NU Online News Service, Dec. 5, 1:52 p.m. – Manulife Financial Corp., Toronto, has put a college savings calculator on its college savings Web site, at http://www.manulifecollegesavings.com

The calculator compares the potential tax benefits of keeping assets for education in Uniform Gifts to Minors Act accounts, Uniform Transfers to Minors Act accounts, and 529 savings plan accounts.

The Manulife site also offers a college cost calculator and general information about 529 plans.

For several years, federal laws have encouraged states to set up college savings programs under Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributors could defer federal income taxes on contributions, and states could let contributors defer state income taxes.

Congress recently made the plans even more attractive, by allowing beneficiaries to withdraw 529 plan assets without treating the withdrawals as taxable income.

Manulife entered the 529 market in July, by agreeing to distribute a 529 plan sponsored by the University of Alaska.