What Happens if I Don't Report Early Withdrawal From an IRA to the IRS?

Most people won't take money out of an Individual Retirement Account early for one simple reason: if you do it before you're 59 1/2, it's subject to income tax and early distribution penalties. However, emergencies do happen, and sometimes you just need the money. The next hurdle will be your taxes. The Internal Revenue Service expects to see that withdrawal on your forms for the year. If it's not there, you'll have even more penalties.

Hardship Distribution

With most retirement plans, early withdrawal is not an option unless there is an extreme circumstance meriting it. Often this is done in the form of something called a hardship distribution. Not all retirement plans have this option built in and even in those that do, you'll likely need to prove to your employer that you have an immediate and heavy financial need. When this happens, you have an obligation to report the withdrawal to the IRS and pay any associated taxes on the funds.

Obligation to Report

The Internal Revenue Code specifies that taxable early withdrawals from an IRA must be reported on Form 1040, lines 15a and 15b, or Form 1040A, lines 11a and 11b. Early distributions from IRAs are reported to both the individual and the Internal Revenue Service by the IRA plan administrator in either box 1 or box 2 of Form 1099-R. A federal income tax of 10 percent is applied to the early distribution unless you choose not to be taxed at the time of the withdrawal.

IRS Notification

The IRS gets Form 1099-R from your IRA plan administrator, so you can be sure it knows about the early distribution. Accordingly, IRS computer verification will discover the discrepancy in your tax filing. In many cases, the IRS may audit your return or otherwise notify you of the omission.

Amended Return

Once you realize you've made this mistake, you'll need to send in a correction using Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Form 1040X must be filed within three years from the date you filed your original return or within two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.

Hardship Distribution

One exception to early withdrawal penalties is the hardship distribution. Some retirement plans have this option built in, but you'll need to prove to your employer that you have an immediate and heavy financial need. In this case, you may still pay the 10 percent penalty and will need to report it to the IRS

Additional IRS Penalties

When you forget to report income of any kind, the IRS can and will penalize you. It charges late fees and interest on the additional tax amounts you didn't pay on time. The IRS can also impose an accuracy penalty for errors in your calculation if it finds you were negligent, disregarded the regulation or substantially understated your income.

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About the Author

Trudie Longren began writing in 2008 for legal publications, including the "American Journal of Criminal Law." She has served as a classroom teacher and legal writing professor. Longren holds a bachelor's degree in international politics, a Juris Doctor and an LL.M. in human rights. She also speaks Spanish and French.