How Can I Avoid Paying Taxes On My 401k Withdrawal?

A 401(k) plan is a powerful tax-advantaged retirement savings tool. Some plans' employer matches make them even more powerful. Although you can’t take a tax-free 401(k) distribution, there are ways to tap the money in your 401(k) tax-free. Continue reading to learn more.

How Can I Avoid Paying Taxes On My 401k Withdrawal?

How Can I Avoid Paying Taxes On My 401k Withdrawal?

When you withdraw funds from a typical 401(k), the IRS taxes the withdrawals as ordinary income. The amount of tax you pay is determined by your tax bracket, and you can anticipate paying more tax if you receive a larger dividend. If you are under the age of 59 1/2 years, you may be compelled to pay a 10% penalty on the distribution.

You can rollover your 401k(k) into an IRA or a new employer's 401(k) without having to pay income taxes on the money in your 401(k). If you own up to $1000 or more when you leave your work, you can roll the assets over into a new retirement plan tax-free. You can also avoid paying taxes by taking a 401(k) loan rather than a 401(k) withdrawal, contributing to charity, or making Roth contributions. There are certain ways you can utilize to prevent or lower your tax burden if you wish to collect your 401(k) without paying taxes. 

Read more: When Are Taxes Due? 2023 Filing & Extension Deadlines
Watch Video: How Can I Avoid Paying Taxes On My 401k Withdrawal?

Let's look at methods for avoiding taxes on 401k withdrawals when the IRS wants a piece of the action.

1. Think About Making Contributions to a Roth IRA

Consider transferring your funds to a Roth account if you anticipate that your income in your golden years will slip into a higher tax rate. Since after-tax money was used to open this account, any future withdrawals will be tax-free.

Although this method does not completely prevent paying taxes, it does allow you to do so by paying the tax when you deposit the money into the account. This way, you can avoid paying taxes on future savings that have accumulated. You won't pay taxes on the payouts you get in retirement. In contrast, a standard 401(k) plan uses pre-tax money to finance itself, and any future distributions will be taxed at the regular income tax rate.

Read more: Is a Roth IRA Conversion a Good Option for You?

2. Maintain Your Lower Tax Bracket

To minimize your tax liability while taking 401(k) withdrawals, strive to keep your taxable income in a lower tax rate. To prevent moving into the next tax bracket with a higher tax rate, you can achieve this by taking distributions up to the top of your tax bracket. For instance, by using a combination of Roth and cash savings in addition to a 401(k), an account holder can reduce the amount of 401(k) withdrawals.

3. Avoid Early Withdrawal Penalty

Depending on your tax rate, withdrawals made before the age of 59 1/2 are subject to income taxes and a 10% early withdrawal penalty. However, you might be eligible for a penalty-free 401(k) withdrawal if you quit your present company at age 55 or later. Even so, the payout will still be subject to your tax bracket's regular income tax. To be eligible for a penalty-free distribution, an employee must have left their employer, according to the IRS. The"Rule of 55" does not apply to Individual Retirement Accounts or prior plans.

4. Consider a Loan Instead of a 401(k) Withdrawal

Before reaching retirement age, participants in some 401(k) plans are permitted to withdraw funds from their account as loans. An employee may need to meet specified requirements in order to be eligible for a 401(k) loan, the details of which are determined by the employer and plan administrator.

So long as the borrower abides by IRS regulations, neither the borrower nor a lender will be responsible for paying ordinary income tax on the loaned amount or incurring an early withdrawal penalty. Borrowing from a 401(k) is allowed up to the lesser of $50,000 or half of the participant's vested account amount, as set by the Internal Revenue Service. All 401(k) loan balances in excess of this cap will be wiped out. There is a five-year repayment period with equal monthly installments required from the borrower.

5. Donate to Charity

You can roll over your money directly into an IRA and contribute the distribution to a qualifying charity to avoid paying income tax if you are 70 1/2 years old and do not require the 401(k) payouts to cover living expenses.

As long as the donation falls within the IRS's $100,000 annual limit, the IRA account holder is exempt from paying income tax on the donation to charity. If a married couple files jointly, one spouse may make a second charitable donation of up to $100,000 while still being eligible for the tax break. 

Note: 401(k)s are not eligible for qualified charitable distributions; only IRAs are.

6. Wait to Take Your Social Security

Deferring your Social Security benefits if you have taken a 401(k) withdrawal could help you retain your taxable income in a lower tax bracket. Taking both payouts at once raises your taxable income, which raises your tax obligation.

You can postpone claiming social security payments until age 70 if the withdrawals from your 401(k) are sufficient to cover your expenses. This method not only reduces 401(k) withdrawal tax, but it also raises your social security benefits by up to 28%. If you wait to begin receiving social security payments after turning 65 to 67 years old, this technique will work.

7. Get Aid for Emergencies

The IRS occasionally grants relief for 401(k) distributions to residents of locations vulnerable to hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural catastrophes. If you are under 59 12 years old when such calamities happen, you may be eligible for a waiver of the 10% early withdrawal penalty.

The IRS also takes into account additional circumstances that qualify as a hardship, such as having to pay for education expenses, losing your job, and having to make a down payment on a principal dwelling mortgage. The CARES statute permitted a hardship payout of up to $100,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic without triggering the 10% early withdrawal penalty.

I hope this information was helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. I’d be happy to chat with you. 

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One of the greatest ways to minimize taxes on your 401(k) exit is to defer Social Security payments, roll over existing 401(k)s, set up IRAs to avoid the necessary 20% federal income tax, and keep your capital gains taxes low.

Remember that these are complex techniques that experts employ to lower their clients' tax obligations during 401(k) distributions. Unless you have extensive financial and tax knowledge, don't try to apply them on your own.

Ask a Vincere Wealth financial advisor if any of them are appropriate for you as an alternative. Taxes have laws and regulations, just like anything else, and making a mistake could result in fines.

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About the Author

As Managing Partner of Vincere Wealth, Josh assists clients in navigating financial challenges and making sound financial decisions. Having someone guide you in making sensible financial decisions today can have a substantial impact on your future financial wellbeing. Josh takes great pride in guiding customers through the complexities of taxes, real estate, businesses, employer stock and international financial planning.

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