The Slott Report | Ed Slott and Company, LLC

The Slott Report

Required Minimum Distributions: Today's Slott Report Mailbag

Good morning, We have a client that retired on 1/2/2019 and he was over 70.5. He was not required to take his RMD in 2018 from his 401k since he was still working (he did take his 2018 RMD from his IRA). He rolled that 401k into his IRA this year (which was allowed in his plan since he retired in 2019), so we are trying to determine what his IRA RMD amount should be for this year. Should we calculate based on the 12/31/18 value of his 401k, or the amount that was rolled over into his IRA this year? We are thinking it would be the 12/31/18 value, but wanted to verify.

Avoiding the Early Distribution Penalty

To discourage early access to amounts invested in IRAs and company retirement plans, the IRS imposes a 10% early distribution penalty on withdrawals before age 59 ½. Even though Roth IRAs consist of after-tax contributions, the penalty could also apply to converted amounts or earnings. There are several exceptions to the 10% early distribution penalty, which means taxpayers should be familiar with these before electing a distribution. Doing so will help them possibly avoid this penalty.

Two Popular QCD Questions

In the wake of tax reform, more IRA owners are making use of the Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) strategy. This is a side effect of fewer people choosing to itemize and instead going with the larger standard deduction. If you are not itemizing, you cannot claim a tax deduction for your charitable contribution. To get a tax break for money given to charity, many savvy IRA owners are increasingly turning to the QCD. With the number of QCDs rapidly increasing, so are the questions as to how this tax break works. Here are two QCD questions we are hearing a lot these days.

Checking All the Boxes with Net Unrealized Appreciation

et Unrealized Appreciation (“NUA”) is a powerful tool that people with employer stock in company plans should be aware of. Under this tax concept, the gains on the employer stock that are distributed according to the NUA rules are subject to long term capital gains rates when sold. That could be a huge tax break for some people. Normally, distributions from a company plan are subject to ordinary income tax rates, which while dependent on income are generally going to be higher than long-term capital gains rates. Of course, there’s a catch: the basis in that stock is taxed at ordinary income tax rates in the year of the distribution. Because of this, the first step in any NUA analysis is to determine whether the company stock is highly appreciated enough to justify accelerating the taxes.

QCDs and Roth Conversions: Today's Slott Report Mailbag

Question: My sister is 72 years old and quite philanthropic. Much of her traditional IRA RMD she donates to various charities. Is it possible for her to instruct the IRA trustee to send the money directly from her IRA account to the charities? How will the charities acknowledge receipt from my sister so she can deduct the donations on her taxes? Is she still taxable on the RMD directed to the charity? Keep up the great work and thank you. Edward Answer: Hi Edward, It is great that your sister is charitably inclined. If she is already donating funds distributed from her IRA to charity, she may be a good candidate for Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCD). With a QCD the funds would be transferred directly from her IRA to the public charity of her choice.

Does the Proposed SECURE Act Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?

The House Ways and Means Committee recently passed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (the SECURE Act). This bill includes a number of measures designed to strengthen retirement savings. With regard to IRAs, the bill would treat certain taxable non-tuition fellowship and stipend payments as compensation for purposes of making a contribution and would remove the prohibition on traditional IRA contributions for those age 70 ½ and over. It would also allow penalty-free distributions for any “qualified birth or adoption distributions” and would increase the age when required minimum distributions must begin from age 70 ½ to age 72. Buried in the SECURE Act is some bad news for many retirement account owners. As a revenue raiser, the SECURE Act would essentially do away with the stretch IRA as we now know it. The proposed legislation would change the rules for defined contribution plans and IRAs upon the death of the account owner.

Double Broccoli vs. IRD

y son does not much care for broccoli. However, he knows it is for the greater good, and I insist he grow strong and healthy. As long as he lives under my roof, I could feed him broccoli for both lunch and dinner. Double broccoli is legal. But we both agree that would be excessively penal. The boy knows that if he eats broccoli for lunch, it will not be on the table for dinner. If he does not eat broccoli for lunch, then he must eat broccoli at dinner to stay in compliance with house rules. A recent court case (Schermer vs. Commissioner of Internal Revenue) had nothing to do with vegetables. Nevertheless, as repulsive as double broccoli is to my son, the Schermer case dealt with an equally unappetizing topic – legal double taxation.

IRA Distributions and the 401(k): Today's Slott Report Mailbag

First, thank you for the educational opportunity via the mailbag services. I'm 70 years old (will be 70 1/2 in July this year). I retired in 2014. I have a 401K account (consisting of highly appreciated stocks and cash) with my former employer. Although the majority of the money is pre-taxed, I do have a small portion of the money in in-plan Roth which was established in 2016. Not knowing the NUA advantage, I made several withdrawals and Roth conversions between 2015 - 2017. From reading the NUA rules, I thought I had lost the NUA privilege for good. However, when I call the saving account administrator, they said that since I have not made any withdrawals in 2018, I still qualify for the NUA treatment this year. This is conflicting information to my understanding.

Paying Attention to the Rules is Crucial

If the dictionary had pictures next to each word, the U.S. Tax Code would fit nicely next to the definition of “esoteric.” But as we all know, this complex web of rules and regulations cannot be ignored. Mistakes cost money, in the form of extra taxes, penalties, and interest. Some mistakes can be fixed, but not all. Even those that can be fixed may incur IRS user fees or, at the least, professional costs to unwind the transaction. To avoid the consequences, you must clearly understand all the applicable rules. There’s an old saying: “close only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades.” That is indeed the case when it comes to complying with the tax code. So, while there are literally hundreds of mistakes someone could make with retirement plan money, I wanted to highlight some of the more common ones (not in any particular order).

Tax Day is Here! - 2 IRA Lessons We Learned this Tax Season

Today is April 15, 2019. This is deadline for filing your 2018 federal income tax return, unless you have an extension. This tax season was the first one where we saw the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Wholesale changes to the tax code made this a more interesting and unpredictable tax season than usual. Many taxpayers had lots of uncertainty about what tax reform would mean for their 2018 federal income tax returns. As we reach the tax-filing deadline, here are two IRA lessons we learned this tax season:

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