Do I Have to Pay Taxes If I Transfer My 401k to an IRA?

A 401(k) is an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan that allows employees to save and invest for retirement tax-deferred. There may be various investment options available.

Transferring funds from a 401(k) to an IRA can be done in two ways. Direct rollover involves moving your vested balance directly from one account to the other while an indirect 60-day rollover involves having your old plan send you a check with taxes withheld for you and send that along as well.


If you withdraw a distribution from your old plan and deposit it directly into an IRA within 60 days, taxes won’t apply to that portion transferred. Unfortunately, indirect rollovers are taxed as the IRS requires your former employer withhold 20% of pretax amounts sent directly to you in order to complete a rollover successfully.

As part of your rollover process, ensure your IRA provider knows about your desire to transfer funds from a workplace retirement account. Some providers offer online tools or require that you write down the account number before being permitted to send funds over.

Cashing out and moving the proceeds directly to an IRA might seem tempting, but doing so requires including those funds as part of your gross income for that year, plus potentially incurring a 10% penalty if you’re under age 59 1/2. Furthermore, only one rollover per 12-month period will be accepted.


Rolling your 401k money over into an IRA is the easiest and simplest way to transfer your savings. Although the process itself is straightforward, its details must be considered carefully for best results.

Failing to comply with transfer rules could cost you extra taxes and penalties. For instance, if your old employer’s plan gives you a check and it isn’t deposited into an IRA within 60 days, the IRS considers this an early withdrawal and taxes it at your ordinary income rate plus 10% penalty tax rate.

You may be eligible to forgo the penalty when withdrawing funds for certain reasons, such as medical costs, first-time home purchases or education expenses outlined by the IRS. Furthermore, you can withdraw without penalty if unemployed for 12 consecutive weeks or inherit an IRA from someone deceased who needs the funds for living expenses.


Rollover investments offer you an alternative investment option that enables you to transfer retirement funds between providers for various reasons, including switching jobs, retiring early or moving states. Furthermore, rolling over may make sense if your taxes will increase after retirement.

Direct rollover is often the simplest and quickest way to complete a rollover, whereby your old account administrator transfers money directly into your new account without ever needing your involvement or touching it directly yourself – this type of transfer is known as trustee-to-trustee rollover. Conversely, sending funds directly to yourself triggers mandatory 20% withholding for taxes which could incur penalties if not deposited within 60 days.

Once the rollover is completed, your old provider will send an IRS Form 1099-R, Box 1 (Gross Distribution). Be sure to comply with all federal tax reporting and filing regulations as well as state regulations if applicable.


Dependent upon the investment fees at your old company’s 401(k), it may be more cost-effective to leave your retirement savings within their plan rather than roll them over into an IRA. Companies often pool employees’ investments and benefit from economies of scale in 401(k).

An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) allows you to select your investments freely, but that freedom can lead to higher costs as compared to pooled employer funds. Furthermore, investors in an IRA must navigate more complicated tax rules which often necessitate professional advice.

If you plan to roll over your 401(k) into an IRA, request that the institution where you want to transfer the funds make the check payable to your new IRA provider instead of yourself; that way, your transfer won’t count as a withdrawal that’s subject to ordinary income taxes and an early-withdrawal penalty if you are under age 55.

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