skip navigation
Search Help
Navigation Help

Tax Map Index

Tax Topic Index

Affordable Care Act
Tax Topic Index

Exempt Organization
Tax Topic Index

Tax Topics

About Tax Map Website
Publication 15-A

8. Pensions and Annuities(p24)

Generally, federal income tax withholding applies to the taxable part of payments made from pension, profit-sharing, stock bonus, annuity, certain deferred compensation plans, individual retirement arrangements (IRAs), and commercial annuities. Don't withhold income taxes from amounts totally exempt from tax. If part of a distribution is taxable and part is nontaxable, withhold income taxes only on the part subject to tax when known. The method and rate of withholding depends on (a) the kind of payment, (b) whether the payments are delivered outside the United States and its possessions, and (c) whether the payee is a nonresident alien individual, a nonresident alien beneficiary, or a foreign estate. Qualified distributions from Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s are nontaxable and, therefore, not subject to withholding. See Payments to Foreign Persons and Payments Outside the United States, later in this section, for special withholding rules that apply to payments outside the United States and payments to foreign persons.
The recipient of certain pension or annuity payments can choose not to have federal income tax withheld from the payments by using line 1 of Form W-4P. For an estate, the election to have no federal income tax withheld can be made by the executor or personal representative of the decedent. The estate's EIN should be entered in the area reserved for "Your social security number" on Form W-4P.
Federal income tax must be withheld from eligible rollover distributions. See Eligible Rollover Distribution—20% Withholding, later in this section.

Federal Income Tax Withholding(p24)


Periodic Payments(p24)

Periodic payments are those made in installments at regular intervals over a period of more than 1 year. They may be paid annually, quarterly, monthly, etc. Withholding from periodic payments of a pension or annuity is figured in the same manner as withholding from wages.
If the recipient wants income tax withheld, he or she must designate the number of withholding allowances on Form W-4P, line 2, and can designate an additional amount to be withheld on line 3. If the recipient doesn't want any federal income tax withheld from his or her periodic payments, he or she can check the box on Form W-4P, line 1, and submit the form to you. If the recipient doesn't submit Form W-4P, you must withhold on periodic payments as if the recipient were married claiming three withholding allowances. Generally, this means that tax will be withheld if the pension or annuity is at least $1,990 a month.
If you receive a Form W-4P that doesn't contain the recipient's correct taxpayer identification number (TIN), you must withhold as if the recipient were single claiming zero withholding allowances even if the recipient attempts to choose not to have income tax withheld.
There are some kinds of periodic payments for which the recipient can't use Form W-4P because they are already defined as wages subject to federal income tax withholding. These include retirement pay for service in the U.S. Armed Forces and payments from certain nonqualified deferred compensation plans and deferred compensation plans of exempt organizations described in section 457.
The recipient's Form W-4P stays in effect until he or she changes or revokes it. You must notify recipients each year of their right to choose not to have federal income tax withheld or to change their previous choice.

Nonperiodic Payments—10% Withholding(p24)

You must withhold at a flat 10% rate from nonperiodic payments (but see Eligible Rollover Distribution—20% Withholding next) unless the recipient chooses not to have income tax withheld (if permitted). Distributions from an IRA that are payable on demand are treated as nonperiodic payments. A recipient can choose not to have income tax withheld from a nonperiodic payment by submitting Form W-4P (containing his or her correct TIN) and checking the box on line 1. Generally, the choice not to have federal income tax withheld will apply to any later payment from the same plan. A recipient can't use line 2 for nonperiodic payments, but he or she may use line 3 to specify an additional amount that he or she wants withheld.
If a recipient submits a Form W-4P that doesn't contain his or her correct TIN, you can't honor his or her request not to have income tax withheld and you must withhold 10% of the payment for federal income tax.

Eligible Rollover Distribution—20% Withholding(p24)

Distributions from eligible retirement plans (other than IRAs), such as qualified plans, 401(k) plans, section 457(b) plans maintained by a governmental employer, section 403(a) annuity plans or section 403(b) tax-sheltered annuities that are eligible to be rolled over tax free to an IRA or another eligible retirement plan, are subject to a flat 20% withholding rate. The 20% withholding rate is required and a recipient can't choose to have less federal income tax withheld from eligible rollover distributions. However, you shouldn't withhold federal income tax if the entire distribution is transferred in a direct rollover to a traditional IRA or another eligible retirement plan.


Distributions that are (a) required minimum distributions, (b) one of a specified series of equal payments, or (c) qualifying "hardship" distributions aren't "eligible rollover distributions" and aren't subject to the mandatory 20% federal income tax withholding. See Pub. 505 for details. Also, see Nonperiodic Payments—10% Withholding above.

Payments to Foreign Persons and Payments Outside the United States(p25)

Unless the recipient is a nonresident alien, withholding in the manner described earlier is required on any periodic or nonperiodic payments that are delivered outside the United States and its possessions. A recipient can't choose not to have federal income tax withheld.
In the absence of a treaty exemption, nonresident aliens, nonresident alien beneficiaries, and foreign estates generally are subject to a 30% withholding tax under section 1441 on the taxable portion of a periodic or nonperiodic pension or annuity payment that is from U.S. sources. However, many tax treaties provide that private pensions and annuities are exempt from withholding and tax. Also, payments from certain pension plans are exempt from withholding even if no tax treaty applies. See Pub. 515 and Pub. 519. A foreign person should submit Form W-8BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting (Individuals), to you before receiving any payments. The Form W-8BEN must contain the foreign person's TIN to support a withholding exemption. A TIN for this purpose means a U.S. TIN (SSN or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN)). However, for a claim based on a tax treaty, a foreign TIN may be substituted for a U.S. TIN.
Special rules may apply to nonresident aliens who relinquished U.S. citizenship or ceased to be long-term residents of the United States after June 16, 2008. For more information, see section 5 of Notice 2009-85, 2009-45 I.R.B. 598, available at Also see Form W-8CE, Notice of Expatriation and Waiver of Treaty Benefits.

Statement of Income Tax Withheld(p25)

By January 31 of the next year, you must furnish a statement on Form 1099-R, Distributions From Retirement Plans, Insurance Contracts, etc., showing the total amount of the recipient's pension or annuity payments and the total federal income tax you withheld during the prior year. Report income tax withheld on Form 945, Annual Return of Withheld Federal Income Tax, not on Forms 941 or Form 944.
If the recipient is a foreign person who has provided you with Form W-8BEN, you instead must furnish a statement to the recipient on Form 1042-S, Foreign Person's U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding, by March 15 for the prior year. Report federal income tax withheld on Form 1042, Annual Withholding Tax Return for U.S. Source Income of Foreign Persons.