Distributions are tax-free as long as they are used for qualified education expenses, such as tuition and fees, required books, supplies and equipment and qualified expenses for room and board.
There is no tax on distributions if they are for enrollment or attendance at an eligible educational institution. This includes any public, private or religious school that provides elementary or secondary education as determined under state law. Eligible institutions also include any college, university, vocational school or other post-secondary educational institution eligible to participate in a student aid program administered by the Department of Education. Virtually all accredited public, nonprofit, and proprietary (privately owned profit-making) post-secondary institutions are eligible.
The Hope and lifetime learning credits can be claimed in the same year the beneficiary takes a tax-free distribution from a Self-Directed Coverdell Education Savings Account, as long as the same expenses are not used for both benefits.
If the distribution exceeds qualified education expenses, a portion will be taxable to the beneficiary and will usually be subject to an additional 10% tax. Exceptions to the additional 10% tax include the death or disability of the beneficiary or if the beneficiary receives a qualified scholarship.
If there is a balance in a Self-Directed Coverdell Education Savings Account when the beneficiary reaches age 30, it must generally be distributed within 30 days. The portion representing earnings on the account will be taxable and subject to the additional 10% tax. The beneficiary may avoid these taxes by rolling over the full balance to another Self-Directed Coverdell Education Savings Account for another family member.