There are exceptions to the early withdrawal penalty for qualified retirement pension plans. Four exceptions to the 10 percent additional tax are:
- Made as part of a series of substantially equal periodic payments (made at least annually) for your life (or life expectancy) or the joint lives (or joint life expectancies) of you and your designated beneficiary. If from a qualified retirement plan, the payments must begin after separation from service.
- Made because you are totally and permanently disabled.
- Made on or after the death of the plan participant or contract holder.
- Made from a qualified retirement pension plan after your separation from service in or after the year you reached age 55.
You can find all the exceptions starting on page 28 of IRS Publication 575.