Withdrawing from TSP without penalty


Q. I am a full-time federal technician in the Air National Guard. I am 54 years old with 33-plus years of military time and 27-plus years as a federal technician (under FERS). I have recently been involuntarily separated from the Air National Guard. This means I am losing both my full-time technician position as well as my part-time military position. I understand that I will be able to draw my FERS retirement (based on my total federal time) along with the Federal Retirement Supplement. Based on my involuntary separation, am I able to start drawing from my TSP without penalty?

A. It depends. Here are the rules:

If you receive a TSP distribution before you reach age 59½, in addition to the regular income tax, you may have to pay an early withdrawal penalty tax equal to 10 percent of any taxable portion of the distribution not transferred or rolled over. The additional 10 percent tax generally does not apply to payments that are:

  • Paid after you separate from service during or after the year you reach age 55 (or the year you reach age 50 if you are a public safety employee as defined in IRC section 72(t)(10)(B)(ii)).
  • Annuity payments.
  • Automatic enrollment refunds.
  • Made as a result of total and permanent disability.
  • Made because of death.
  • Made from a beneficiary participant account.
  • Made in a year you have deductible medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (7.5 percent if you or your spouse is 65 or older).
  • Ordered by a domestic relations court.
  • Paid as substantially equal payments over your life expectancy.

The penalty tax does not apply to any portion of a TSP distribution (including a loan) that represents tax-exempt contributions from pay earned in a combat zone.

Relief from the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty is available to eligible reservists called to duty for more than 179 days. The reservist must have been activated after Sept. 11, 2001, and must have received his or her TSP distribution between the date of the order or call and the close of the active-duty period. The reservist may also be eligible to repay the distribution to an IRA (not the TSP). Participants should consult with their tax advisers, legal assistance officers or the IRS regarding this relief.

See the notice at https://www.tsp.gov/PDF/formspubs/tsp-536.pdf for more information about the taxation of TSP distributions.


About Author

Mike Miles is a Certified Financial Planner licensee and principal adviser for Variplan LLC, an independent fiduciary in Vienna, Virginia. Email your financial questions to fedexperts@federaltimes.com and view his blog at money.federaltimes.com.

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