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Know These 3 Facts to Avoid Paying Half Your Retirement Income to the IRS - January 27, 2020

Zacks Equity Research

Failing to withdraw a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your own or an inherited IRA by the deadline results in a big tax code penalty: 50%. That's right. If you were supposed to take out a minimum of $4,000 and (oops!) did not do so, you have the privilege of writing the IRS a check for $2,000. It's important to remember that the rules related to RMDs changed on January 1, 2020

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 AvalonBay Communities (AVB), which is a current top ranked dividend stock.

But that's just half of retirement planning. The second part, the "distribution phase," sometimes gets overlooked even though it can be more fun to think about. That's because the distribution phase is where you determine how to spend your hard-earned assets.

Planning for the distribution phase is the time where you may make decisions about where you'll want to live in retirement, whether you'll want to travel, hobbies you may pursue, and other decisions that will affect your retirement spending.

Along with those choices, you need to be mindful of the RMD, because it applies to the majority of retirement accounts. This IRS rule requires you to withdraw a specific minimum amount from any qualified accounts you have when you reach a certain age--previously it was 70 1/2, but beginning in 2020, it is 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.

Key Facts to Know About RMDs

Which types of retirement accounts have RMDs? Qualified retirement accounts like 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.

Every year after your start date, you are required to take your RMD by December 31. Remember, for Roth IRAs you do not have to take an RMD because you paid taxes before contributing. However, other types of Roth accounts do require RMDs, but you may be able to avoid them (for instance, by rolling your Roth 401(k) into your Roth IRA).

What happens if I don't take my RMD? The penalty for not taking a required minimum distribution, or not taking a large enough distribution, is a 50% tax on the amount not withdrawn in time.

How much money do I have to withdraw? To calculate a specific RMD, you must divide your prior year's December 31st retirement account balance by a "distribution period" factor based on your age.

Here's an example to give you an idea of the math: Ann is 71 and will take her first RMD in the year following the year she turns 72. Her IRA balance toward the end of the preceding year was $100,000. Her "distribution period" factor is 27.4. Dividing $100,000 by 27.4 equals $3,649.63. This is the amount Ann is required to 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.


You'll find useful, detailed steps to help you navigate both the accumulation and distribution phases of retirement planning. Get Your FREE Guide Now
 
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