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CARES Act Extension & Impact On IRA, 401(k) & Retirement Withdrawals

Mark Steber Chief Tax Information Officer Published On February 16, 2021


The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to provide aid, relief, and increased economic security to affected individuals. The Act provided specific aid and tax benefits for taxpayers who needed to withdraw more money than usual from their retirement and 401(k) plans during the pandemic.

Section 2202 of the CARES Act allows individuals to access up to $100,000 from their 401ks and IRAs with fewer consequences. The period in which you were able to do this expired in 2020.

Can you withdraw from your 401k and IRAs with no penalty due to COVID-19?

You might have heard that early retirement withdrawals were tax-free due to COVID-19, but there are many caveats. First, here’s who qualifies for the exemption under the CARES Act:

  • If you or a family member had COVID-19 based on a CDC-approved test
  • Or if you had financial consequences because of COVID-19 related conditions including:
    • If you couldn’t work due to a lack of childcare
    • If your place of work had to shut down or cut hours substantially
    • Or if you were furloughed or laid off

Second, to ensure you get your CARES Act 401k withdrawal money tax-free and penalty-free, you’ll want to repay the amount you withdrew over the next three years. If it’s not paid back within three years, it will ultimately be taxed, and you will risk penalties and interest.

Finally, keep track of your 1099-R . Make sure to provide it to your Tax Pro and let them know that you took money out of a qualified retirement plan during 2020. The IRS will know you took this money out, so you want to make sure this is reported properly on your income tax return.

There is good news though! When President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act on Dec 27, 2020, he expanded some of the benefits from the CARES Act into the new year for 180 days. This includes no tax penalty for up to $100,000 in withdrawals from these accounts.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act

On December 22, 2020, the President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act. It contains over $900 billion of additional stimulus funding for COVID-19 relief. The Act includes:

  • The withdrawal without penalties for up to $100,000. This applies to people affected by COVID and natural disasters too. The Act includes tax relief for those in presidentially declared disaster areas for major disasters on or after Jan. 1, 2020 and ending 60 days after the date of the Act’s enactment
  • It touches on furloughed employees to avoid partial plan termination
  • It extends the expanded limits for qualified retirement plan loans that were allowed under the CARES act (same 180 extension as the withdrawal no penalty)
  • Also extends employers option to make payments of up to 5,250 tax free towards employee’s student loans
  • Extended the grace period for unused FSA benefits for 12 months

About the Author

Mark Steber is Senior Vice President and Chief Tax Information Officer for Jackson Hewitt. With over 30 years of experience, he oversees tax service delivery, quality assurance and tax law adherence. Mark is Jackson Hewitt’s national spokesperson and liaison to the Internal Revenue Service and other government authorities. He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), holds registrations in Alabama and Georgia, and is an expert on consumer income taxes including electronic tax and tax data protection.

More about Mark Steber Our Editorial Policy

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