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Know These 3 Facts to Avoid Paying Half Your Retirement Income to the IRS - January 10, 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 Dominion Energy (D), which is a current top ranked dividend stock.

But there is a second phase of retirement planning that gets less attention, even though it's the more enjoyable part. It's the "distribution phase," which simply means spending the assets you've worked so hard to accumulate.

Making plans for the distribution stage involves deciding where you'll live in retirement, whether you'll travel, your proposed leisure activities, and more decisions that will affect your spending during your golden years.

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.

Why does the IRS require these distributions? It's straightforward - they need to ensure they get their tax. In the event that this standard didn't exist, individuals could live off other pay and never pay tax on their retirement investment returns. So, that cash could be left to family or companions as an inheritance without the IRS getting any taxes from you.

The Most Important Things to Know About RMDs

Which types of accounts have RMDs? Qualified retirement accounts such as IRAs, 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 subsequent year after your required beginning date, you must take your RMD by December 31. Note that you do not have to take an RMD on a Roth IRA since you paid taxes prior to contributing. Other types of Roth accounts require RMDs. However, there are ways to avoid them. For example, 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? To figure out a particular RMD, you should divide your earlier year's December 31st retirement account balance by a "distribution period" factor dependent on your age.

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

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.

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