Retirement Topics - Exceptions to Tax on Early Distributions


Most retirement plan distributions are subject to income tax and may be subject to an additional 10% tax.

Generally, the amounts an individual withdraws from an IRA or retirement plan before reaching age 59½ are called ”early” or ”premature” distributions. Individuals must pay an additional 10% early withdrawal tax unless an exception applies.

Exception to 10% Additional Tax

Exception The distribution will NOT be subject to the 10% additional early distribution tax in the following circumstances: Qualified Plans
(401(k), etc.)
IRA, SEP, SIMPLE IRA* and SARSEP Plans Internal Revenue Code Section(s)
Age after participant/IRA owner reaches age 59½ yes yes 72(t)(2)(A)(i)
Automatic Enrollment permissive withdrawals from a plan with auto enrollment features yes yes for SIMPLE IRAs and SARSEPs 414(w)(1)(B)
Corrective Distributions corrective distributions (and associated earnings) of excess contributions, excess aggregate contributions and excess deferrals, made timely yes n/a 401(k)(8)(D),
Death after death of the participant/IRA owner yes yes 72(t)(2)(A)(ii)
Disability total and permanent disability of the participant/IRA owner yes yes 72(t)(2)(A)(iii)
Domestic Relations to an alternate payee under a Qualified Domestic Relations Order yes n/a 72(t)(2)(C)
Education qualified higher education expenses no yes 72(t)(2)(E)
Equal Payments series of substantially equal payments yes yes 72(t)(2)(A)(iv)
ESOP dividend pass through from an ESOP yes n/a 72(t)(2)(A)(vi)
Homebuyers qualified first-time homebuyers, up to $10,000 no yes 72(t)(2)(F)
Levy because of an IRS levy of the plan yes yes 72(t)(2)(A)(vii)
Medical amount of unreimbursed medical expenses (>10% AGI for 2021, >7.5% AGI; for 2017 - 2020) yes yes 72(t)(2)(B)
Medical health insurance premiums paid while unemployed no yes 72(t)(2)(D)
Military certain distributions to qualified military reservists called to active duty yes yes 72(t)(2)(G)
Returned IRA Contributions if withdrawn by extended due date of return n/a yes 408(d)(4)
Returned IRA Contributions earnings on these returned contributions n/a no 408(d)(4)
Rollovers in-plan Roth rollovers or eligible distributions contributed to another retirement plan or IRA within 60 days (also see FAQs: Waivers of the 60-Day Rollover Requirement) yes yes 402(c), 402A(d)(3), 403(a)(4), 403(b)(8), 408(d)(3), 408A(d)(3)
Separation from Service the employee separates from service during or after the year the employee reaches age 55 (age 50 for public safety employees of a state, or political subdivision of a state, in a governmental defined benefit plan)** yes no 72(t)(2)(A)(v),

Nonqualified 457(b) plans: Governmental 457(b) distributions are not subject to the 10% additional tax except for distributions attributable to rollovers from another type of plan or IRA.

*SIMPLE IRA distributions incur a 25% additional tax instead of 10% if made within the first 2 years of participation

**Qualified public safety employees

Effective for distributions after December 31, 2015, the exception for public safety employees who are age 50 or over is expanded to include specified federal law enforcement officers, customs and border protection officers, federal firefighters and air traffic controllers. Also, the restriction that only defined benefit plans qualify for the exemption is eliminated. Thus, an exemption is allowed for distributions from defined contribution plans or other types of governmental plans, such as the TSP. See IRC Section 72(t)(10), as amended by the Defending Public Safety Employees’ Retirement Act, P.L. 114-26.