How Much Are Penalties on 401k

Penalties on 401(k)s can vary depending on the type of withdrawal and the age of the account holder. Early withdrawals, which are made before age 59½, are subject to a 10% penalty, plus income tax on the amount withdrawn. Withdrawals made after age 59½ for reasons other than retirement or disability are also subject to income tax, but not the 10% penalty. However, if the account holder has an outstanding loan from their 401(k), the loan amount will be considered an early withdrawal and subject to the 10% penalty if it is not repaid within 60 days of leaving the job.

Penalties on 401k

Withdrawing funds from your 401(k) account before you reach age 59½ can result in penalties. These penalties are designed to encourage you to keep your retirement savings invested and growing until you are eligible to withdraw them without penalty.

Early Withdrawal Penalty

  • 10% penalty on the amount withdrawn
  • Applies to withdrawals made before age 59½, unless an exception applies

In addition to the 10% early withdrawal penalty, you may also have to pay income tax on the amount withdrawn. The amount of tax you will owe depends on your tax bracket and the age at which you withdraw the funds.

Exceptions to the Early Withdrawal Penalty

There are a few exceptions to the early withdrawal penalty, including:

  1. Withdrawals for qualified higher education expenses
  2. Withdrawals for medical expenses
  3. Withdrawals for first-time home purchases (up to $10,000)
  4. Withdrawals due to disability
  5. Withdrawals after the account holder’s death

If you are planning to withdraw funds from your 401(k) account before age 59½, it is important to talk to a tax professional or financial advisor to determine if you qualify for any of the exceptions to the early withdrawal penalty.

Example of Early Withdrawal Penalty
Withdrawal AmountPenaltyIncome TaxTotal Amount Owed

Mandatory Minimum Withdrawal Age

Once you reach age 72, you are required to start taking minimum withdrawals from your 401(k) account. This is known as the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD). The purpose of the RMD is to ensure that you are gradually withdrawing your money from your 401(k) and paying taxes on it. If you do not take your RMD, you will be subject to a 50% penalty tax on the amount that you should have withdrawn.

The RMD is calculated using a formula that is based on your age and your account balance. The formula is: RMD = (1 / Life Expectancy) * Account Balance. Your life expectancy is determined by the IRS based on your age. The following table shows the life expectancies used by the IRS for calculating RMDs:

AgeLife Expectancy











For example, if you are 72 years old and your 401(k) account balance is $100,000, your RMD would be $3,906.25. ($100,000 / 25.6 = $3,906.25).

You can take your RMD in one lump sum or in multiple withdrawals throughout the year. However, you must take your entire RMD by December 31st of each year.

Excess Contribution Penalty

The IRS imposes a penalty on excess contributions to a 401(k) plan. An excess contribution is any amount contributed to the plan that exceeds the annual contribution limit. For 2023, the contribution limit is $22,500 ($30,000 if age 50 or older). The penalty for excess contributions is 6% per year on the excess amount. The penalty continues to accrue until the excess is corrected or the taxpayer reaches age 59½.

For example, if you contribute $25,000 to your 401(k) in 2023, you will owe an excess contribution penalty of $150 (6% of $2,500) for each year the excess is not corrected.

There are a few ways to correct an excess contribution:

  • Withdraw the excess amount plus any earnings on it.
  • Recharacterize the excess amount as a contribution to a traditional IRA or Roth IRA. If a recharacterization is done by the due date for filing your tax return, including extensions, it is treated as if it was contributed to the new IRA in the first place.
  • If the excess amount is due to an employer error, the employer may be able to fix the issue by making an adjustment to your plan account.

Rollovers and Transfers

Rollovers and transfers are two ways to move money from one retirement account to another. A rollover is a tax-free transfer of funds from one retirement account to another, while a transfer is a taxable event. There are no penalties for rolling over funds from one 401(k) to another 401(k), but there are penalties for taking a withdrawal from a 401(k) before age 59½.

The following table outlines the penalties for taking a withdrawal from a 401(k) before age 59½:

Withdrawal amountPenalty
Up to 10% of your account balance10% early withdrawal penalty
More than 10% of your account balance20% early withdrawal penalty, plus income tax on the amount withdrawn

There are exceptions to the early withdrawal penalty, including:

  • Withdrawals made after age 59½
  • Withdrawals made due to a disability
  • Withdrawals made to pay for medical expenses
  • Withdrawals made to pay for college tuition and fees
  • Withdrawals made to pay for a first-time home purchase

Thanks for taking the time to discover the intricacies of 401k penalties. I hope this article has enlightened you and helped you avoid any costly missteps. Remember, planning and informed decisions are key to making the most of your retirement savings. Keep in mind that rules and regulations may change over time, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a financial advisor or visit our website again for the latest updates. Your future self will thank you for being proactive and financially savvy. Until next time, stay informed and make wise financial choices!