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Tapping Your IRA for a House

Kimberly Lankford

You can't withdraw funds from your account penalty free to pay off a mortgage.



My wife and I just bought our first house. Within a week after closing, we found out that you can use your IRA toward a first-time home purchase, and each person can withdraw $10,000 toward "qualified acquisition costs." We have an 80-10-10 mortgage (80% from the first mortgage, 10% second mortgage, 10% down). Can each of use withdraw $10,000 from our IRAs without paying a penalty if we put the money toward paying off the second mortgage?

Good idea, but the answer is no. You can't take an IRA distribution to pay off any mortgage, regardless of whether it's a first or a second loan.

First-time homebuyers (which the IRS defines as anyone who hasn't owned a house within the past two years) can avoid the 10% early-withdrawal penalty only if they use the IRA money to pay qualified acquisition costs for a principal residence before the end of the 120th day after withdrawing the money.

Qualified expenses include acquiring, constructing or rebuilding a residence. Closing costs are covered, but paying off a loan isn't, says Greg Rosica, a tax partner with Ernst & Young. Nor can you withdraw the money after the fact and treat the distribution as though the cash had been used for the down payment you've already made, says Bob D. Scharin of Thomson Tax & Accounting.

For more information about rules for IRA withdrawals, see IRS Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements.

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