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Language and Boolean Logic

  1. Apr 15, 2010 #1
    The following is from regulations regarding setting up a Roth IRA

    "Withdrawal of earnings prior to five years and age 59½ are subject to penalty and income tax."

    I read that to mean:
    Withdrawal of earnings (prior to five years) AND (prior to age 59½) are subject to penalty and income tax.

    If I withdraw the earnings either prior to five years OR prior to age 59½, but not both, are they exempt from income tax?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 15, 2010 #2


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    Boolean AND/OR confusion aside, that sentence doesn't make sense to me. "Withdrawal of earnings prior to five years..." Five years of what? Retirement? It's not clear what they mean.

    (As an aside: I'm fairly comfortable with math, but put a $ in front of the numbers and my brain flatlines!)
  4. Apr 15, 2010 #3
    Checking on the IRS's website I found the following clarifications.
    1. The five years is from Jan 1 of the year that the first contribution is made.
    2. I found no statement similar to the above. Instead they provide a flowchart of all the possibilities showing whether taxes or penalties must be paid. In either case, prior to 5 years OR prior to age 59½ taxes and penalties apply.

    It is amazing how easy it is for language to misrepresent the meaning. Could this be because OR in common usage usaually means either/or and AND often means and/or?
  5. Apr 15, 2010 #4
    But isn't putting $ in front of a number signify that it is HEX :biggrin:

  6. Apr 15, 2010 #5
    The Roth IRA account has to be open for at least 5 years.
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