Substantially equal periodic payments
Substantially equal periodic payments (SEPP) are one of the exceptions in the United States IRS Code that allows receiving payments without the 10% early distribution penalty from a retirement plan or deferred annuity before the usual 591⁄2 age restriction under certain circumstances. The rules for SEPPs are set out in IRS code section 72(t) (for retirement plans) and 72(q) (for annuities), and allow for three methods of calculating the allowed withdrawal amount.
- Required minimum distribution method, based on the life expectancy of the account owner (or the joint life of the owner and his/her beneficiary) using the IRS tables for required minimum distributions.
- Fixed amortization method over the life expectancy of the owner.
- Fixed annuity method using an annuity factor from a reasonable mortality table.
The interest rate that can be used in the latter two calculations has been fixed at one not more than 120% of the Applicable Federal Mid Term rate (AFR) for either of the two months prior to the calculation. SEPP payments must continue for the longer of five years or until the account owner reaches 591⁄2. The payments cannot be changed beyond a one time allowed change from one of the latter two calculation methods to the first or all of the payments received will be retroactively taxable and penalized.
If the retirement account owner withdraws more or less than the amount calculated under the SEPP formula, the 10% early distribution penalty that was waived would apply in all instances (where it was waived under the SEPP program), and interest on those amounts will also apply.
Note that the SEPP rule applies to the 10% early distribution penalty only, and does not affect the treatment of distributions as income. In particular, Roth IRA distributions taken under the SEPP rule will be taxed as income a second time --- a substantial penalty.