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Early Withdrawal Penalties - Traditional and Roth IRAs

You've already paid tax on your Roth IRA contributions. So, you can withdraw your regular contributions at any time and at any age with no penalty or tax. After you withdraw an amount equal to all of your regular contributions, the earnings will be taxable. This is only true if the distribution isn't a qualified distribution. If the distribution is qualified, then your distribution won't be taxed.

All of your Roth IRAs are treated as one for withdrawal purposes. It doesn't matter how many Roth IRA accounts you have.

Converted amounts and early withdrawal penalty
You can convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. To take a tax-free distribution, the money must stay in the Roth IRA for five years after the year you make the conversion.

If you withdraw contributions before the five-year period, you might have to pay a **fdEarly DistPenalty1** penalty. This is an early withdrawal penalty on the entire distribution. You usually pay the 10% penalty on the amount you converted. A separate five-year period applies to each conversion.

If you're at least age 59 1/2 when you make the withdrawal, you won't pay the 10% penalty. This applies no matter how long the money is in the account. You also won't pay a penalty if you:

  • Use the distribution for a first-time home purchase -- up to a $10,000 lifetime limit
  • Qualify for other exceptions that apply to traditional IRAs

Distribution ordering rules for Roth IRAs
If the money you withdraw from a Roth IRA isn't a qualified distribution, part of it might be taxable. Your money comes out of a Roth IRA in this order:

  1. Regular contributions -- always tax- and penalty-free
  2. Conversion contributions -- which come out on a first-in, first-out basis. So conversions from the earliest year come out first.
  3. Earnings on contributions

Roth IRA earnings
Your earnings are tax-free if both of these are true:

  • You've had the Roth IRA for at least five years.
  • You're age 59 1/2 or older when you withdraw the money.

The earnings you withdraw are tax-free at any age if both of these apply:

  • You've had the Roth IRA for at least five years.
  • You qualify for one of these exceptions:
    • You used the money for a first-time home purchase -- up to the  $10,000 lifetime limit.
    • You are totally and permanently disabled.
    • Your heirs received the money distributed after your death.

If you die before meeting the five-year test, the IRS will tax your beneficiaries on distributed earnings until this test is met.

No matter your age, your earnings are taxable if you don't meet the five-year test. This is true even if your earnings are penalty-free.

Each traditional IRA you convert to a Roth IRA has its own five-year holding period.

The IRS requires your IRA custodian or trustee to send you Form 5498. This shows your:

  • Annual IRA contributions
  • All IRA conversions

You should receive the form by the end of May. Keep these records even though you don’t report your Roth contributions on your return.

When you withdraw money from your Roth IRA, report it on Form 8606. This form keeps track of your basis in regular Roth contributions and conversions. It lets you see if you've withdrawn earnings. If you've held your Roth IRA for at least five years and you're older than age 59 1/2, all withdrawals are tax-free.

Traditional IRA distributions
If you wait until you're older than age 59 1/2, you won’t pay the 10% penalty. If you deducted your traditional IRA contributions, the money you withdraw is taxable. However, if you made nondeductible contributions, part of your withdrawal will be tax-free.

Required minimum distributions
You must begin withdrawing money from your traditional IRA by April 1 the year after you reach age 70 1/2. If you don't withdraw the minimum amount, the IRS will assess a penalty equal to 50% of the amount you should have withdrawn.

If your 70th birthday is between January and June, you'll turn age 70 1/2 before the end of that year. At that time, you must start taking the required minimum distribution from your IRA by April 1 of the next year. However, you might want to take your first distribution in the year you turned age 70 1/2. By doing this, you avoid having to take two distributions in the next calendar year.

If your 70th birthday is after June 30, both of these apply:
• Your first required minimum distribution will be for the year after your birthday.
• You could wait until April 1 of the year after that to take the distribution.

Minimum withdrawals are based on life expectancy. Find out what your minimum required distribution is. Then, you can take the full amount from just one account or from several accounts.

If you fail to withdraw the minimum required amount, you'll have a 50% penalty. If you have reasonable cause for not withdrawing the minimum amount, the IRS might waive the penalty.

Getting your money early
You can receive distributions from your traditional IRA before age 59 1/2 without paying the 10% penalty. To do so, one of these conditions must apply:

  • You have unreimbursed medical expenses that are more than 10% of your AGI.
  • The distributions aren’t more than the cost of your medical insurance due to a period of unemployment.
  • You’re totally and permanently disabled.
  • You’re the beneficiary of a deceased IRA owner.
  • The distributions aren’t more than your qualified higher education expenses.
  • You use the distributions to buy, build, or rebuild a first home.
  • The distribution is due to an IRS levy of the qualified plan.
  • The distribution is a qualified reservist distribution.
  • You’re receiving distributions in the form of an annuity, in which case these conditions must apply:
    • The distributions must be part of a series of substantially equal periodic payments over your life. They could also be over the joint lives of you and your beneficiary.
      You'll need to use a distribution method the IRS approves, and you must take at least one distribution annually.
    • You must continue making these withdrawals for at least five years and until you're at least age 59 1/2.

Roth IRA distributions
If you've held your Roth IRA for at least five years and you're older than age 59 1/2, money you withdraw will be tax-free. If you open a Roth IRA account after you turn 59 1/2, you still have to wait at least five years before you can take tax-free distributions of your earnings. However, you can take tax-free withdrawals of your contributions at any time.

There’s no required minimum distribution for a Roth IRA prior to the account owner’s death. So, you're not required to withdraw any money during your lifetime. This is an advantage over a traditional IRA.

Death and the traditional IRA
If a person dies while there's still money in their traditional IRA account, the beneficiaries:

  • Won’t pay the 10% penalty -- the deceased’s age or the beneficiaries’ ages don't matter.
  • Will pay taxes on distributions the deceased took if the deceased would have paid taxes on the distributions. It doesn't matter that the funds are inherited.

If the deceased had a basis in the IRA, the beneficiaries inherit this basis. They must use Form 8606 to figure the taxable portion of the distributions.

If you inherit an IRA from your spouse, you can treat the IRA as your own. Then, you can put off taking the required minimum distribution until you reach age 70 1/2. If you're not a spouse, you must figure your required minimum distributions from the account. To do this, you must use the IRS life expectancy table for beneficiaries.

Death and the Roth IRA
Roth IRAs have different guidelines. If you inherit a Roth IRA, you can withdraw the money tax-free. However, the IRA must first meet the five-year period.

If you inherit the Roth from your spouse, you can treat it as your own. You won’t need to make required withdrawals during your lifetime.

However, if you're not the deceased’s spouse, you must either:

  • Withdraw everything from the Roth IRA by the end of the fifth year after the owner died.
  • Begin withdrawals by Dec. 31 of the year the beneficiary must take the first required distribution using his or her life expectancy. Or, begin withdrawals Dec. 31 of the year containing the fifth anniversary of the owner's death, if earlier. The amount you must withdraw is based on your (the beneficiary's) life expectancy.

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