Sunday, December 22, 2019

Year-End Retirement Tax Changes


On Friday December 20, 2019 the President signed two spending bills, averting a government shutdown at midnight.

The reason we are talking about it is that there were several tax provisions included in the bills. Many if not most are as dry as sand, but there are a few that affect retirement accounts and are worth talking about.

Increase the Age for Minimum Required Distributions (MRDs)

We know that we are presently required to begin distributions from our IRAs when we reach age 70 ½. The same requirement applies to a 401(k), unless one continues working and is not an owner. Interestingly, Roths have no MRDs until they are inherited.

In a favorable change, the minimum age for MRDs has been increased to 72.

Repeal the Age Limitation for IRA Contributions

Presently you can contribute to your 401(k) or Roth past the age of 70 ½. You cannot, however, contribute to your IRA past age 70 ½.

In another favorable change, you will now be allowed to contribute to your IRA past age 70 ½.

COMMENT: Remember that you generally need income on which you paid social security taxes (either employee FICA or self-employment tax) in order to contribute to a retirement account, including an IRA. In short, this change applies if you are working past 70 ½.

New Exception to 10% Early Distribution Penalty

Beginning in 2020 you will be allowed to withdraw up to $5,000 from your 401(k) or IRA within one year after the birth or adoption of a child without incurring the early distribution penalty.

BTW, the exception applies to each spouse, so a married couple could withdraw up to $10,000 without penalty.

And the “within one year” language means you can withdraw in 2020 for a child born in 2019.

Remember however that the distribution will still be subject to regular income tax. The exception applies only to the penalty.

Limit the Ability to Stretch an IRA

Stretching begins with someone dying. That someone had a retirement account, and the account was transferred to a younger beneficiary.

Take someone in their 80s who passes away with $2 million in an IRA. They have 4 grandkids, none older than age 24. The IRA is divided into four parts, each going to one of the grandkids. The required distribution on the IRAs used to be based on the life expectancy of someone in their 80s; it is now based on someone in their 20s. That is the concept of “stretching” an IRA.

Die after December 31, 2019 and the maximum stretch (with some exceptions, such as for a surviving spouse) is now 10 years.

Folks, Congress had to “pay” for the other breaks somehow. Here is the somehow.

Annuity Information and Options Expanded

When you get your 401(k) statement presently, it shows your account balance. If the statement is snazzy, you might also get performance information over a period of years.

In the future, your 401(k) statements will provide “lifetime income disclosure requirements.”

Great. What does that mean?

It means that the statement will show how much money you could get if you used all the money in the 401(k) account to buy an annuity.

The IRS is being given some time to figure out what the above means, and then employers will have an extra year before having to provide the infinitely-better 401(k) statements to employees and participants.

By the way …

You will never guess this, but the law change also makes it easier for employers to offer annuities inside their 401(k) plans.

Here is the shocked face:


 Expand the Small Employer Retirement Plan Tax Credit

In case you work for a small employer who does not offer a retirement plan, you might want to mention the enhanced tax credit for establishing a retirement plan.

The old credit was a flat $500. It got almost no attention, as $500 just doesn’t move the needle.

The new credit is $250 per nonhighly-compensated employee, up to $5,000.

At $5 grand, maybe it is now worth looking at.

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