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Roth IRAs and early withdrawals: How to avoid tax penalty

Taxes and penalties don't apply to early withdrawal

Taxes and penalties don't apply to early withdrawal of your Roth IRA contributions -- only to their earnings. Photo Credit: iStock

I've been told that you can take money from your Roth IRA after 5 years. Can you borrow from the account and then pay it back? And at age 75, can your RMD [required minimum distribution] include your Roth?

You can withdraw the money you contribute to your Roth IRA as early as the next day without incurring a tax or a penalty. The five-year rule you've cited applies only to the account's earnings -- and it's only part of the rule. You can withdraw Roth earnings tax-free after you have owned the account for five years and you are 59 1/2 years old.

Earnings withdrawn earlier are subject to income taxes and, usually, to a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty. (Exceptions: You owe taxes but no penalty on Roth earnings withdrawn early because of death or disability, or to pay the cost of higher education, or on up to $10,000 you use to purchase a first home.)

No loans are permitted from Roth IRAs or from traditional IRAs.

When you own a Roth IRA, there are no RMDs, regardless of your age. You can take out as much or as little as you want, or leave the account untouched for your heirs. But if you do take withdrawals, you can't count them as part of your RMD from your traditional IRAs or other tax-deferred retirement accounts.

If you inherit a Roth IRA, you must take RMDs from the account based on your life expectancy. The RMDs you take as a Roth IRA beneficiary are tax-free, but that doesn't mean you can forget about them. The penalty for failing to take them is 50 percent of the amount that should have been withdrawn.

THE BOTTOM LINE Taxes and penalties don't apply to early withdrawal of your Roth IRA contributions -- only to their earnings.


TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to Ask the Expert/Act 2, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747-4226, or email Include your name, address and phone number. Questions can be answered only in this column. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your own advisers for your specific needs.


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