Skip to Content

Income Averaging

Last Updated March 20, 2009


Also referred to as Forward Averaging

Tax treatment where lump-sum distributions from qualified plans are treated as if they were distributed averagely over a five-year or ten-year period, beginning with the year the distribution occurs.

However, the distributions are in fact distributed in one year and applicable taxes are paid on the amount for the year the distribution occurs.

Forward averaging is used to reduce the amount of taxes paid on the distribution amount, by lowering the participant’s tax rate .

The five-year income averaging was repealed under the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996 ( SBA ’96) effective for distributions that occur after 12/31/1999


Referring Cite

IRC § 402(d), IRS Form 4972

Additional Helpful Information

  • A taxpayer must file IRS Form 4972 in order to elect the income averaging tax treatment
  • In order to be eligible for the ten-year income averaging, the participant must have attained age 50 prior to January 1, 1986
  • A lump–sum distribution is defined as the distribution or payment, within a single tax year, of a plan participant's entire balance from all of the employer's qualified pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plans. All the participants accounts under the employer's qualified pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plans must be distributed in order to be a lump-sum distribution.
  • A participant can use Form 4972 only once