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Use Form 8915-E to report, repay COVID-related retirement account distributions

Have coronavirus money troubles forced you to break into some of your next eggs? COVID-19 legislation made getting to retirement money easier, but you probably will still owe tax on the early withdrawals and must deal with a new form to report your distributions (or paybacks) to the IRS at filing time.

With the holidays here and no additional immediate COVID-19 economic relief payment in sight, some folks likely have or are considering tapping their retirement accounts.

That option was made easier as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted on March 27. It provides more favorable tax treatment for withdrawals of up to $100,000 from retirement plans and IRAs, as well as allows in some circumstances for expanded workplace plan loan options, as long as the need for the money is coronavirus-related.

With the pandemic's second surge upon us, more folks are finding they're in coronavirus-related distribution (CRD) territory.

COVID stop-gap funds: My earlier post on tapping your retirement plan to cover COVID costs has more on this financial move, but here are some highlights:

  • When you take money out of a traditional retirement vehicle — typically a tax-deferred IRA or 401(k) or 403(b) workplace plan — before you reach age 59½, you usually face a 10 percent penalty. That fine is waived for 2020 withdrawals.
  • You still, however, will owe tax on any of the money you withdraw. But that tax amount can be paid over three years, beginning with the payout year. If you prefer, you still have the option to pay the tax in full with your tax return filing for the year you got the distribution.
  • If within three years you recontribute the money you withdrew to make ends meet during the pandemic, your distribution will be treated as a rollover. That means you won't owe tax on the repaid retirement funds.

New pandemic withdrawal/pay-back form: Of course, if you do take money from a retirement account to help you make it through COVID-19 financial difficulties, you'll also face some added fling tasks.

Today's Tax Form Tuesday looks at a new form connected to these coronavirus retirement account distributions.

UPDATE, Feb. 18, 2021: It is Form 8915-E, which allows you to spread out the tax owed on these retirement payouts. Note that this form has now been finalized, as have its instructions. Download it or update your tax software.

The two-page form still is just a draft, hence the notation on the excerpt below. But it, as well as the draft instructions, give us an idea of what the Internal Revenue Service will want from taxpayers in this situation at filing time.

Form 8915-E COVID-19 retirement plan distribution

One thing to note when it comes to filing your first 8915-E is how you want to pay the tax due on your retirement plan distribution.

As discussed in the highlights bullet points, you can choose to either spread the income ratably over three years or report it all in year one. Whatever tax payment method you choose on your initial tax filing, you're stuck with it. You cannot change it.

Reporting repayments, too: Also, Form 8915-E is dual purpose. If you are able to pay back any or all of your CRD within three years, you'll use this same form to let the IRS know you put the money back into your retirement plan.

Finally, when you do repay your emergency COVID-19 retirement distribution within the allowable time frame, you'll need to file yet another form.

You can recover the income tax you paid on the distribution by filing an amended tax return. You'll do that by filing Form 1040-X, which was featured earlier this year in an August Tax Form Tuesday post

You also might find these items of interest:


Coronavirus Caveat & More Information
In 2020, we're all dealing with extraordinary circumstances,
both in our daily lives and when it comes to our taxes.
The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to reduce its transmission
and protect ourselves and our families means that,
for the most part, we're focusing on just getting through these trying days.

But life as we knew it before the coronavirus will return,
along with our mundane tax matters.
Here's hoping that happens soon!
In the meantime, you can find more on the virus and its effects on our taxes
by clicking Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Taxes.






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Kay Bell

Yes, Hollie (and so sorry for misspelling your name earlier!), interesting is a much nicer description than I would use! ;) Fingers crossed for all of us! Kay

Hollie K Stewart

Thank you for responding! I am waiting it out obviously because I have to but just was getting a little worried I was printing and mailing my return in....something I have'nt done in a LONG time! This will be interesting to see how it goes for all of us.

Kay Bell

Hollie (and all others waiting for the 2020 version of 8915-E), the IRS issued a draft version yesterday, Feb. 10, so hopefully it will be ready soon. I know the filing season starts tomorrow, Feb. 12, but if you need this form, please be patient. Right now it doesn't look like it 8915-E will be able to be e-filed. So if you do file electronically, you'll also have to send along a PDF of the form. The IRS has told tax software companies that as an alternative to attaching a PDF of Form 8915- E, they/the users may instead include with their e-filed return a general dependency statement that includes all the information requested on Form 8915-E if they have issues with attaching a PDF. Wish I had better news, but they're getting there. Thanks for reading. Kay

Hollie K Stewart

Any updates on the form being available? And if we can e-file it?

Pam Baker

Gabriella, Code 1 is fine.

Kay Bell

Chris, I know it's frustrating, but the IRS should have it ready by the Feb. 12 official filing season opening date. Kay

Chris Daugherty

Hello, I took money out of my 401k due to Covid, but paid 20% taxes up front before I received my distribution. I am still waiting on this form to be finalized to complete my taxes.


I had an RMD in 2020 that I was given the option of repaying to my 401(k), which I did, also in 2020. How do I get back the taxes that were withheld from that distribution?

Carol Hansen

I haven't touched my TSP and am not required to for another 2 years. I did my taxes online but getting an error that I can't submit them till the Form 8915E is available. Why would I need to submit that form if I made no withdrawals and don't owe a pay back?

Mark Frisch

If I split the 401k withdrawal over three years, do I need to split the taxes I elected taken out over 3 years also?


So what if i tested positive with covid and took a withdrawl, Do i have to only pay taxes or will i have to also pay the 10% penalty, If i file 8915-e



gabriela contreras

Hi everyone! So for those of you that got a 1099-R my husband got funds from his under the cares act, and we got sent a code 1 on our 1099-R are we suppose to have a code 2 on their? In order to file the 8915-E? PLEASE HELP!


Where can i get the 8915-E from im trying to do my taxes

Kay Bell

Sorry, Mike, no time table yet. IRS says this is why it's not starting to process returns until Feb. 12. It's using this time to update forms, systems, etc. Kay

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