Does Early IRA Withdrawal Affect or Count for Income Tax?

Does Early IRA Withdrawal Affect or Count for Income Tax?
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Despite good intentions to keep money stashed away in your IRA, life happens. So, you may need some of that cash before your retirement to address any number of financial crises. Unfortunately, an early IRA withdrawal before age ​59 1/2​ can trigger a 10 percent ​tax penalty in addition to the requirement to include that cash in your gross income at tax time. There are, however, early withdrawal exceptions.

What Is the Early Withdrawal Penalty?

You reap the tax breaks and employer contributions that an IRA grants you only if you sidestep the plan penalties that the Internal Revenue Code imposes. These penalties may be triggered if you withdraw cash from the account either too early or too late.

How Is an Early IRA Withdrawal Taxed?

A distribution from your traditional IRA, regardless of the reason for it, is included in your taxable income in the year of the distribution. Also an early withdrawal from an IRA – a withdrawal of funds before the account owner is 59 1/2 – results in a 10 percent​ penalty on the funds withdrawn. For instance, if you withdraw ​$10,000​ early, the ​10 percent penalty​ will be ​$1,000​.

Early Withdrawal Penalty Exceptions

There are several instances in which that penalty may be waived. For instance, the early withdrawal penalty doesn't apply if the owner of the IRA account is younger than age ​59 1/2​ and the distributions occur after the individual becomes disabled. Other exceptions include the following events:

  • Distribution that'srolledinto another retirement plan:​ An IRA account holder has ​60 days​ from the day she receives an IRA distribution to roll it over to another IRA.
  • Distribution initiated by thedeath or permanent disabilityof the IRA account owner:​ If you become disabled before you reach age 59 1/2, and that disability leads to a distribution from your IRA, the distribution is not subject to the 10 percent penalty.
  • Distribution upon theseparation of employmentof an account owner who is 55 years of age of older:​ If you've been let go by the sponsor of your IRA plan, and that plan issues a check to you, if you roll it over into a new IRA within 60 days of receiving the funds, that event is not a withdrawal that's subject to taxes and penalties.
  • Distribution to a spouse by acourt orderin a divorce:​ Transferring the assets in an IRA to a former spouse penalty-free requires a divorce decree and your adherance to the benefit provisions and administrative rules that govern the transfer.
  • Distribution in the amount of deductiblemedical expenses:Regardless of age, you aren't penalized if you take a distribution in the amount of an unreimbursed medical expense minus 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income if the medical treatment occurred in the year of the distribution.
  • Distribution in the amount ofunreimbursed medical expensesin excess of 7.5 percent of the account holder's AGI if the account holder is 65 or older or 10 percent if under age of 65:​ If you don't have health insurance or have a high-deductible health plan, and you have major out-of-pocket medical expenses, the IRS may allow a penalty-free distribution to pay the out-of-pocket expenses. To avoid the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty, you must withdraw the cash in the year that you pay the medical expenses, and the expenses must be greater than 10 percent of your 2021 adjusted gross income (AGI.)
  • Distribution due toIRS levy:A distribution that's made directly to the U.S. government to satisfy an IRS levy will not trigger a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty.
  • Distributions made as substantiallyequal periodic paymentsover the expected lifetime of the IRA account owner:​ If your IRA distributions consist of a series of substantially equal periodic payments over your life expectancy or those of you and your designated beneficiary, the 10 percent penalty doesn't apply.
  • Distributions for payment ofinsurance premiumsfor an unemployed account owner:​ When your IRA distributions are due to your need to pay insurance premiums during a period of unemployment, the IRS won't impose the 10 percent penalty.
  • Distribution forhome buyer expensesup to $10,000 for the first-time home buyer:​ You won't incur a 10 percent penalty if the purpose of your IRA withdrawal is to buy, build or rebuild a home and you are a first-time home buyer.
  • Distribution foreducation expenses:​ The cash in your IRA can fund the tuition or other qualified higher education expenses for your own education or that of your spouse, children or grandchildren without penalty.
  • Distribution for expenses – up to $5,000 – arising from thebirth or adoptionof an account holder's child:​ In 2019, Congress passed the SECURE Act, which allows a parent to withdraw as much as ​$5,000​ from an IRA following the birth of their child without incurring a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty.
  • Distribution after 09/01/01 due to the call-up of reservists toactive duty:​ Assuming that you are a qualified reservist – National Guard member or military reservist – your IRA distributions may not be subject to the 10 percent penalty.