Coverdell ESAs offer tax-deferred4 savings opportunities to save for the education costs of a child or other beneficiary. Coverdell ESAs can be used to pay for qualifying educational expenses at qualifying elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools.
ESA Contribution Limits
Generally for 2021, you can contribute up to $2,000 per beneficiary per year. Annual modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) limits apply. Consult with your tax advisor regarding eligibility.
Any individual who meets the income requirements (including the designated beneficiary of that Coverdell ESA) can contribute. Contributions can be made by multiple individuals into one or more Coverdell ESAs for the same designated beneficiary, as long as the total contributions do not exceed the contribution limit for a year.
Generally, the beneficiary of a Coverdell ESA can be anyone under age 18. Once that person reaches 18, you can no longer make contributions on his or her behalf. Any funds remaining when the beneficiary turns 30 must be distributed at that time. However, if the beneficiary is a child with special needs, you can contribute after the age of 18 and do not have to distribute at age 30.
Coverdell ESAs offer flexibility. You can make a contribution as late as April 15 of the following year, and it will be credited to the current taxable year. You can even roll a Coverdell ESA over into another Coverdell ESA for either the same beneficiary or a family member of that beneficiary.
Taxes and Coverdell ESAs
While contributions aren't tax-deductible, qualified distributions are tax-free when they aren’t more than the beneficiary’s adjusted qualified education expenses for the year. Qualifying education expenses must be incurred at an eligible postsecondary, elementary or secondary school. Qualifying expenses typically include tuition, fees, books, supplies, and more. See a full list of qualifying expenses at the IRS website.
If a distribution from a Coverdell ESA is used to pay for anything that is not a qualified education expense, the portion of the distribution that represents earnings will be included in the beneficiary's taxable income and is also subject to an additional 10% penalty.