Tax Tip Tuesday: Required Minimum Distributions

September 29, 2015

 

As the final quarter of the year approaches, older taxpayers need to keep a careful eye on their required minimum distributions (RMDs) for the year. These taxpayers face a stiff penalty if they don't withdraw enough from their retirement accounts. This blog explains the rules that apply and offers a strategy for those older taxpayers who would be interested in using the qualified charitable contribution deduction this year, should it be retroactively reinstated by Congress.

 

This is a topic we’ve discussed before, but it’s worth bringing up again because that penalty is substantial.

 

The Rules

 

These taxpayer face a choice: take the RMD or pay a big penalty. Taxpayers must start taking annual RMDs from their traditional IRAs by April 1st, following the year in which they turn 70.5 years. As for qualified plans, 5% owners are subject to the same rules that apply to IRA owners. However, for a non-5% owner, RMDs may commence by April 1st of the year following the later of the year in which the taxpayer reaches 70.5 years or retires.

 

Failure to withdraw the annual RMD could expose the taxpayer to a penalty tax equal to 50% of the excess of the amount that should have been withdrawn over the amount that actually was withdrawn. The amount of each RMD is calculated separately for each IRA. However, the RMD amounts for the separate IRAs may be totaled and the aggregated RMD amount may be paid out from any one or more of the IRA accounts.

 

The rule permitting amounts in traditional IRAs to be aggregated for RMD purposes applies only to IRAs that an individual holds as an owner. It doesn't apply to IRAs that an individual holds as a beneficiary. IRAs held by a person as a beneficiary of the same decedent may be aggregated, but can't be aggregated with amounts held in IRAs that the individual holds as the IRA owner or as the beneficiary of another decedent. And no traditional IRA can be aggregated with a qualified retirement plan account or a Roth IRA to determine payouts.  Additionally, RMDs must be calculated separately for each qualified plan account and paid separately. 

 

Strategy: Charitable Contribution Deduction

 

Many financial institutions automatically place each year's RMD in a separate non-IRA account. This procedure avoids the risk of penalties for insufficient distributions. A taxpayer who wants to take his RMD from another IRA should notify the trustees or custodians of the IRAs from which he does not want to withdraw to avoid potentially having an amount be automatically withdrawn from them.

 

For pre-2015 distributions, an annual exclusion from gross income (not to exceed $100,000) was available for otherwise taxable IRA distributions that were qualified charitable distributions.  Such distributions weren't subject to the general percentage limitations that apply for making charitable contributions since they weren't included in gross income and couldn't be claimed as a deduction on the taxpayer's return.

 

Since a qualified charitable distribution wasn't includible in gross income, it didn't increase AGI for purposes of the phaseout of any deduction, exclusion, or tax credit that is limited or lost completely when AGI reaches certain specified levels. To constitute a qualified charitable distribution, the distribution had to be made after the IRA owner attained age 70.5 years and directly by the IRA trustee to a charitable organization. Also, to be excludible from gross income, the distribution had to be otherwise entirely deductible as a charitable contribution deduction under Code Sec. 170 without regard to the regular charitable deduction percentage limits.

 

The charitable contribution deduction was a preferred strategy for taxpayers who didn't want to withdraw money from their IRAs, but had to do so anyway because of the RMD rules. The reason for this is that even though a direct distribution from an IRA to a charity was not included in the taxpayer's gross income, it was taken into account in determining the owner's RMD for the year.

 

Taxpayers who would benefit this year from taking charitable contribution deductions (if they were available) instead of RMDs, should consider deferring their RMD for 2015 until near the end of the year. Thus, if the charitable contribution deduction is revived for 2015 before the end of this year and any amount distributed directly from a taxpayer's IRA to an eligible charity during 2015 at least equals the amount of his RMD for the tax year, the taxpayer will not be required to take any other 2015 distribution from the IRA.

 

Disclaimer: The items included in the Tax Tip Tuesday Video Blog are informational only and are not meant as tax advice. Consult with your tax advisor to determine how any item applies to your situation. IRS Circular 230 disclosure: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any U.S. federal tax advise contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein

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