Neglecting to withdraw a required minimum distribution (RMD) from an IRA by the due date brings about a painful tax code penalty: 50%. Yes, you read that right. If you are supposed to withdraw at least $4,000 and (uh oh!) did not do as such, you have to write the IRS a check for $2,000. Keep in mind that on January 1, 2020, the RMD rules were modified.
In case you're like most investors, you're probably trying to build a financial portfolio that is solid enough to guarantee a comfortable retirement. Among retirement financial planners, this is known as the "accumulation phase." In this stage, your objective is to carefully invest by selecting stocks with long-term potential for your retirement nest egg. For example, you might choose Eli Lilly (LLY), which is a current top ranked dividend stock.
There is also a second phase of retirement planning that gets less focus - despite the fact that it's the more interesting part. It's the "distribution phase," which essentially means spending the wealth you've worked hard to amass.
Preparing for the distribution stage is where you may settle on choices about where you'll live in retirement, whether you'll wish to travel, interests you may seek after, and different choices that will influence your retirement spending.
Along with these aspects, it is important to consider the RMD that applies to most retirement accounts. Essentially, the IRS requires you to withdraw a specific sum from your qualified retirement accounts once you attain a certain age. That age used to be 70 1/2 but it is now 72.
What is the point of this mandatory withdrawal by the IRS? Not surprisingly, it's to be sure that the government gets their tax money. Without the RMD requirement, individuals could live off other income and never pay tax on retirement account gains. That cash could be left to family or friends as an inheritance and the IRS would not receive taxes from it.
What You Need to Know About RMDs
What types of retirement accounts have RMDs? Qualified retirement accounts such as IRA accounts, 401(k)s, 457 plans and other tax-deferred retirement savings plans like a TSP, 403(b), TSA, SEP, or SIMPLE IRA plan require withdrawals in retirement.
When does it become necessary to begin taking distributions? Your first distribution must be taken by April 1 of the year following the calendar year that you turn 72 (for most accounts). Also, if you retire after that age, you must take your first RMD from your 401(k), profit-sharing, 403(b), or other defined contribution plan by April 1 of the year after the calendar year in which you retire.
For each year after your required starting date, you must take your RMD by December 31. Note that you don't need to take an RMD on a Roth IRA since you covered taxes before contributing. Other varieties of Roth accounts require RMDs. But, there are approaches to avoid them - for instance, you can roll your Roth 401(k) into your Roth IRA.
What will happen if I neglect to take my RMD? If you don't take an RMD, or don't take a large enough distribution, you are liable for a 50% tax on the amount that was not withdrawn in time.
How much cash do I need to withdraw? The RMD you are required to take is calculated by dividing your previous year's December 31st retirement account balance by a "distribution period" factor dependent on your age.
Example: Ann is 71 and must take her first RMD in the year following the year she reaches age 72. Her year-end IRA balance the prior year was $100,000. Her "distribution period" factor is 27.4. The result of dividing $100,000 by 27.4 is $3,649.63 - the amount that Ann must withdraw for her first RMD.
Learning about the "distribution phase" is just one aspect of preparing for your nest egg years.
To learn more about the tax implications of retirement spending - and much more about retirement planning - download our free guide: Retirement Made Easy.