Individual retirement account contributions can be withdrawn at any time, but earnings removed before age 59 1/2 result in a penalty unless the removal is for a qualifying reason, reports CNN. The quickest way to withdraw contributions is to request an automatic clearinghouse, or ACH, transfer.
An ACH transfer takes about three to four business days. Requests for a withdrawal to be mailed can take more than two weeks, says U.S. News & World Report. You must have proof of the amount of contributions you have made to the IRA in order for the withdrawal to be tax and penalty-free, reports Forbes.
Any amount withdrawn over the contribution amount is subject to a 10 percent penalty as well as income taxes. It's a good idea to keep good records of all contributions unless you're absolutely certain that you won't make any withdrawals from the IRA until after you turn age 59 1/2.
Withdrawals from an IRA should only be done in an emergency, since tax-free compounding is lost on the amount withdrawn, and that money cannot be replaced, advises Forbes. You can start over with future annual contributions by trying to contribute not only the maximum amount allowed but extra money for catch-up contributions.