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George Saenz, the Bankrate.com Tax Talk columnistIRA withdrawal used toward home purchase

Dear Tax Talk,
I was laid off from my job about a year ago, in which I had a 401(k). I rolled it over into an IRA account at my bank. About six months later my wife and I were approved for a mortgage for our first house. I pulled $18,000 out of the IRA for the down payment closing costs and used the rest for improvements to the home. I was under the impression that as long as I use the IRA money to buy our first home that there would be minimal penalties, if any. Now that tax time is here, I am asking, do I have anything to worry about? Thanks.
-- Shawn

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Dear Shawn,
Your impressions are about half right. You can withdraw up to $10,000 for qualified acquisition costs of your first home and not pay a 10-percent, early withdrawal penalty on that amount. A 10-percent, early withdrawal penalty is imposed on IRA withdrawals before age 59½, unless an exception such as first-time home purchase applies.

To qualify for treatment as a first-time home buyer distribution, the distribution must meet all the following requirements.

  1. It must be used to pay qualified acquisition costs within 120 days after the day you received it.
  2. It must be used to pay qualified acquisition costs for the main home of a first-time home buyer such as you, your spouse, children, grandchildren or ancestors.
  3. You have not withdrawn $10,000 previously for a first-time home purchase.

If both you and your spouse are first-time home buyers, each of you can receive distributions of up to $10,000 for a first home without having to pay the 10-percent additional tax. But this would have to come from separate IRAs (i.e., yours and hers). Since the $18,000 came from your IRA and your maximum exclusion is $10,000, you are subject to the 10-percent penalty on the excess: $8,000.

Qualified acquisition costs include the following items.

  • Costs of buying (such as your down payment), building or rebuilding a home.
  • Any usual or reasonable settlement, financing or other closing costs.

If you and your spouse have not had a home for more than two years, this will be considered a first home.

To ask a tax question, go to the "Ask the Experts" page, and select "taxes" as the topic.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Feb. 17, 2006
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