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Q -- Please give me an explanation of the new tax law that went into effect Jan. 1 about withdrawing a partial distribution from a tax shelter when you are retired. Does the Internal Revenue Service expect to receive 10 percent withholding? Or has the tax been raised to 20 percent?

-- Easton, Pa.

A -- According to the retirement experts at Fidelity Investments, there are two different levels of tax withholding. It all depends on the type of plan from which you make your distribution.

First, under the new law, all lump sum or partial distributions from employer-sponsored retirement plans that are not directly transferred to an IRA rollover account or other qualified plan are subject to an automatic 20 percent withholding, says Kathy Hopkins of Fidelity.

But the 20 percent rule only applies to distributions from employer plans. It does not apply to IRA distributions, which are subject to 10 percent withholding.

To avoid the 20 percent bite, Hopkins says the money in your employer-sponsored plan should first be switched to an IRA rollover.

You can avoid having the withholding taken out altogether from an IRA. But you must provide written instructions to the IRA custodian. And, of course, you'll pay the taxes later.

How to find value of comic books

Q -- I have several comic books from the 1950s and 1960s. Do you know of someone who might be interested in them? Where can I purchase a catalog on old comic books?

-- Buffalo
A -- Lots of comic books are valuable. And having the entire series of a valuable comic book makes the collection even more expensive. But generally, comic books printed in the 1950s and 1960s aren't that valuable.

There's a book called the Overstreet Price Guide to Comics which is available in most book stores. I'm told by people who know their comics that this is the gospel of the industry. Or you could simply amble on down to your local hobby store and ask the owner about your comics. Many places that sell baseball cards also sell comics.

They're sincerely worthless

Q -- Recently our grandfather passed away and in going through his belongings, we found two stock certificates for 25 shares each issued by a Sincere Gas and Oil Co.

The company was in Arizona and the stock was issued in 1920 in New York state. The only thing we were able to find out is that a lot of companies came and went during this time. If you could give us any information, it would be appreciated.

-- Quakertown, Pa.
A -- I can't give you much information because R.M. Smythe & Co., an expert in finding lost companies, couldn't find this one. Smythe looked into companies that were producing petroleum prior to 1940 and couldn't find Sincere.

It looks as if this stock is worthless, although it is impossible to say for sure.

You can write to John Crudele at P.O. Box 610, Lincroft, N.J. 07738.

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