Sunday, November 17, 2019

New Life Expectancy Tables For Your Retirement Account

On November 7, 2019 the IRS issued Proposed Regulations revising life expectancy tables used to calculate minimum required distributions from retirement plans, such as IRAs.

That strikes me as a good thing. The tables have not been revised since 2002.

There are three tables that one might use, depending upon one’s situation. Let’s go over them:
The Uniform Lifetime Table
This is the old reliable and the one most of us are likely to use.
 Joint Life and Last Survivor Expectancy Table
This is more specialized. This table is for a married couple where the age difference between the spouses is greater than 10 years.
The Single Life Expectancy Table
Do not be confused: this table has nothing to do with someone being single. This is the table for inherited retirement accounts.

Let’s take a look at a five-year period for the Uniform Lifetime Table:


If you had a million dollars in the account, the difference in your required minimum distribution at age 71 would be $2,275.

It is not overwhelming, but let’s remember that the difference is for every remaining year of one’s life.

As an aside, I recently came across an interesting statistic. Did you know that 4 out of 5 Americans receiving retirement distributions are taking more than the minimum amount? For those – the vast majority of recipients – this revision to the life expectancy tables will have no impact.

Let’s spend a moment talking about the third table - the Single Life Expectancy Table. You may know this topic as a “stretch” IRA.

A stretch IRA is not a unique or different kind of IRA. All it means is that the owner died, and the account has passed to a beneficiary. Since minimum distributions are based on life expectancy, this raises an interesting question: whose life expectancy?
COMMENT: There is a difference on whether a spouse or a non-spouse inherits. It also matters whether the decedent reached age 70 ½ or not. It is a thicket of rules and exceptions. For the following discussion, let us presume a non-spouse inherits and the decedent was over age 70 ½.
An easy way to solve this issue would be to continue the same life expectancy table as the original owner of the account. The problem here is that – if the beneficiary is young enough – one would run out of table.

So let’s reset the table. We will use the beneficiary’s life expectancy.

And there you have the Single Life Expectancy Table.

As well as the opportunity for a stretch. How? By using someone much younger than the deceased. Grandkids, for example.

Say that a 35-year old inherits an account. What is the difference between the old and new life expectancy tables?

                                Old             48.5
                                New            50.5

Hey, it’s better than nothing and – again – it repeats every year.

There is an odd thing about using this table, if you have ever worked with a stretch IRA. For a regular IRA – e.g., you taking distributions from your own IRA – you look at the table to get a factor for your age in the distribution year. You then divide that factor into the December 31 IRA balance for the year preceding the distribution year to arrive at the required minimum amount.

Point is: you look at the table every year.

The stretch does not do that.

You look at the table one time. Say you inherit at age 34.  Your required minimum distribution begins the following year (I am making an assumption here, but let’s roll with it), when you are age 35. The factor is 48.5. When you are age 36, you subtract one from the factor (48.5 – 1.0 = 47.5) and use that new number for purposes of the calculation. The following year you again subtract one (47.5 – 1.0 = 46.5), and so on.

Under the Proposed Regulation you are to refer to the (new) Single Life Expectancy Table for that first year, take the new factor and then subtract as many “ones” as necessary to get to the beneficiary’s current age. It is confusing, methinks.

There are public comment procedures for Proposed Regulations, so there is a possibility the IRS will change something before the Regulations go final. Final will be year 2021.

So for 2020 we will use the existing tables, and for 2021 we will be using the new tables.

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