Considering the current economic conditions, most of us are turning to our retirement funds for financial needs. However, we need to be aware of the tax consequences that may follow with such distributions.

Since the contributions to these plans are made from our before tax dollars (I have excluded Roth contributions/plans from the discussion here), the distributions when taken out will be fully taxable. In addition,the law imposes a 10% additional tax on early distributions from a qualified retirement plan or deferred annuity contract before reaching age 59 1/2. Whereas you cannot get out of the resulting tax liability, you may be able to save the early withdrawal penalty.

There are certain exceptions to 10% early withdrawal penalty.

The following six exceptions apply to distributions from any qualified retirement plan:

1. Distributions made to your beneficiary or estate on or after your death.
2. Distributions made if you are are totally and permanently disabled.
3. Distributions made as part of a series of substantially equal periodic payments over the life expectancy of the owner or life expectancies of the owner and the beneficiary. If these distributions are from a qualified plan other than an IRA, you must separate from service with this employer before the payments begin for this exception to apply.
4. Distributions that are equal to or less than your deductible medical expenses, that is, the amount of your medical expenses that is more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
5. Distributions made due to an IRS levy of the plan.
6. Distributions to qualified reservists.

The following additional exceptions apply only to distributions from a qualified retirement plan other than an IRA:

1. Distributions made to you after you separated from service with your employer (State or local government), if the separation occurred in or after the year you reached age 55 or distributions from qualified governmental defined benefit plans if you were a qualified public safety employee who separated from service on or after you reached age 50,
2. Distributions made to an alternate payee under a qualified domestic relations order(QDRO), and
3. Distributions of dividends from employee stock ownership plans.