By Ian Berger, JD
The part of the new IRS SECURE Act regulations causing the most reaction is the one requiring annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) for some IRA or workplace plan beneficiaries subject to the 10-year payment rule.
Under the SECURE Act, IRA or plan beneficiaries who are not “eligible designated beneficiaries” (EDBs) are subject to the 10-year rule. (EDBs are surviving spouses; children of the IRA owner or plan participant who are under age 21; disabled or chronically ill individuals; and anyone not more than 10 years younger than the owner/participant.) Non-EDBs must empty the IRA or plan account by the end of the 10th year following the year the owner or participant died. On the other hand, EDBs are allowed to stretch required minimum distributions (RMDs) over their life expectancy.
Prior to the issuance of the new regulations, most commentators believed the 10-year rule never required annual RMDs for years 1-9 of the 10-year period. In the past, the IRS has given out mixed signals on this issue. However, in the new regulations, the IRS very clearly says that certain non-EDBs are subject to both the 10-year payment rule and a requirement to take annual RMDs in years 1-9 of that 10-year period.
Only non-EDBs who inherit on or after the owner or participant’s required beginning date (RBD) are subject to the annual RMD requirement. Non-EDBs who inherit before the decedent’s RBD can take as little or as much as they want over the 10-year period. But the rule requiring distribution of the entire account by the end of the 10-year period still applies.
So, what is the RBD? It’s the date by which the first RMD is due. For an IRA owner born before July 1, 1949, it’s April 1 of the year following the year she turned age 70 ½. For an IRA owner born on or after July 1, 1949, it’s April 1 of the year following the year she turns 72. For plan participants who don’t own more than 5% of the company sponsoring the plan, the RBD can be delayed until April 1 of the year following the year of retirement.
What if you are a non-EDB who inherited in 2020 after the owner/participant’s RBD and you didn’t receive your 2021 RMD (because you didn’t know it was required)? Should you take the missed RMD now? Keep in mind it’s possible that 2021 annual RMDs in this situation were not required based on the fact the new regulations technically weren’t effective last year. (This is a murky legal question.) It’s also possible the IRS will issue relief for missed 2021 RMDs later this year. Holding off taking your 10-year-rule 2021 RMD until later in 2022 won’t subject you to any higher penalty than if you take it now. So, if you are in the affected category of non-EDBs, you may want to delay your “missed” 2021 RMD until later in 2022 when we may know more. Talk this over with a knowledgeable financial advisor.
Meanwhile, we’ll let you know about any further guidance from the IRS on this issue.