Is a Distribution From an IRA Taxable?

One of the biggest sources of confusion for clients is whether distributions from an IRA will be taxed. Here are some rules to help determine this.

Use code 1 when reporting distributions from Traditional, SIMPLE, QRP IRAs and Roth IRAs that you know or suspect were made before age 59 1/2 with no other penalty tax exemption applicable.


Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) are tax-advantaged savings vehicles that provide numerous tax advantages, such as deducting contributions from taxes and making tax-free qualified withdrawals. There are various kinds of IRAs to choose from: traditional, Roth, SEP IRAs (with differing contribution limits and tax rules) but each account type cannot exceed its annual limit set by the IRS.

Use code T, Roth IRA distribution – exception applies, when a beneficiary receives a distribution from a Roth IRA before its five-year waiting period has been met. This could occur due to either death of the account holder, disability (with proof) and/or meeting one of four exceptions allowed for. You could also use this code when nonspouse beneficiaries take withdrawals from traditional IRAs as a result of death of an owner (see IRS Form 1099-R instructions for more details).


Your IRA account will earn earnings on any investments held, such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Over time these assets can increase in value and result in substantial tax deductions when taking distributions from it.

Form 1099-R is used by the IRS to report distributions from an IRA account. Your institution filing your IRA files this form on each person who owns an account with it.

Moving assets between financial institutions to take advantage of different investment options and lower fees requires adhering to certain rules. You cannot move the same asset type into multiple accounts, nor move physical assets such as gold bullion from one trustee to another. Furthermore, special rules should be observed when investing in collectibles or unconventional investments such as real estate or closely held companies as these may run afoul of prohibited transaction rules and disqualify your IRA account.


IRAs offer several tax advantages for retirement savings. Contributions you make may be tax-deductible depending on your income level, while earnings won’t become taxable until withdrawals occur after retirement. Use SmartAsset’s IRA Calculator to estimate how much savings is necessary for a comfortable retirement.

Owners of individual retirement accounts (IRAs) must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) once reaching a specified age – currently 72 and rising to 73 by 2023 – calculated using account size and life expectancy; the IRS provides a worksheet to assist in this calculation.

For IRAs holding non-marketable securities or closely held investments, prohibited transactions may occur more often. When this occurs, use code 5 to report it; otherwise use code 7 for normal distributions or A (May be eligible for 10-year tax option) if applicable to report a lump-sum distribution from a designated Roth account if eligible under exceptions described in box 15b’s instructions.


After an IRA account owner dies, his or her trustee must decide how much of the distributed amount should be set aside for DNI purposes. This can be difficult when cashing out all or some of the account and allocating portions among beneficiaries; therefore it is wise to consult a tax professional prior to making such major changes.

As part of changing custodians, using a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer rather than rollover can often help mitigate this issue. Even then, however, some money will likely be withheld for taxes and penalties that may become due.

Beneficiaries can avoid early distribution penalties by showing to the IRS that the money they withdraw is for one of four Roth IRA qualified distribution events – first-time homebuyer expenses, disability expenses or death of the IRA owner – although this requires supporting documents from physicians as well as additional evidence such as deeds. Investment in collectibles or real estate are generally prohibited and often count as prohibited transactions when done through an IRA owned trust.

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