Take a penalty-free IRA withdrawal for medical expenses

Are you considering withdrawing funds from your traditional IRA to pay unexpected medical costs?

You may be hesitating because of the 10% penalty imposed on withdrawals made when you’re under age 59½. Since the 10% is calculated on the total you withdraw, the tax hit could be substantial. Worse, the penalty typically is not withheld from the cash you receive, so you’ll need to come up with the money when you file your tax return.

Fortunately, in some situations you can take penalty-free withdrawals from your IRA for medical expenses.

One example is the medical insurance exception, which applies if you lost your job and have received unemployment compensation for 12 consecutive weeks. IRA withdrawals used to pay medical insurance premiums for yourself, your spouse, or your dependents aren’t subject to the 10% penalty, as long as you take the distributions in the year you receive unemployment (or the year after).

This exception may also be available if you were self-employed and are unable to collect unemployment benefits.

Another exception: You can take penalty-free withdrawals when you incur unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 10% of your gross income. For instance, say your 2014 gross income is $40,000 and your total unreimbursed deductible medical expenses are $5,000. To determine the penalty-free withdrawal amount of $1,000, multiply $40,000 by 10%, then subtract the result ($4,000) from $5,000.

You don’t have to itemize your deductions to qualify for this exception.

In addition, the penalty does not apply when early IRA withdrawals are due to a permanent, total disability.

For more information about the requirements for these and other exceptions to the 10% early withdrawal penalty, please contact us.


About Brenda J. McGivern, CPA

Brenda McGivern started her own certified public accounting and management consulting firm in October 2001. The full service CPA firm provides tax and accounting solutions to meet the needs of today’s small business and individual. Brenda McGivern has become a trusted advisor and valuable resource her clients rely on for timely, accurate assistance when they need it.

Before starting the firm, she worked as an accountant for three years at a local firm and prior to that five years at a large international CPA firm in Boston. She has performed the following tax services: federal, state and local tax planning, international tax planning, estate and succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, capital retention and IRS representation. She has also coordinated assurance engagements, such as financial statement audits, reviews and compilations from the planning phase through the reporting phase. She has prepared and reviewed regulatory filings for numerous regulatory agencies including the Security and Exchange Commission.

Prior to these positions she was selected from over 2,000 candidates into an eight-person intensive financial management program at an international technology company. The program consisted of graduate level classroom study and two six-month rotational assignments in financial operations.

She graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. McGivern also holds a license in Massachusetts as a Certified Public Accountant and is a member of the American Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants. She resides in Stoughton, Massachusetts with her husband Brian, and their sons Sean, Ryan and Conor and their dog, Davis.

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