What is the Roth IRA 5-Year Rule? Withdrawals, Conversions, and Beneficiaries

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trio of 5 year rules

One of the much-hyped boons of a Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is your ability — at least, relative to other retirement accounts — to withdraw money from it whenever you want and at the rate you want. But when it comes to tax-advantaged vehicles, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) never makes anything easy.

True, direct contributions to a Roth can be withdrawn at any time without a tear (or tax). However, withdrawals of other types of funds are more restricted: access to them is subject to a waiting period, known as the five-year rule.

The five-year rule applies in three situations:

You need to understand the five-year rule — or rather, the trio of five-year rules — to make sure withdrawals from your Roth don’t trigger income tax and a tax penalty (typically 10% of the amount withdrawn). Is.

key takeaways

  • Although relatively less restrictive than other accounts, Roth Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) impose a waiting period on some withdrawals, known as the five-year rule.
  • The five-year rule applies in three situations: If you withdraw account earnings, if you convert a traditional IRA to a Roth, or if a beneficiary inherits a Roth IRA.
  • Failure to comply with the five-year rule can result in income tax and a 10% penalty on income withdrawals.

Roth IRA Withdrawal Basics

Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax contributions (meaning you don’t get a tax deduction for making them at the time), which is why no taxes are due on the money when you withdraw it. Does not happen. Before reviewing the five-year rules, here’s a quick recap of the Roth rules regarding distributions (IRS-speak for withdrawals) in general:

  1. You can withdraw contributions from a Roth IRA at any age without penalty.
  2. At age 59½, you can withdraw both contributions and earnings without penalty, provided you’ve had your Roth IRA open for at least five tax years.

Start Date of the 5-Year Rule

“Tax year,” with respect to the five-year rule, means the clock starts ticking on January 1 of the tax year when the first contribution was made. Typically, you can make an IRA contribution until April 15 or the next year’s tax filing deadline, and it counts toward the prior tax year.

For example, a Roth IRA contribution for the 2022 tax year can be made up to April 18, 2023, which means it can count as a 2022 contribution (the tax holiday for most people due to Union Emancipation Day). The deadline was extended till April 18 (holiday).

As a result, contributions for 2022 made by April 18, 2023 will be counted as amounts made on January 1, 2022. In counting the five-year rule, you can start withdrawing money without penalty on January 1, 2027. —no April 18, 2028.

qualified delivery

A withdrawal that is tax- and penalty-free is called a qualified distribution. A withdrawal that incurs a tax or penalty is called a nonqualified distribution. Failing to understand the difference between the two and withdrawing earnings too early is one of the most common Roth IRA mistakes.

In short, if you take distributions from your Roth IRA earnings before you meet the five-year rule and before age 59½, be prepared to pay income tax and a 10% penalty on your earnings. For regular account owners, the five-year rule applies only to Roth IRA earnings and money converted from traditional IRAs.

5 year rule for Roth IRA withdrawals

The first Roth IRA five-year rule is used to determine whether the income (interest) from your Roth IRA is tax-free. To be tax-free, you must withdraw the earnings:

  • on or after the date you turn 59½
  • At least five tax years after the first contribution to any Roth IRA owned by you

A note to many account owners: The five-year clock starts with your first contribution to any Roth IRA — not necessarily the one you’re withdrawing money from. Once you meet the five-year requirement for a Roth IRA, you’re done.

Any subsequent Roth IRAs are considered to have been held for five years. Rollovers from one Roth IRA to another do not reset the five-year clock.

5-year rule for Roth IRA conversions

The second five-year rule determines whether distributions of principal from a traditional IRA or conversion from a traditional 401(k) to a Roth IRA are penalty-free. (Remember, you owe taxes when you convert from a pre-tax-fund account to a Roth.) As with contributions, the five-year rule for Roth conversions uses tax years, but conversions take 31 years. Should be by December. calendar year.

For example, if you converted your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA in November 2019, your five-year period begins on January 1, 2019. But if you have done it in February 2020, then the five-year period starts from January 1. 2020. Don’t mix this with the extra months’ allowance you have to contribute directly to your Roth.

Each conversion has its own five year duration. For example, if you converted your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA in 2018, the five-year period for those converted assets began on January 1, 2018. If you later convert other traditional IRA assets to a Roth IRA in 2019, the five-year period begins on January 1, 2019, for those assets.

This can be confusing. To determine whether you’re affected by this five-year rule, you need to consider whether the amounts you want to withdraw now include converted assets, and if so, in what years those conversions occurred. were done. Try to keep this general rule in mind: IRS ordering rules dictate that the oldest conversions are withdrawn first. The of withdrawals for a Roth IRA is contributions first, followed by conversions and then earnings.

If you’re under age 59½ and take a distribution within five years of conversion, you’ll pay a 10% penalty, unless you qualify for an exception.

There are no required distributions for a Roth IRA while the original account holder is alive. However, after the death of the account owner, his beneficiaries will have to clear the account as per the rules at the time of death: five years if the account owner dies before 2020, and ten years if they die after 2020 . The succeeding spouse also has the option of taking RMDs based on their life expectancy.

Exceptions to the 5 Year Rule

Under certain conditions, you can withdraw earnings without meeting the five-year rule, regardless of your age. You can use up to $10,000 to pay for your first home or use that money to pay for higher education for yourself or a spouse, child or grandchild.

The IRS will also allow you to take money out to pay for health insurance premiums — should you become unemployed — or if you need to reimburse yourself for medical expenses that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).

5 year rule for Roth IRA beneficiaries

Death is also an exception. The original owner of a Roth IRA is never required to take distributions during his or her lifetime. But after the original owner dies, the beneficiaries who inherit the account have to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from it. However, they can take these distributions without penalty – regardless of whether the distribution is principal or earnings or what their age is.

However, death doesn’t completely let you off the hook of the five-year rule. If you, as a beneficiary, take a distribution from an inherited Roth IRA that was not held for five tax years, the earnings will be subject to tax.

Avoid the 25% Penalty

Prior to 2023, the penalty for untaken RMDs was 50% of the amount that should have been taken as distribution. Under the SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022, this penalty is only 25% and can be reduced to 10% if the error is corrected promptly.

Roth IRA Beneficiaries Under the SECURE Act

The establishment of the Every Community for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019 changed one important rule for Roth IRA beneficiaries. Previously, anyone who inherited a Roth IRA could choose to create something called a stretch IRA and take distributions from it based on their life expectancy rate.

But after the passage of the SECURE Act, this provision was abolished. Roth IRA beneficiaries must now withdraw all funds within 10 years of the original account holder’s death, unless they are the spouse of the deceased. Only an inheriting spouse can extend Roth IRA distributions for life. Any other beneficiary, such as a child, must close the account within a decade.

The provisions of the SECURE Act apply only to the heirs of account holders who die after January 1, 2020.

What is the 5-year rule for Roth Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)?

The Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA) five-year rule applies in three situations:

  • You withdraw earnings from your Roth IRA.
  • You convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.
  • You inherited a Roth IRA.

Generally, the five-year rule states that if you withdraw money from a Roth IRA that’s been in the account for less than five years, you’ll owe taxes on it plus a 10% penalty.

Can You Withdraw Money from a Roth IRA Before 5 Years?

The Roth IRA five-year rule states that you cannot withdraw earnings tax-free until you have contributed to the Roth IRA account for the first time. This rule applies to everyone who contributes to a Roth IRA, whether they are 59½ or 105.

Does the 5-year rule apply to Roth conversions after age 59½?

Yes. Even if you’re over age 59½ when you take the withdrawal, some of your withdrawal may be included in taxable income, thanks to the five-year rule. You won’t pay the 10% penalty in that case, but you’ll still pay tax on withdrawals in excess of the amount contributed.


Although Roth IRAs are generally quite flexible when it comes to withdrawals, and much more so than other retirement accounts, IRS rules impose a waiting period on certain withdrawals, known as the five-year rule.

The five-year rule applies in three situations: If you withdraw account earnings, if you convert a traditional IRA to a Roth, or if a beneficiary inherits a Roth IRA. You need to understand the five-year rule in all three cases, as failure to comply with the five-year rule can result in income tax and a 10% penalty on income withdrawals.

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