A. Earnings in a 529 plan grow tax-deferred and are free of federal income tax when used for qualified higher education expenses under Internal Revenue Code Section 529 (26 U.S.C. 529). Qualified higher education expenses include tuition, mandatory fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for enrollment or attendance. Room and board expenses are also eligible for students enrolled half-time or more based on the current allowance for room and board determined by the eligible educational institution for federal financial aid purposes, or actual invoice amount charged by the institution to the beneficiary, if greater. In addition, qualified higher education expenses also include expenses of a special needs beneficiary that are necessary in connection with his or her enrollment or attendance at an eligible educational institution. 

Earnings on non-qualified withdrawals may be subject to federal income tax and a 10% federal penalty tax, as well as state and local income taxes. Additionally, most states allow tax-deferred earnings and tax-free withdrawals for qualified higher education expenses, and some states allow families to deduct the full or a partial amount of their contribution from their state income taxes.