My US-born daughter has triple citizenship - Brazil, US and UK. We live in Texas and I would like to start saving for her education. My wife and I are also considering sending her to private elementary/middle/high school, and as far as I know, under the new tax rules the 529 savings (or part of them) can be used for that purpose as well.

  • If my daughter goes to university in Brazil (where many universities are free), can I get the money out of the 529 plan back to myself as a regular investment provided that I pay the income tax that was deferred for all these years (and possibly a penalty)? i.e. can I "convert it" back to a regular investment account? More importantly, would it be worth it?

  • I know some universities in some countries (Canada, for exampe) accept 529 plans for the tuition costs. However, if she goes to university in another country that doesn't officially accept a 529 plan, is there any way I can withdraw the money to pay for her tuition, provided that I present proof to the 529 administrator?

  • If I never use the money to pay for college tuitions, is it OK if I use the 529 account for the sole purpose of paying for private school? I know there's a limit of how much I can use for that purpose.

  • For my specific situation, how do 529 plans compare to Roth IRAs?


1 Answer 1


You need to read IRS publication 970 (please check for newest version), and whatever is available from your state's tax collection organization.

Any answer we give is due to become obsolete as tax laws change.

In general, withdrawals for K-12 and college tuition and expenses are tax exempt at the federal level. States may or may not exclude K-12 tuition as tax exempt. Withdrawals for any other purpose (including private schools before college) are subject to income tax and penalty at the federal level, and probably state level too.

In a 529 plan, your options for investment are extremely limited and there are limitations on frequency of changing those options. In a Roth IRA, you have control over where the funds are invested, and the rules for withdrawal are completely different. IRS Roth IRA Q&A and IRS Publication 590a. (Again, check for newest version.)

  • 1
    The 2018 federal tax code allows 529 plans to pay for K-12 private education. Its up to the states at this point. Your linked publication 970 is outdated since its for tax year 2016.
    – Matt
    Jan 24, 2018 at 17:46
  • Ok. Good to know.
    – Xalorous
    Jan 24, 2018 at 18:16
  • Links get old of course, but Pub 970 will be updated each year. Jan 27, 2018 at 0:17

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