Required Minimum Distributions: The Government Wants Their Money!

Required Minimum Distributions, The Government Wants Their Money, James Lange - The Roth Revolution BlogOver the years, I’ve met with many clients who have managed to accumulate small fortunes over the course of their working careers – even though their incomes were never even high enough to put them in the top two or three tax brackets. I call these clients my “savers.” These individuals seem to share one trait – mainly that they simply don’t feel the need to spend money if they don’t have to. Instead, they set the money aside for the times when they absolutely must spend and, more often than not, they spend far less than what they could.

It’s these clients who seem to suffer the greatest shock when they turn 70 ½ and are required to start withdrawing money from their qualified retirement plans. They object, “But I don’t need the money! I just want to leave it sit there in case I need it some day!” And I have to tell them that it doesn’t matter if they need the money or not. The money that they squirreled away in their retirement plans for a rainy day has grown all these years without being taxed, and now the government wants their tax money!

There’s no avoiding the Required Minimum Distribution rules on traditional retirement plans. Failure to take a distribution when required, in fact, will cost you a penaly tax of 50% on the amount not withdrawn. Individuals who hate the RMD rules and have a spiteful streak might enjoy an interesting (and legal) tip presented in Chapter 5 that allows them to take advantage of the withholdings on the distribution to wait until the very last minute to pay the IRS their due, while also avoiding a late payment penalty. They can also learn of a possible way to completely avoid tax on their Required Minimum Distributions – and also a general increase in their tax bracket – by sending their RMD direct to a charity. I encourage everyone, though, to read Chapter 5 so that you have a good understanding of the RMD rules. Later chapters address proposed legislative changes to the rules that may not strike you as being significant, and unless you have a good understanding of how they currently work.

My next post will talk about rolling your old retirement plan to an IRA. There have been a lot of changes in the laws about this, so I hope you will stop back to get a summary of what you can expect.

Happy Reading!

Jim

Jim Lange A nationally recognized IRA, Roth IRA conversion, and 401(k) expert, he is a regular speaker to both consumers and professional organizations. Jim is the creator of the Lange Cascading Beneficiary Plan™, a benchmark in retirement planning with the flexibility and control it offers the surviving spouse, and the founder of The Roth IRA Institute, created to train and educate financial advisors.

Jim’s strategies have been endorsed by The Wall Street Journal (33 times), Newsweek, Money Magazine, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, Bottom Line, and Kiplinger’s. His articles have appeared in Bottom Line, Trusts and Estates Magazine, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser, Journal of Retirement Planning, and The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine.

Jim is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), endorsed by Charles Schwab, Larry King, Ed Slott, Jane Bryant Quinn, Roger Ibbotson and The Roth Revolution, Pay Taxes Once and Never Again endorsed by Ed Slott, Natalie Choate and Bob Keebler.

If you’d like to be reminded as to when the book is coming out please fill out the form below.

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Last Minute Tax Tips

Big thanks to Lange team member Steve Kohman for being a part of our radio show The Lange Money Hour: Where Smart Money Talks on Wednesday night, April 8th on KQV am 1410. Steve is so dedicated to his clients that we had trouble prying him away from the office to do the show.

We’re glad that Steve finally agreed because his tax advice was excellent. He’s a technical machine – answering questions off the top of his head with no notes!

So is it too late to do something about your 2008 tax return?  Not according to Jim and Steve. For starters, you can still fund an IRA for 2008.  Individuals can contribute up to $5,000 — $6,000 if you’re 50 or older.

Steve also pointed out that many tax deductible medical expenses are overlooked.  Double-check to make sure you haven’t forgotten long-term care insurance premiums, prescription expenses, Medicare insurance premiums, prescribed weight-loss programs, therapy and even miscellaneous improvements to your house (adding a wheelchair ramp, for instance).

The tax code can be tricky to navigate. This year, there are several new developments, including The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. First-time home buyers will have until December 1, 2009 to claim a new refundable tax credit for a qualifying home purchase.  There are certain restrictions, so make sure you check with your tax professional.

The Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 allows retirees to suspend their Required Minimum Distribution for 2009.  Jim and Steve believe this has created an ideal opportunity for seniors to make a Roth IRA conversion.

What should you do if you realize you’ve made a mistake on your return?  Simply file an amended return.  To make it even easier, you have three years to take care of the paperwork.

If you think you could work night and day on your return and still not get it done by April 15th, you can always file an extension. It’s important to note, though, that it’s an extension to file – not an extension to pay.  Uncle Sam still wants you to estimate your taxes and, if you miscalculate, you could be subject to a penalty and interest.

We don’t know what came over Jim and Steve, but they offered listeners who are PA residents a free tax extension!   The Lange team is offering to take care of all of the paperwork and will even deliver your return hand-stamped. Then, after April 15th (and some much needed R&R), one of the accountants will meet with you and take a closer look at your return. If you’re interested, call the office at 800-387-1129.

Jim and Steve also covered various strategies for Roth IRA conversions, ideas for 2009 tax planning, what documents your tax professional really wants you to bring to the office and which one of them has already finished his personal tax return and which one hasn’t.

If you missed any part of the show, a rebroadcast is set for Sunday, April 12th from 9-10 a.m. ET and the audio will be available on retiresecure.com early next week.

The next show is set for Wednesday, April 22nd from 7-8 p.m. ET with special guest, author and money manager, Paul Merriman. Paul promises to make his prediction on when the economy will recover and explain the common mistakes that investors make.