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Saving for college is always hard and is even more so during the current economic downturn. One of the most popular college savings plans is the “529 plans.” Recently, the IRS announced that participants in 529 plans will be able to change their investments more often in 2009 than in past years. The IRS will now allow a change in investment strategy twice in 2009. This is good news for 529 plan participants, especially those that may have otherwise been locked into a mix of investments that has turned out to be more speculative than initially contemplated.

Tax-Free Distribution A 529 plan is qualified tuition program. By contributing to a 529 plan, taxpayers contribute to an account established for paying a student’s educational expenses. Eligible educational expenses may include the costs of tuition, books, and fees at eligible institutions, such as colleges, vocational schools, and other ostsecondary institutions.

Contributions to 529 plans are not tax-deductible. However, earnings are tax-free, and distributions used to pay the beneficiary’s qualified education xpenses are tax-free.

A 529 plan should not be confused with a Coverdell Educational Savings Account (Coverdell ESA). The latter is also a savings account for education expenses that offers tax-free distributions. Funds saved in a Coverdell ESA can be used for elementary and secondary school expenses as well as college costs.

Investment Decisions Generally, participants in 529 plans must select only from among broadbased investment strategies designed exclusively by the program. Additionally, the IRS has traditionally permitted a change in investment strategy only once a year.

Because of the economic slowdown and the turmoil in the financial markets, the IRS will allow investments in a 529 plan to be changed during 2009 on a more frequent basis. A 529 plan won’t violate the investment restriction if it permits a change in the investment strategy twice in calendar year 2009, as well as upon a change in the designated beneficiary of the account.

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