Products & Pricing
Online products
CD/download products
Mobile products
Self-employment taxes
Small business taxes
Compare products
TurboTax Advantage
Previous years' products
File an IRS extension
Access my downloads
Tools & Tips
Tax calculators
Tax tips & videos
Track my donations
TurboTax blog
After You File
Track my refund
Check my e-file status
Print my return
Amend my return
Access prior year returns
Go to Turbo
TurboTax Support
Frequently Asked Questions
Expert Services
How TurboTax works
Tax Reform

What is Form 4972: Tax on Lump-Sum Distributions

Updated for Tax Year 2017


When you take all of your money out of a tax-advantaged retirement plan, you'll typically have to pay taxes on your withdrawal, just as if it was ordinary income. If you have a large retirement plan balance, taking a lump-sum could trigger significant tax consequences. However, IRS Form 4972 allows you to claim preferential tax treatment if you meet a series of special requirements. The biggest requirement is that you have to be born before January 2, 1936.

Taking a lump-sum distribution

Retirement plans are intended to provide you with income after you stop working. In most cases, you can't take your money out of an IRA or pension plan until you reach age 59 1/2, otherwise you'll pay a 10% penalty on top of ordinary taxes. Once you reach retirement age, you're offered options on how you want to receive your money.

Many investors take out a minimum amount of income from year to year, leaving the balance of their funds invested. However, you do, have the option of taking out all your funds as a lump-sum distribution. Once you take out the money, it can no longer grow in the account on a tax-deferred basis. You'll also have to report the withdrawal to the IRS and typically will have to pay taxes.

Lump-sum taxes

With the exception of the Roth IRA, which is funded with after-tax dollars, traditional retirement, pension and 401K accounts are typically funded with pre-tax dollars. Whether your employer withholds your contribution from your paycheck or you take a tax deduction when you file your tax return, often the money you put into these types of accounts has never been taxed. As a result, when you make withdrawals, you'll typically owe taxes on both your original pre-tax contributions and any income or profits you generated.

Lump-sum distributions can kick you up into a higher tax bracket.

  • For example, if in retirement you have $9,000 per year in taxable income, you'd likely be in the 10% tax bracket in 2017.
  • But if you take out a $200,000 lump-sum withdrawal, you'd probably find yourself in the 33% bracket.

If your state has income tax and you take a lump-sum before age 59 1/2, thereby triggering the 10% early withdrawal penalty, you might face a total tax rate of over 50% on your withdrawal, even if your other taxable income was only $9,000 for the entire year.

Form 4972

If you were born before January 2, 1936, you may be able to use IRS Form 4972 to reduce the taxes on a lump-sum distribution. Assuming you qualify, the IRS allows you to elect one of five methods of taxation for lump-sum distributions:

  • Report part of your withdrawal as a capital gain, with the remainder being ordinary income;
  • Report part of your withdrawal as a capital gain, and use the 10-year tax option for the remainder;
  • Use the 10-year tax option for the entire balance withdrawn;
  • Roll over all or part of the distribution, and report any withdrawals as ordinary income; or
  • Report the entire distribution as ordinary income.

The option that is best for you depends on your personal financial situation, but the benefit of Form 4972 is that you have tax options. Those who don't qualify for Form 4972 will have to use option #5 only.

Additional options and considerations

If you take a lump-sum distribution, even using Form 4972, the retirement plan administrator typically withholds 20% of your withdrawal and sends it to the IRS on your behalf.

  • If your ultimate tax liability is lower than 20%, you can claim that part back when you file your taxes.
  • If you change your mind and decide to roll over your distribution into another tax-advantaged account within 60 days, then you will likely receive a tax refund of most of the money.
  • However, if you do not rollover the entire distribution, including the 20% sent to the IRS on your behalf, the amount that doesn’t get rolled over will be taxable income.

One way to minimize the tax burden of a retirement plan withdrawal is to take smaller periodic distributions rather than one large lump sum. Smaller distributions can help you avoid large tax-bracket jumps and hopefully allow more of your money to continue growing tax-deferred in your account.

A TurboTax solution for every situation

See which tax prep product is right for you

Looking for more information?

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

Security is built into everything we do
* Important Offer Details and Disclosures

  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. Absolute Zero $0 federal (1040EZ/1040A) + $0 state offer only available with TurboTax Federal Free Edition; offer may change or end at any time without notice. Actual prices are determined at the time of print or e-file and are subject to change without notice. Savings and price comparisons based on anticipated price increase expected in March. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • QuickBooks Self-Employed Offer with TurboTax Self-Employed: File your 2016 TurboTax Self-Employed return between 4/19/17 and 10/16/17 to receive your complimentary subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed until 10/31/18. Activation by 12/31/17 required. Sign in to QuickBooks Self-Employed via mobile app or at; e-mail address used for activation and sign-in. Offer valid only for new QuickBooks Self-Employed customers. See for price comparison.
    • When you use TurboTax Self-Employed to file your 2017 taxes, you will have the option to renew your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription. If you do not purchase TurboTax Self-Employed by 10/15/18, you will have the option of renewing your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription by 10/31/18 for another year at the then-current annual subscription rate. You may cancel your subscription at any time from within the QuickBooks Self-Employed billing section.
  • Pays for itself (TurboTax Self-Employed): Estimates based on deductible business expenses calculated at the self-employment tax income rate (15.3%) for tax year 2016. Actual results will vary based on your tax situation.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard message and data rates apply to download and use mobile app.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $34.99 Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.
  • TurboTax Expert Help, Tax Advice and SmartLook: Included with Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed (via phone or on-screen); not included with Federal Free Edition (but available for purchase with the Plus bundle). SmartLook on-screen help is available on a PC, laptop or the TurboTax mobile app. TurboTax experts provide general advice, customer service and product help; tax advice provided only by credentialed CPAs, enrolled agents and tax attorneys. Feature availability varies by device. State tax advice is free. Service, area of expertise, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice.
  • Tax Return Access, My Docs and My Analysis & Advice features: Access to all tax-related documents we have on file for you is available until you file your 2017 tax return or through 10/31/2018, whichever comes first. Terms and conditions may vary and are subject to change without notice.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2015 TurboTax products.
  • Most Popular: TurboTax Deluxe is our most popular product among TurboTax Online users with more complex tax situations.
  • CompleteCheck: Covered under the TurboTax accurate calculations and maximum refund guarantees.
  • #1 rated online tax prep provider: Based on independent comparison of the best online tax software by March 13, 2017.

  • TurboTax CD/Download products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees apply for e-filing state returns. E-file fees do not apply to New York state returns. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase expected in March. Prices subject to change without notice.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $34.99 Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice. This benefit is available with TurboTax Federal products except TurboTax Business.
  • About our TurboTax Product Experts: Customer service and product support vary by time of year.
  • About our credentialed tax experts: Live tax advice via phone is included with Premier and Home & Business; fees apply for Basic and Deluxe customers. State tax advice is free. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice. Not available for TurboTax Business customers.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2015 TurboTax products.
  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2015 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2011 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.
Online Software Products
CD/Download Products
Mobile Tax Apps
Help and Support
Tax Tools and Tips
More Products from Intuit