $117.82 per unit. Of course, the program will continue to honor its commitment to give the full unit payout value of $117.82 to all customers who paid less than the current unit payout value for their units.
  • The GET Committee authorized that effective August 19, 2015, the GET program refund the amortization fee paid by account owners who have unredeemed units at a purchase price of $163 or greater.
    Between May 1, 2011 and June 30, 2015, GET customers paid an amortization fee as part of the unit purchase price. This fee was charged to ensure the program’s funded status recovered after the impacts of the Great Recession and years of double-digit tuition increases at state universities. The program’s funded status has fully recovered, and this amortization amount is no longer needed. Accordingly, the GET Committee voted to automatically refund this overpayment to every customer with unredeemed units purchased at $163/unit or greater. GET issued these amortization refunds in February 2016.
  • The GET Committee authorized delaying new unit sales for a period not to exceed two years effective July 1, 2015. One exception is that they allowed customers with Custom Monthly Plans established prior to July 1, 2015 to continue making their scheduled monthly payments.
    The Committee implemented this unit purchase delay to ensure GET customers would be protected pending potential program changes that would ensure GET remains a good value for current and future customers. GET recently completed a legislatively mandated study to evaluate future options for the program and the feasibility of offering additional college savings options to Washington citizens. Although the report has been submitted to the Legislature, there is still work to do on evaluating options moving forward. It is important that the Committee completes this work before it reopens for new enrollments and unit sales. In 2016, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 6601, which gave the GET Committee formal authority to develop a new 529 college savings plan to offer alongside GET. This legislation also directed the GET Committee to reopen GET to new enrollments and unit sales in 2017. Until this time, GET will not accept applications for new GET accounts (except for when an Account Owner needs to establish a new account for the purpose of transferring existing GET units to a new student beneficiary) and current customers will not be able to purchase any new units. All accounts opened or contributions made after June 30, 2015 were refunded to the individuals who made the contributions. Any automatic payments (ACH) customers had set up with GET for the purchase of Lump Sum units were inactivated. One exception is that customers with existing Custom Monthly Plans were allowed to continue making monthly payments in order to keep accruing units they already had under contract.

FAQs

How the College Affordability Program Affects GET Customers

Opening a GET Account, Buying Units, and Making Payments

Amortization Refunds

Refunding a GET Account

Refunding a Custom Monthly Plan

Potential Tax Implications and Rollover Information for Refunds

 

How the College Affordability Program Affects GET Customers

I want to leave my GET account as is. Is there anything that I have to do?
The good news is, no, if you wish to keep all of your units in the GET program, you do not have to do anything further at this point.

I have heard the GET program is closing for good and I have to refund my account. Is this true?
No, the GET Program is not closing. In fact, new legislation passed during the 2016 Legislative Session calls for GET to reopen in 2017. The GET Committee is currently working on reopening plans for GET and is confident that the program will continue to be a great college savings resource for years to come. Please note that GET is not currently accepting new enrollments or new unit purchases until it officially reopens in 2017. Customers with Custom Monthly plans may continue to make their regular payments.

Did I hear that the GET Committee is considering offering a traditional 529 savings plan?
Yes, both the Legislature and the GET Committee have made a commitment to exploring options for Washington to offer a state-sponsored 529 college savings plan. In the 2016 session, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 6601, which established the Washington College Savings Program and gave the GET Committee formal authority to pursue developing a 529 college savings plan to offer alongside GET. The committee is currently working to evaluate different product and plan structure options, and is developing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for needed services, such as investment and program management. If implemented, this new plan will expand the range of college savings options for Washington families. Investors will be able to choose between participating in the existing GET program, or the new savings plan, based on their family's individual goals and needs; or they can choose to participate in both plans. It’s important to know that the funding and accounting for any new 529 plan will be separate from GET (i.e. the funds will not be comingled).

Opening a GET Account, Buying Units, and Making Payments

Can I buy new units right now or open a new GET account?
GET is currently not accepting new enrollments or unit purchases until a new unit price is set. The unit price is typically set once the Legislative Session ends and the state’s universities have set tuition and fees for the next academic year. The Legislature is still currently in session. Once it concludes, we will have a more specific date on when a unit price will be available and customers can open new accounts and/or buy additional units.

What happens if I or a family member or friend tried to buy GET units for my account after July 1, 2015?
All contributions received after July 1, 2015 for anything other than monthly payments on Custom Monthly plans will be returned to the party who sent the contribution. This means that if, for example, a giftor made a contribution after July 1, 2015, they will receive the check back. This temporary policy will remain in effect until GET officially reopens and begins accepting new enrollments and unit purchases, which will be after the Legislative Session ends and the state’s universities have set tuition and fees.

Can I open a new GET account and transfer my units from an existing account to this new account?
Yes, you can open a new GET account for the purpose of transferring units. Keep in mind that if you change the Student Beneficiary, the new beneficiary must be a relative of the current Student Beneficiary (out to first cousin). Also note, that you will not be able to purchase new units for any new or existing accounts until the GET program officially reopens to new enrollments and unit purchases. To transfer your units to a new GET account, complete the Transfer Request - New Account form.

What happened the Electronic Payment Option for my online GET account?
The online Electronic Payment Option has been temporarily disabled, due to the temporary unit purchase delay in effect. This temporary policy will remain in effect until GET officially reopens and begins accepting new enrollments and unit purchases, which will be after the Legislative Session ends and the state’s universities have set tuition and fees for the next academic year. Customers who wish to continue making payments on their Custom Monthly plans can still set up Automatic Withdrawals (ACH) through their online GET account or by completing the Automatic Withdrawal Authorization form. Alternatively you can establish payroll deduction through your employer by completing a Payroll Deduction Authorization form. Finally, if you prefer, you can send a paper check to: GET Program, PO Box 84824, Seattle WA 98124-6124, along with a payment coupon. Note that customers wishing to make Lump Sum unit purchases or start a Custom Monthly Plans will not be able to do so until the unit purchase delay has been lifted.

What happens if I have automatic payments or payroll deduction set up for a Lump Sum plan?
If you have any Automatic Payments (ACH) set up with GET for the purchase of Lump Sum units, these have been inactivated. If you have payroll deduction set up with your workplace for the purchase of Lump Sum units, you will need to cancel it by completing a Payroll Deduction Authorization form and submitting it to your payroll office. Finally, if you have bill pay set up with your bank for the purchase of Lump Sum units, you will need to inactivate this by working with your bank.

Amortization Refunds

How do I know if I will receive an automatic amortization refund and what do I need to do?
All customers who purchased any units at unit prices of $163 and/or $172 should have received an automatic amortization refund in February or March 2016. These automatic refunds came in the form of a check to the GET Account Owner, sent to the mailing address that we have on file for the account. The refund amount will be based on the year the units were purchased and the total number of units purchased at $163 or $172.

Note that several adjustments were made to Custom Monthly Plans that were locked in at a purchase price of $163 per unit or greater. Here is an overview of how GET adjusted these accounts:

  1. Refinanced Custom Monthly Plan contracts based on an adjusted unit price (the original unit price paid minus the amortization amount). The reduced principal and total finance charges that customers pay over the life of the Custom Monthly contract results in a lower monthly payment amount.
  2. Calculated each customer's refund amount based on the difference between the original monthly payment and the new, lower monthly payment. This difference was multiplied by the number of payments made to date on the Custom Monthly contract to determine the total refund amount.
  3. Sent a refund check for this amount to customers, as well as information on how to view their revised monthly payment amount. Customers who used coupons with their former payments received new coupon books with the updated monthly payment amount indicated.

The refund amount per unit is listed below, which is directly correlated to the original amortization amount paid per unit:

Year Units Purchased Refund Amount Per Unit
2011-2012 $18.70
2012-2013 $19.73
2013-2014 $20.82
2014-2015 $20.82

Note: Customers who fully refunded their accounts before the automated amortization refunds were processed received their amortization refund as part of their total refund. They did not receive a separate amortization refund check later on. However, any account refunds processed after the amortization refunds have been sent out should have received two separate checks: one for the amortization amount, and one for their remaining account balance, minus the amortization refund amount.

When can I expect to receive my amortization refund?
GET issued all amortization refunds by the end of February 2016. If you believe that you are entitled to an amortization refund, and did not receive a check from GET, please call our Contact Center at 1.800.955.2318.

Why couldn't my amortization refund have gone towards purchasing more units instead of being refunded to me?
Since there is no unit price at this time and GET is not open for new enrollments or unit purchases, we were unable to credit your account for more units. Once GET reopens for new unit purchases, you can use your amortization refund to purchase more units.

Refunding a GET Account

How do I request a refund?
If you choose to request a refund of your GET account(s), you must first review the GET Refund/Cancellation Policy, and then complete a GET Refund/Cancellation Request form for each account being refunded. Links to these documents can be found on the Forms page:

Please note:

  • Please carefully read all directions in the GET Refund/Cancellation Policy and Refund/Cancellation Request form (on the Forms page). GET can only accept original, fully completed, notarized refund forms (refunds cannot be requested online or over the phone). The form can be mailed or physically delivered to the GET office. We do not accept copies or faxed or emailed Refund/Cancelation Request forms. Any errors in completing and submitting the refund form may significantly delay the process of completing your refund.
  • The non-refundable enrollment fee and any previously incurred account fees, such as late payment fees and NSF charges, will not be included in final refund amounts.
  • The earnings portion of any refund may still be subject to IRS taxes and penalties. For example, any increased value may be taxed as income and an additional 10% penalty may apply.
  • If you take a refund, a 1099-Q tax form will be sent to you that shows the principal and earnings portions of your refund. You may be required to report this information to the IRS.
  • To avoid a taxable event, you may deposit your refund into another 529 plan within 60 days of the date your refund is processed. To compare various 529 plans, go to www.collegesavings.org. Note that, per IRS regulations, 529 plan rollovers can only be performed once every 12 months.
  • We strongly advise you to consult IRS PUBLICATION 970 and a tax advisor about potential tax implications.
  • It may take up to 6 weeks to process your refund from the time that GET receives your request.

If I paid more for my units than the current unit payout value of $117.82, can I just get a refund for the difference between the price I paid and the payout value?
If you paid more than the current unit payout value of $117.82, you can request a full refund of your contributions. However, we are unable to simply give you the difference between the price you paid and the current payout value, as there is no unit purchase price at this time. Keep in mind that if you are interested in keeping any units purchased at $163 or $172 in your account, you have received the automatic amortization refund, which effectively made these unit purchase prices lower (by approximately $18-20/unit depending on the year you purchased your units).

How long will it take to get my refund?
We estimate that it will take up to 6 weeks for you to receive your refund, once we receive your Refund/Cancellation Request form (on the Forms page).

Refunding a Custom Monthly Plan

What if I have a Custom Monthly Plan where the unit price was less than $117.82, but after paying financing charges, I effectively paid more than $117.82/unit?
If you request to refund your Custom Monthly Plan that is paid in full, we will determine if you paid more or less than the current payout value, after factoring in the monthly financing charges. If you paid more than the current unit payout value of $117.82, you will receive back your contributions. If you paid less, you will receive the current unit payout value.

I have a Custom Monthly Plan that is not paid in full. Can I request a refund?
Yes, all GET Account Owners have the option to request a refund. For Custom Monthly accounts that are not yet paid in full, we first convert the account to a Lump Sum plan before processing the refund. This means that each monthly payment you have made will apply towards the purchase of Lump Sum units at the unit price that was in effect when each monthly payment was made. You will receive a refund at the current payout value of $117.82/unit for all payments made on or before April 30, 2011 (the last date that units cost less than the current payout value), and a refund of your contributions for all payments made after that date. The original $50 enrollment fee and any previously incurred late payment or dishonored payment fees are not included in the total refund amount, as they are non-refundable fees.

If I plan to request a refund of my Custom Monthly Plan that I am still making payments on, do I have to keep making my monthly payments?
If you wish to refund your Custom Monthly Plan, and it is not yet paid in full, we first recommend that you call our Contact Center at 1.800.955.2318. They can put your account on hold so you will not receive late payment charges while your refund is being processed.

Potential Tax Implications and Rollover Information for Refunds

Do I need to report my refund to the IRS? Will I be taxed?
This answer depends on your situation. If you have made money in your GET account, and request a refund, you will be issued a 1099-Q tax form the following January that shows the earnings and principal portions of your withdrawal. If you do not use your funds to cover qualified higher education expenses incurred in the same calendar year, your account earnings may be subject to a 10% IRS penalty and will be taxed as ordinary income. It is our understanding that you will not be subject to these penalties if you rollover your funds into another qualified 529 plan within 60 days of the date that your refund is processed. Note that, per IRS regulations, 529 plan rollovers can only be performed once every 12 months.

If your refund is for contributions only, and does not include any gains, you will not receive a 1099-Q tax form and should not need to report your refund to the IRS. Please note, this means all amortization refunds will not receive a 1099-Q form.

Note that we always recommend consulting IRS Publication 970, a tax professional and/or financial adviser to fully understand any potential tax implications before requesting a refund of your account.

Can GET directly rollover my GET funds to another 529 plan?
You can initiate a direct rollover of your GET funds to another 529 plan only if you are fully refunding your account. To perform a direct rollover from GET to another 529 plan, you will first need to establish the new 529 account, then complete the Outgoing Rollover Request form (on the Forms page). The Account Owner and Student Beneficiary must be the same for both the GET account, and the 529 account that you are rolling your GET funds into. If you intend to transfer funds from one beneficiary to another, or from one Account Owner to another, you must do this prior to initiating the rollover, or once the rollover is complete. If you intend to transfer funds or change the beneficiary or Account Owner after the rollover, be sure you understand the other 529 plans' rules around this process prior to rolling over your GET funds.

You can also perform an indirect rollover by requesting a refund and re-depositing your funds into a qualified 529 plan within 60 days. It is our understanding, per IRS Publication 970, that by doing this you will avoid tax consequences. Note that, per IRS regulations, 529 plan rollovers can only be performed once every 12 months. Here is a link to Publication 970, which describes these rollover considerations (see p. 61):http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p970.pdf.

Note that we always recommend consulting IRS Publication 970, a tax professional and/or financial adviser to fully understand any potential tax implications before requesting a refund of your account.

My other 529 plan requires a principal and earnings statement in order to deposit my GET funds. How can I access this?
Once your refund is processed, you can download a principal and earnings statement from your online GET account. To do this, click “More Info” under the “Use Units” section of the “My Account” dashboard. Once on the “Use Units” page, you will see a record of your refund request and a yellow button to generate a PDF of your principal and earnings statement.

Need Assistance?

If you have any additional questions, please call the GET Contact Center at 1.800.955.2318 or email getinfo@wsac.wa.gov. We sincerely appreciate your participation in the GET program and fully support you in making the financial decision that you feel is best for your family, whether that means remaining with the program or requesting a refund.

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