Traditional and Roth IRA distributions can bring about a 10% penalty if you take them too soon. However, there are several early-withdrawal exceptions that will let you avoid the fine.
Investopedia’s recent article titled “9 Penalty-Free IRA Withdrawals” examines some IRA withdrawals that can be made during retirement.
The IRS will hit you with a 10% penalty on an early IRA withdrawal to motivate you to keep your retirement savings intact. However, you may be able to get around the penalty in some situations. Here are nine circumstances where you can take an early withdrawal from a traditional or Roth IRA without being penalized.
- Unreimbursed Medical Expenses. If you don't have health insurance, or you have out-of-pocket medical expenses that aren't covered by insurance, you may be able to take penalty-free distributions from your IRA to pay for these expenses. To be eligible, you must pay the medical expenses during the same calendar year you make the withdrawal. Further, your unreimbursed medical expenses must be more than 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).
- Health Insurance Premiums During Unemployment. If you're unemployed, you may take penalty-free distributions from your IRA to pay for health insurance premiums. For the distributions to be eligible for the penalty-free treatment, you must satisfy these conditions:
- You lost your job
- You received unemployment compensation for 12 consecutive weeks
- You took the distributions during either the year you received the unemployment compensation or the next year; and
- You received the distributions no later than 60 days after returning to work.
- Permanent Disability. If you become permanently disabled and can no longer work, you can withdraw money from your IRA without the 10% penalty. You can use the distribution for any reason. Just remember that your plan administrator may need you to provide evidence of the disability, prior to approving a penalty-free withdrawal.
- Higher-Education Expenses. You may be able to avoid the 10% penalty when you use IRA funds to pay for qualified education expenses for you, your spouse, or your child. These qualified education expenses include tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for enrollment. Room and board are also approved for students enrolled at least half-time.
- An Inherited IRA. If you're the beneficiary of an IRA, your withdrawals aren't subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty. However, this exception doesn't apply if you're the spouse of the original account holder, you are the sole beneficiary, and you elect a spousal transfer (rolling over the funds into your own non-inherited IRA). In this instance, the IRA is handled as if it were yours, to start, which means the 10% early withdrawal penalties still are applicable.
- To Buy, Build, or Rebuild a Home. You can withdraw up to $10,000 (which is a lifetime limit) from your IRA without penalty to buy, build, or rebuild a home. To be eligible, you must be a "first-time" homebuyer, (which means that you haven't owned a home in the previous two years). However, you could have been a homeowner in the past and still qualify as a first-time homebuyer today. If you're married, your spouse can add an additional $10,000 from his or her IRA. You can also use the money to assist your child, grandchild, parent, or other family members, as long as they meet the first-time homebuyer definition.
- Substantially Equal Periodic Payments. If you need to make regular withdrawals from your IRA for several years, the IRS lets you do so penalty-free if you meet certain requirements. Therefore, you withdraw the same amount—determined under one of three IRS-pre-approved methods—each year for five years or until you turn 59½, whichever one comes later. This is referred to as taking substantially equal periodic payments (SEPPs) from your IRA.
- An IRS Levy. If you have unpaid federal taxes, the IRS can use money in your IRA to pay the bill. The 10% penalty won't apply if the IRS levies the money directly.
- Active Duty. Qualified reservist distributions aren’t subject to the 10% penalty. In some instances, you may be able to repay the distributions, even if the repayment contributions exceed annual contribution limits. However, you are required to do so within two years of the end of active duty.
While if the circumstances discussed here are exempt from the early-distribution penalty, they still may be subject to federal and state tax. To claim the early-distribution penalty exception, you may be required to file IRS Form 5329 along with your income tax return, unless your IRA custodian reports the amount as being exempt on IRS Form 1099-R.
Reference: Investopedia (Jan. 20, 2020) “9 Penalty-Free IRA Withdrawals”