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Borrowing from a 401k, 403b or the cash value of life insurance policy is a common financial strategy. While taxpayers are not allowed borrow from either a traditional or Roth IRA, they can withdraw funds before age 59 ½ for specific purposes like a first home purchase, qualified higher education expenses or permanent disability without incurring a 10% penalty.

First-time home buyers can make a penalty-free withdrawal of up to $10,000 if they haven’t owned a home in the previous two years. This would allow a married couple who each have an IRA to withdraw a lifetime maximum of $10,000 each, penalty-free for a home purchase.

In many cases, the money would be used for a down payment or closing costs. However, some buyers might consider this source to increase their down payment so they could qualify for a loan without mortgage insurance.

There is another condition where a taxpayer can withdraw money from their IRA without triggering the tax or penalty if it is returned to the IRA within 60 days. This can only be done once in a 12-month period. Unless you’re certain you can redeposit the money in the strict time frame, the potential tax and penalties makes this a risky and expensive way to arrange temporary funds.

If the taxpayer qualifies for the penalty-free withdrawal, there may still be taxes due. Contributions to traditional IRAs are made with before-tax dollars and the tax is paid when the funds are withdrawn. Since Roth IRAs are made with after-tax dollars, there is no tax due when the funds are withdrawn.

Another interesting fact about this provision is that the taxpayer making the withdrawal can help a qualified relative which includes children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents.

Before withdrawing money from an IRA, taxpayers should get advice from their tax professional concerning their individual situation.