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When making an in-service withdrawal from a 401k with your current employer at under age 59.5, which earnings are you allowed to include in the withdrawal?

Are you allowed to withdraw earnings on employee (your) pre-tax contributions, or only on company matching funds?

Example:

  1. Employee pre-tax contributions: $5000
  2. Earnings on employee pre-tax contributions: $1000
  3. Employer matching contributions: $5000
  4. Earnings on employer matching contributions: $1000

Is the total allowed for an in-service withdrawal $6000 (from 3 and 4) or $7000 (from 2, 3, and 4)?

  • Why isn't $6000 (1+2) a choice? But really, why not ask the employer? There are many "permitted but not required" aspects to these accounts. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Aug 24 '13 at 1:35
  • @JoeTaxpayer Based on my research so far I believe that withdrawing employee pre-tax contributions is definitely not permitted (all the articles I've read, including the one I linked in my post, state this). All of them also agree that employer matching contributions can be withdrawn. Most of them mention that earnings can be withdrawn, but I'm not sure whether this refers to earnings on both kinds of contributions or only employer contributions. I do plan to ask my employer for details on what our specific plan allows, but I'm interested in what's permitted under the law as well. – Lawrence Johnston Aug 24 '13 at 1:42
  • Ok, here forbes.com/forbes/2008/0225/046.html You do need to be 59.5 to do this. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Aug 24 '13 at 1:46
  • @JoeTaxpayer You do not need to be 59.5. Please see the section starting "As for younger folks...". (Also that's the same article I linked in my question.) – Lawrence Johnston Aug 24 '13 at 1:48
  • My mistake. Article say below 59.5, but few employers permit this. Bottom Lin was my first suggestion, check with company to see what's permitted. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Aug 24 '13 at 1:54
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For Qualified or Safe Harbor Matching/Profit Sharing they have legal requirements over 59.5. For everything else it's based on the plan document what is allowed. The plan document can be (and usually is) more restrictive than the law.

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Unfortunately, with 401(k) in-service withdrawals, they are plan based as to the parameters of what can be distributed and at what time. You'll want to check with your plan administrator or HR for clarification as the plans vary and for the most part are custom to the employer.

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