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2016 Year in Review for Retirement Accounts

By Sarah Brenner, JD
IRA Analyst
Follow Us on Twitter: @theslottreport
 

As 2016 draws to a close, and we get ready to ring in the new year, it’s a great time to look back. Here is a roundup of six of the big stories in the world of retirement accounts for 2016.

1.Qualified Charitable Distributions Become Permanent

Qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) made headlines when Congress brought them back from the dead in late 2015. A QCD allows an IRA owner or beneficiary who is age 70 ½ or over to transfer up to $100,000 annually tax-free from their IRA to a charity. In 2016, QCDs continued to be big news because this was the first year you could count on them as permanent planning tool early in the year.

2.DOL Fiduciary Rule Uncertainty

On April 6, 2016 the Department of Labor released the long awaited final fiduciary rule to both strong praise and loud criticism. The retirement account world began to prepare for compliance. However, in November the results of presidential election made the fate of the fiduciary rule uncertain. What Congress and the incoming Trump administration will do remains a big question mark. This 2016 retirement account story will continue into 2017.

3.Stretch IRA Still With Us

In 2016 there were many reports that the stretch IRA could be in real jeopardy. A proposal that would limit the availability of the stretch for beneficiaries of larger retirement accounts, with (limited) exceptions was on the table in Congress. As of this writing, the demise of the stretch IRA has not come to pass and this popular strategy remains with us. Keep an eye on this story. It is another one that will continue into 2017.

4.IRS Finalizes Favorable Rules for Roth 401(k) Distributions

On May 18, 2016, the IRS issued final regulations on how pretax amounts must be allocated when distributions are taken from Roth 401(k). While most distributions from your Roth 401(k) are tax-free, the final regulations provide you with certainty that favorable rules for allocating any pretax amounts disbursed from your Roth 401(k) are available.

5.Self-Certification – The New Fix for Late Rollovers

On August 24, 2016, the IRS released Revenue Procedure 2016-47, which provides a new and cost-free way for you to complete a late 60-day rollover of retirement funds using a self-certification procedure. The new self-certification procedure is available for missed rollover deadlines for both IRAs, including Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs and SIMPLE IRAs, and company plans. It is a game changer because it will spare many taxpayers from having to go through the costly and time-consuming process applying for a Private Letter Ruling to get late rollover relief.

6.DOL Issues Final Regulations for State-Run IRAs

Is your state getting into the IRA business? More states may be. The Department of Labor (DOL) removed a major hurdle on August 25, 2016, when it issued final regulations for state-run IRA programs. The final regulations provide states with a safe harbor from ERISA for programs that require employers to establish payroll-deduction IRAs for employees. These programs are an effort on the part of the states, in absence of any action on the federal level, to increase the low savings rate among workers who do not have access to a plan with their employer.

 

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