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A Fresh Look at Retirement Withdrawal Rules


With a series of recent changes, and some possible future modifications, many are confused about the withdrawal rules on retirement accounts.

To start with, the SECURE (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement) Act, which became law on Dec. 20, 2019, made major changes to the required minimum distribution rules. If you reached the age of 70½ in 2019, the prior rule applies and your first RMD was due by April 1, 2020. If you reach age 70½ in 2020 or later, you must take your first RMD by April 1 of the year after you reach 72.

For defined contribution plan participants or IRA owners who die after Dec. 31, 2019 (with a delayed effective date for certain collectively bargained plans), the SECURE Act requires the entire balance of the participant's account be distributed within 10 years. There is an exception for a surviving spouse, a child who has not reached the age of majority, a disabled or chronically ill person, or a person not more than 10 years younger than the employee or IRA account owner. The new 10-year rule applies regardless of whether the participant dies before, on or after the required beginning date.

Your RMD is the minimum amount you must withdraw from your account each year. You generally have to start taking withdrawals from your IRA, Simplified Employee Pension IRA, Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees IRA or retirement plan account when you reach age 72. Roth IRAs do not require withdrawals until after the death of the owner.

The IRS also notes that:

  • You can withdraw more than the minimum required amount.
  • Your withdrawals will be included in your taxable income, except for any part that was taxed before (your basis) or that can be received tax-free (such as qualified distributions from designated Roth accounts).

Whether you have set up or inherited a retirement account, consult with a financial professional to make sure you're following the rules.

On the horizon

There is legislation in Congress to raise the age again, from 72 to 75, in graduated stages. For those who can afford to wait, that means more time to let the money grow. But it's also been noted that this may lead to higher tax bills, as more money has to be withdrawn over a shorter period of time.

Some advisers are suggesting that retirees, at some point when they find themselves temporarily in a lower tax bracket, convert their IRAs into Roth IRAs. They will have to pay taxes, but they may be lower now than later. The point is to plan well in advance and work with a qualified financial professional.

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Our firm provides the information in this e-newsletter for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles in this e-newsletter are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided "as is," with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.
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