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11 Exceptions to IRA Early Withdrawal Penalties

NEW BERLIN, Ill. ( TheStreet) -- If you know much at all about your IRA, you're probably aware that, generally, you must wait until after age 59½ to withdraw funds from the account or be subject to a 10% penalty in addition to the tax on the distribution.

There are several exceptions to this penalty, though, one of which is the use of a series of substantially equal periodic payments. Listed here are the rest of those specific situations that are uniquely identified by the IRS as not subject to the 10% penalty:

If you are "totally and permanently disabled" by IRS definition, you can take distributions from your IRA without penalty.

Qualified higher education expenses
You can withdraw IRA funds to help pay for college expenses. QHEE include tuition and related expenses (books, materials, fees) at an eligible educational institution. Expenses that are not considered QHEE include insurance, medical expenses (including student health insurance fees), transportation and other personal living expenses.

Death
If you die, your beneficiaries are able to -- in fact, required to -- take distributions from your IRA without penalty.

Disability
If you are "totally and permanently disabled" by IRS definition, you can take distributions from your IRA without penalty.

High unreimbursed medical expenses
These can be for yourself, your spouse or your qualified dependent. If you face these expenses, you are allowed to withdraw a limited amount -- the actual expenses minus 7.5% of your adjusted gross income -- without penalty.

Medical insurance premiums
If you've lost your job and get unemployment compensation, you are eligible to withdraw an amount to pay for your medical insurance premiums with some restrictions, including when you get the distribution (within 60 days of re-employment) and length of time you've been unemployed (at least 12 weeks).

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