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Know These 3 Facts to Avoid Paying Half Your Retirement Income to the IRS - July 28, 2020

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 Entergy (ETR), 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 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.

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.

Key Facts 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 do I have to start taking distributions? For most accounts, you must take your first distribution by April 1 of the year following the calendar year in which you reach age 72. 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 following 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 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 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.


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