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How to Deal With Missed Required Minimum Distributions

What happens when a beneficiary doesn’t act in a timely fashion with regard to taking Required Minimum Distributions from the inherited IRA?  In other words, what are your options if you’ve missed Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) in prior years? The Inheritance So, let’s say you inherited an IRA from your mother – this was her own IRA that she had contributed to or rolled over funds from a qualified plan at some point, and had designated you as the sole primary beneficiary.  Things get really hectic and confusing after the death of a parent, and sometimes we don’t cover all of the bases properly… and in this example, you didn’t realize that you needed to begin taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) from your inherited IRA as of December 31 of the year following the year of your mother’s death.  As of now, for example’s sake, let’s say we’re in the […]

Annuity in an IRA? Maybe, now

Forever and a day, the rule of thumb has been that you should not use IRA funds to purchase an annuity – primarily because traditional annuities had the primary feature of tax deferral. Since an IRA is already tax-deferred, it’s duplication of effort plus a not insignificant additional cost to include an annuity in an IRA.  This hasn’t stopped enthusiastic sales approaches by annuity companies – plus new features may make it a more realistic approach. Changes in the annuity landscape have made some inroads against this rule of thumb – including guaranteed living benefit riders, death benefits, and other options.  Recently the IRS made a change to its rules regarding IRAs and annuities that will likely make the use of annuities even more popular in IRAs: The use of the lesser of 25% or $125,000 of the IRA balance (also applies to 401(k) and other qualified retirement plans) for […]

When is a RMD a RMD?

I receive quite a few questions from folks looking for clarification on the rules around Required Minimum Distributions upon reaching age 70½, so I thought I’d jot down a couple of facts about them that you may find interesting. When can I take the distribution? Looking through some notes from readers I found one where it was asked (this is paraphrased for clarity): My birthdate is April 10, 1943, so I will reach age 70½ on October 10, 2013.  Do I need to wait until October 10 or after to take a distribution so that it is counted as my RMD? I responded to this question by saying that, to be safe, I suggest the reader wait until after October 10 to take the distribution. However. (there’s always a however in life, isn’t there?) I subsequently received a message from a reader (thanks, TAM!) with the following updated information: It […]

Take Your RMDs From Your Smallest IRA

Here’s a strategy that you could use to simplify your life: when you’re subject to Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) after age 70½, you have the option of taking separate RMDs from each IRA that you own OR you could take all of your RMDs from one account if you like. As long as you calculate your RMD based upon all of the IRAs that you own, you are free to take the full amount of all of your RMDs from one single account (or several accounts) if you wish.  And keep in mind that the “I” in IRA stands for Individual – so you can’t aggregate your IRAs with your husband’s, for example. By doing so, you could eliminate the smaller account(s) if you wish, thereby reducing paperwork (fewer accounts and statements).  As well, you don’t have to keep track of as many accounts for estate planning. But then again, […]

Guidance on Qualified Charitable Contributions From Your IRA For 2012

January 1, 2013 update: Passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 has extended the QCD through the end of 2013.  See this article for more details. In past tax years (through the end of 2011) there was a provision available that allowed taxpayers who were at least age 70½ years of age to make distributions from their IRAs directly to a qualified charity, bypassing the need to include the distribution as income.  The law allowed the taxpayer to use a distribution of this nature to satisfy Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) where applicable. This law expired at the end of 2011, but in years past Congress has acted very late in the year and retroactively reinstated this provision.  For more detail on how this provision (if not reinstated) can impact your taxes, see the article Charitable Contributions From Your IRA – 2012 and Beyond. Guidance For 2012 If you […]

IRS Cracking Down on IRA Rules

It seems that some of the rules the IRS has put in place with regard to IRAs have not always been watched very closely – and the IRS is stepping up efforts to resolve some of this.  According to the article in the WSJ, IRA Rules Get Trickier, an estimated $286 million in penalties and fees were uncollected for 2006 and 2007 tax years’ missed distributions, over-contributions, and the like. The title of the article is a bit misleading, because the rules are not changing or getting “trickier”, the IRS is just going to be paying closer attention to what you’re doing with your account.  This is set to begin by the end of this year, after the IRS delivers their report to the Treasury on how to go about enforcing the rules more closely. The first rule being monitored more closely is the contribution rule – for 2012, you’re […]

RMDs Don’t Have to Be Taken in Cash

But… It’s a little-known fact that distributions from an IRA  or a Qualified Retirement Plan can be taken in kind, rather than in cash.  You can in any circumstance take distribution from the account of stocks, bonds, or any investment that you own, just the same as if it were cash. The downside to this is determining valuation for the distribution.  You could value the distribution on the day of the distribution by opening price, closing price, average price, or mean between the day’s high and low prices.  Where you really get into trouble is when the security that you own is very thinly-traded, such as a small company or very infrequently-traded bonds.  These can be very hard to value on the date of distribution, and as you might recall, the value of a distribution for Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) must be valued appropriately in order to ensure that the […]

What is Meant by Half Years of Age?

If you’ve paid much attention to the rules around retirement plans (IRAs, 401(k)s, and others), you’ve probably noticed that there are a couple of rules that refer to ages that include “½”.  So what does this mean?? Well, quite literally, this means 6 months after you reach a certain age.  The two primary ages with “½” included are 59½ and 70½.  So, to be age 59½, means that you reached your 59th birthday six months prior to that date.  Likewise, to be age 70½ means that you reached age 70 six months prior to that date. These two ages are for different purposes and are (naturally) treated differently. Age 59½ The rule using age 59½ is for one of the exceptions to the penalty for early withdrawals from your IRA or 401(k) plan: once you’ve reached that age (and not before that age) you can take withdrawals from your IRA […]

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) Don’t Have to Be in Cash, But…

Image by Nerea Marta via Flickr Here’s something that I bet you’ve never run across – when you have to begin taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your IRA or Qualified Retirement Plan (QRP), most folks think you must take these distributions in cash. This is not the case, you can actually take distributions of any sort, not just RMDs, from your plan (IRA or QRP) in either cash or “in kind”.  By “in kind”, this means that you can take the actual securities (stocks, bonds, or other investments) from the account.  These distributions in kind can be used to satisfy your RMD for the year.  There can be both pros and cons to taking distributions in kind. Pros in favor of in-kind distributions You might want to consider using an in-kind distribution if your IRA or QRP is fully invested and you want to keep it that way.  Sometimes […]

Forget your RMD? Here’s What to Do

If you have an IRA that you have to take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from, you need to do this every year by the end of the year.  So what if you forget one year? Image by Sir_Iwan via Flickr The rule is that if you don’t take your RMD by the end of the year, you could be subject to a penalty of 50% of the amount of the RMD.  If you’ve realized your error before the IRS has notified you, there are a few things you can do to try to resolve the situation. The very first thing you should do is immediately withdraw the RMD in the amount that you should have in the previous year.  Contact your IRA custodian and request the distribution as soon as possible. Then, if you’ve already filed your tax return for the previous year, fill out an amended return (Form 1040X), […]

Required Minimum Distributions for IRAs and 401(k)s

This is one of those subjects that can be a bit confusing – and it’s based on the rules that apply to the different kinds of plans.  You are aware that you’re required* to begin taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) once you reach age 70½ – but did you know that specifically which account you take the RMD from has some flexibility?  Well – not just flexibility, also some rigidity… Image by -RejiK via Flickr There is a Difference Between IRA and 401(k) Starting off, we need to understand that, in the IRS’s eyes, there is a big difference between an IRA and a 401(k).  For brevity, we’re referring to all sorts of Qualified Retirement Plans, such as 403(b) or 457 plans, as 401(k) plans. You may consider the two things to be more or less equal, but if you think about it, there are considerable differences between the two […]

New Opportunities to “Roth”

Recently one of the tenets of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 came into effect, providing you with additional opportunities to set aside funds in a Roth account – not a Roth IRA, but rather a “designated Roth account”, often referred to as a Roth 401(k) or Roth 403(b).  Designated Roth accounts are also often referred to as DRACs – just to keep the acronym train rolling. The way the new law works is that, if you have a 401(k) or 403(b) (the traditional kind), you can roll over or convert some of your funds to a DRAC while the account is still active – as long as your plan is set up to allow in-plan distributions of this variety. The eligible rollover distribution (ERD) must be made: after September 27, 2010; from a non-designated Roth account in the same plan, meaning your traditional 401(k) or 403(b); because of […]

Should You Take or Postpone Your First RMD?

In the first year that you’re required to start taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your IRAs and other retirement plans, you have a decision to make:  Should you take the RMD during the first year, or should you delay it to the following year? The Rule This decision comes about because of the special rule regarding your first RMD:  In the year that you achieve age 70½, you don’t have to take the first distribution until April 1 of the following year.  For each subsequent year thereafter, you’re required to take your RMD by December 31 of the year… so this first year provides you with the opportunity to plan the income just a bit. Generally it’s a better idea to take the distribution in the first year, with just a few reasons that you might reconsider: if your income is considerably higher in the first year than it […]