How Does the Exclusion Amount to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation Work?

The Proposed Exclusion Amount to the Death of the Stretch IRA Complicates Planning.

The Exclusions for the Death of the Stretch IRA

This post is the eighth in a series about the Death of the Stretch IRA.  If you’re a new visitor to my blog, this post might not make much sense to you unless you back up and read the preceding posts related this one.  Those posts spell out the details of the proposed legislation that will cost your family a lot of money.  This post discusses the proposed exclusion amount to the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation and explains how it will be applied to each IRA owner.

When I wrote my book, The Ultimate Retirement and Estate Plan for Your Million-Dollar IRA, I accurately predicted most of what the Senate Finance Committee is proposing to make law.  The one point that I did not predict, though, was that each IRA owner would be permitted to exclude a portion of their retirement plans from the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation.  I don’t know if it was the Committee’s attempt to make the legislation seem not as bad as it is, but it certainly makes things more complicated for individuals who are trying to design an effective estate plan.  So I want to explain how the exclusion amount works.

The Exclusion Amount Applies to All Retirement Accounts

The whole idea behind the exclusion is that a certain portion of your IRAs and retirement plans would be protected from the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation.  Most people would think, “That’s great!  I’m going to apply my exclusion to my Roth IRA so that my beneficiaries can continue to enjoy the tax-free growth for the rest of their lifetimes.”  Well, that’s not how the exclusion amount works.  It has to be prorated between all of your retirement accounts.  Let’s say that you die with $2 million in retirement plans – $1.5 million in your 401(k), $400,000 in a Roth IRA, and $100,000 in a Traditional IRA.  Here’s how the exclusion amount would work.  Your 401(k) accounts are 75 percent of your retirement plans, so 75 percent of the exclusion amount (or $337,500) of that would apply to that account.  Your Roth IRA accounts are 20 percent, so  20 percent of the exclusion amount (or $90,000) would apply to that account.  Your Traditional IRA accounts are 5 percent of your retirement plans, so 5 percent of the exclusion amount (or $22,500) would apply to it.  The bottom line is that the exclusion amount has to be applied to all of your retirement accounts, both Traditional and Roth.

The Exclusion Amount Applies to All Non-Exempt Beneficiaries

I’m going to emphasize one subtle but very important point about the Death of the Stretch IRA and your beneficiaries.  The legislation did provide that some beneficiaries are completely exempt from the new tax rules.  For most of you, the most important exempt beneficiary is your spouse.  You can leave $10 million in retirement plans to your spouse (although I’d prefer that you’d add disclaimer provisions for your children!), and he/she can still stretch them over the rest of his/her life.  Disabled and chronically ill beneficiaries are exempt, as are minor children.   Charities and charitable trusts are also considered exempt beneficiaries.  Now that you know who is considered an exempt beneficiary, I want to talk about the beneficiaries who aren’t exempt.  For most of you, it’s your adult children.  If you have adult children who aren’t disabled or chronically ill, and you name them as beneficiaries on your retirement plans, the exclusion also has to be prorated between them.  You may have preferred to leave the amount that was excluded from your Roth account – in the above example, $90,000 – to the child who would receive the most tax benefit from it, but that’s not how the exclusion amount works.  If you have two children and they are named as equal beneficiaries, then each will receive (and can continue to stretch) 50 percent of the excluded amount– or $45,000.  Both children would also receive $155,000 from the Roth that can’t be stretched, and the account would have to be withdrawn within five years.  Granted, qualified withdrawals from Roth accounts aren’t taxed, but the greater cost is that the bulk of their Roth inheritance will no longer be permitted to grow tax-free.

Planning Opportunities Created by the Exclusion Amount

Oddly enough, there are certain planning opportunities created by the exclusion amount that is proposed in the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation.  If you have a beneficiary who is exempt, then you should remember how the exclusion works.  Suppose that you die with retirement plans that are worth $500,000 and you left 10 percent (or $50,000) to charity and the remainder to your child.  In that case, none of your retirement plans would be subject to the Death of the Stretch IRA rules.  That’s because the charity is an exempt beneficiary, so the $50,000 it received is exempt from the rules.  And the remaining $450,000 that went to your child is within the permitted exclusion amount, so her inheritance can be stretched over her lifetime.

I predict that the proposed exclusion amount will create headaches for financial advisors across the country.  Just imagine the chaos!  Where your beneficiary might have inherited one IRA, now they’ll inherit two – and each will be subject to a different set of rules.  How can they call this “simplified”?

Please stop back soon for my next post on this important legislation!

-Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

 

P.S. Did you miss a video blog post?  Here are the past video blog posts in this video series.

Will New Rules for Inherited IRAs Mean the Death of the Stretch IRA?

Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

How will your Required Minimum Distributions Work After the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

Can a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?

What Should You Be Doing Now to Protect your Heirs from the Death of the Stretch IRA?

How Does The New DOL Fiduciary Rule Affect You?

Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?

Why is the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation likely to pass?

What is the likelihood that the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation will pass?

Why is The Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation Likely to Pass by James Lange

This post is the seventh in a series about the Death of the Stretch IRA. If you’re a new visitor to my blog, this post might not make much sense to you unless you back up and read the preceding posts related this one. Those posts spell out the details of the proposed legislation that will cost your family a lot of money. This post discusses the reasons I believe it is very likely that this legislation will pass.

To be fair, my critics point out that this idea has been brought up many times before, but hasn’t yet passed. I can’t argue with them on that point. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus was the first major proponent of the idea, proposing the elimination of the Stretch IRA as part of the Highway Investment Job Creation and Economic Growth Act of 2012. The American Bar Association followed suit in 2013, recommending their elimination as part of a tax simplification proposal to the Senate and House tax-writing committees. And President Obama was very much behind the idea, including it in every one of his budget proposals since 2013. Even though it’s been proposed over and over again, it’s never passed. So why am I saying it is likely to pass, and soon?

The Politics of the Death of the Stretch IRA

When the idea was first proposed to the Senate by Max Baucus in 2012, it was defeated by an uncomfortably close margin of only 51-49. That vote, interestingly, was mostly along political party lines. President Obama presented the idea in every one of his budget proposals since 2013, but couldn’t get it past a House of Representatives that was controlled by the Republican Party. But on September 21, 2016, the Senate Committee on Finance voted 26-0 to effectively kill the Stretch IRA. And what was especially interesting about that vote was that it had unanimous bipartisan support.

So why isn’t it the law now? Well, think back to what it was going on in the fall of 2016. The nation was locked in a tumultuous political battle over who would be our next President, and Congress was busy dealing with allegations of malfeasance by both candidates. And before we knew it, the election came and went, and then the 114th United States Congress quietly adjourned without ever having time to consider the Finance Committee’s recommendation.

Is the Stretch IRA safe?

Does this mean, then, that the possibility of the Death of the Stretch IRA is overblown? I don’t think so, and here’s why. With the exception of Senators Schumer and Coats, all of the veteran members Finance Committee of the 114th Congress received the same Committee assignment after the election last fall. That means that 24 out of the 26 individuals who voted to recommend this legislation to the 114th session of Congress are in a position to make the same recommendation to the new Congress. And do you really believe that, considering the current political climate, it’s likely that they’re going to change their minds?

Trump and the Death of the Stretch IRA

What about the fact that we’ve got a new (and very rich) President? Won’t he protect his own ass(ets) by fighting the Death of the Stretch IRA? With the exception of an Executive Order, the President doesn’t create laws. He signs (or vetoes) legislation that has been voted on by Congress. However, President Trump has made several campaign promises that, if he has any hope of making good on them, will require a lot of money. The nation is already dangerously in debt, so borrowing to finance them could mean political suicide for him. However, the President has also promised to simplify the nation’s overly complicated tax code. It seems quite possible to me that, in exchange for getting Congress’ support on a major tax reform issue, he might have to compromise and allow the Death of the Stretch IRA legislation to be a part of the overhaul. It’s all in the art of the deal!

Please stop back soon for my next post on this important legislation!

Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

What Are the Exceptions to the Death of the Stretch IRA Legislation?

Death of the Stretch IRA Who is Excluded From the Five Year Rule James Lange IRA Expert

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that the Senate Finance committee has voted 26 0 to eliminate the Stretch IRA. The idea makes sense – the billions of dollars they’d make in tax revenue would help the new administration pay for promises made on the campaign trail. I believe that it will pass, and so I wanted to spend a little bit of time today and discuss the exceptions to the proposed new Inherited IRA rules.

If there is any good news in this mess that Congress has dumped on us, it is the fact that they have protected your spouse from the new rules affecting Inherited IRAs. So everything that you read in Retire Secure! about taking minimum distributions from your spouse’s retirement plans still holds true. If you die and leave all of your IRA money to your spouse, she can still stretch it over the course of her lifetime. But don’t get too comfortable, because the new rules have a catch. Even though she can still stretch your IRA, it might not be the best idea to leave your spouse all of your money – a concept that is so complicated that I’ll have to devote an entire future post to it.

Some beneficiaries can still benefit from Stretch IRAs

Disabled and chronically ill individuals are excluded from the new rules, as are beneficiaries who are not more than ten years younger than you – such as siblings or an unmarried partner. The privilege isn’t extended to their beneficiaries. Once they die, their own beneficiaries will have to pay taxes according to the new rules. Minors are also excluded from the five year rule, but only while they are minors. Once they reach the age of majority – which varies depending on which state they live in – they have to pay accelerated taxes according to the new rules. This could open up a Pandora’s Box of problems during their college years, because the distributions they’d have to take from the inherited IRA could make them ineligible for any type of financial aid!

Charities and Charitable Remainder Unitrusts (CRUTS) are also excluded from the five year rule. This exception can provide some planning opportunities for the right individuals, but it’s also a topic so complicated that I’m going to devote an entire future blog post to it as well.

Current proposal about Stretch IRAs offers some protection with an exclusion

The other interesting news is that the proposed new rules give each IRA owner a $450,000 exclusion – meaning that their beneficiaries can exclude (and therefore, continue to stretch) a certain portion of the account. Granted, they may change this amount, but as it stands now, you have nothing to worry about if the total IRA balance in your family is less than $450,000. If you have a $1 million IRA, your beneficiaries will be able to stretch $450,000 but will have to pay accelerated taxes on $550,000. The exclusion has to be prorated between all of your retirement accounts – including Roths. And while distributions from Roth accounts aren’t taxable, the greater damage is that your beneficiaries will lose the benefit of the future tax free growth. You can’t even choose which of your beneficiaries gets to use the exclusion – it’s prorated between your beneficiaries!

These new rules for Inherited IRAs will be an administrative headache for all of your beneficiaries. The exceptions to the rules, however, provide planning opportunities that if possible, you should take advantage of while both you and your spouse are alive. I encourage you to watch the short video attached to this post, and stop back soon to learn more about the things you can do now to minimize the effects of this devastating legislation.

Jim

For more information on this topic, please visit our Death of the Stretch IRA resource.

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New Social Security Rule Will Hurt Women by Eliminating Benefits Options

James Lange, CPA/Attorney, Advises Married Couples Ages 62-70 to Apply and Suspend NOW. After April 29, 2016, it will be too late!

In early November, President Obama signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 into law and the repercussions are devastating to the married women of our country.

Pittsburgh – December 16, 2015Lange Financial Group, James Lange, Pittsburgh, Social SecurityMarried women, statistically the widows of the future, will pay a high price due to the changes that the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 has made to Social Security. Pittsburgh attorney and CPA James Lange takes action by releasing audio and video presentations as well as transcripts and a report that will help couples ages 62-70 navigate this new rule and protect their benefits while they still can!

SOCIAL SECURITY SURVIVOR BENEFITS ARE CRITICAL TO WOMEN

The financial well-being of widows is often dependent upon the choices that are made while their spouses are still alive. Spousal and survivor Social Security benefit choices can mean the difference between living comfortably in retirement and falling under the poverty line for women whose spouses leave them behind. Widows are commonly younger than their deceased husbands and the Social Security benefits they have earned, especially in the Boomer generation, are commonly less than that of their deceased husbands. This means that a widow will depend on collecting survivor benefits, often for many years, based on the benefits to which their deceased spouses were entitled.

“One of the best things a husband can do to protect his wife in widowhood is to maximize his own Social Security benefits. One technique that we use with our clients is apply & suspend.” James Lange of Pittsburgh-based, Lange Financial Group, LLC comments. “The law prior to the Bipartisan Act allowed the husband to apply for, and then suspend collection of his benefits, while allowing his wife to collect a spousal benefit. It was a win-win for our clients!”

This technique was used strategically to maximize the husband’s and wife’s long-term benefits. That, unfortunately, is coming to an end, with the exception of certain couples who take the appropriate action between now and April 29, 2016. For many couples, the income stream from spousal benefits in the previously allowed apply and suspend technique made it possible (or at least more palatable) for the husband to wait until age 70 to collect Social Security, thus maximizing their benefits.

“This new law cuts off that income stream, making it if not impossible, at least more difficult, for husbands to choose to delay collection of their benefits.” Lange warns, “Unfortunately, it is the widows of these husbands who cannot maximize their Social Security benefits who will be left in reduced circumstances for the rest of their lives.”

JIM LANGE’S ADVICE

DO NOT WAIT. Congress has eliminated one of the best Social Security maximization strategies. Fortunately, some recipients may be grandfathered already and others could be grandfathered if they act between now and April 29, 2016. Others will have to make do with the new laws. In either case, now is the time to review your options. We have posted a one hour audio with a written transcript explaining the old law, the new law and the transition rules. Readers can go to www.paytaxeslater.com to access this audio and transcript.

ABOUT JAMES LANGE Jim Lange, Pittsburgh, Social Security

James Lange, CPA/Attorney is a nationally-known Roth IRA and retirement plan distribution expert. He’s also the best-selling author of three editions of Retire Secure! and The Roth Revolution: Pay Taxes Once and Never Again. He hosts a bi-weekly financial radio show, The Lange Money Hour, where he has welcomed numerous guests over the years including top experts in the fields of Social Security, IRAs, and investments.

With over 30 years of experience, Jim and his team have drafted over 2,000 wills and trusts with a focus on flexibility and meeting the unique needs of each client.

Jim’s recommendations have appeared 35 times in The Wall Street Journal, 23 times in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The New York Times, Newsweek, Money magazine, Smart Money and Reader’s Digest. His articles have appeared in The Journal of Retirement Planning, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser (AICPA), and other top publications. Most recently he has had two peer-reviewed articles published on Social Security maximization in the prestigious Trusts & Estates magazine.

To learn more, or sign up for their newsletter, visit www.paytaxeslater.com.

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