New Threats to Your IRA

Dec 15 09:29 2010 Yulian Isakov Print This Article

The IRS is cracking down on violations of the rules around IRAs pertaining to missing required payouts, early withdrawals, rollover goofs, excess contributions, and other picky rules.

After years of lax enforcement,Guest Posting the IRS is starting to systematically search out violations of the confusing rules governing individual retirement accounts. That's not a small undertaking and there's a lot at stake. Americans hold $4.3 trillion in IRAs, and even the most innocent mistake can be harmful to your IRA. For instance, if you miss or forget taking a required payout from your IRA, Uncle Sam will take half of the amount you missed to take out as a penalty.

A recent IRS report recently concluded that IRA violations have been growing substantially and estimated that more than half a million IRA account holders have either missed required payouts or over contributed to their IRAs during 2006 and 2007.

Below are some IRS targets and ways to keep your retirement savings out of trouble.

Missed Required PayoutsIRAs seem to be rather simple vehicles. You put pretax money into a traditional IRA, for example, and the funds are then invested and grow tax-deferred. But eventually, Uncle Sam is going to want his cut. So according to the law, IRA account holders are required to start taking "required minimum distributions" (RMDs) from their traditional IRAs at 70 1/2 years of age. Roth IRA, in contrast, work the other way. Individuals contribute after-tax dollars into a Roth, and once distributions are ready to be made, they are tax-free to the Roth holder. However, owners of Roth IRAs don't have to take RMDs no matter how old they are. Rules get more complicated if either the Roth IRA or a traditional IRA is inherited by nonspousal heirs. In such cases, nonspousal heirs must take RMDs regardless of their age. Even though Congress suspended all RMDs for 2009 as a result the 2008 market recession that significantly depleted retirement accounts, RMDs are back from 2010 and those individuals that are not aware may incur penalties for violations.

While the IRS audits only 1% of taxpayers, they're stepping up their efforts by matching their information with that of IRA custodians such as banks, brokers, mutual fund companies to help them find RMD violations of retirement accounts. So thinking that the IRS will somehow overlook your missed payout may end up being more costly than it's worth.

If you find it difficult to calculate exactly what you must be taking out with incurring a penalty, look through your old IRA from your Financial Advisor or custodian. IRA custodians are required to send out letters each year notifying you about your RMD and reminding you to take the distributions. You can also sign on with your Isakov Planning Group Financial Advisor to get automatic RMD distributions from your retirement account. Accordingly, Isakov Planning Group will send you a monthly check or move the funds into a taxable brokerage account in the amount of your RMD.

Meanwhile, if you make a late distribution of your required minimum, you should file a Form 5329 to calculate the penalty. You may have a valid excuse such as an illness or a family crisis that may make you eligible to waive 50% from your penalty.

Early WithdrawalsEarly withdrawal rules can be even more convoluted then missing RMDs. Individuals that are looking to take distributions from their retirement account before 59 1/2 need to be aware that on top of the tax, there may also be an additional 10% early withdrawal penalty assessed on the distribution. The operative phrase is "in addition to ordinary income tax." For example, you can take money from an IRA somewhat readily to pay for college bills, but this does not apply to 401(k)s. On the other hand, you can't take a loan from an IRA like you would with a 401(k). As far as your IRA distributions, it is a fairly simple calculation, unless there is a valid reason, if the distribution occurs before you attain the age of 59 1/2, you will pay a 10% penalty in addition to ordinary income taxes. As a matter of facts, it is estimated that in 2008, 5.7 million individuals paid $5.3 billion in penalty taxes on early withdrawals and other retirement account mistakes.

Before taking a distribution, consider talking with your Isakov Planning Group Financial Advisor for guidance. If your situation doesn't fit a specific exception to early withdrawal penalties, consider taking rule 72(t) distributions which are "substantially equal periodic payments" that may exempt you from paying the 10% penalty and at the same time allow you to take early distributions.

Rollover GoofsWhen you take money out of an IRA for whatever reason, you will have 60 days to roll it back into a qualified account such as another IRA without incurring taxes on the withdrawal. Certainly, if there were some extraordinary circumstances that you could not make the rollover in the 60 days, the IRS may extend the grace period. However, if it was as a result of a rollover mishap, say you accidentally deposited the funds into your taxable brokerage account instead of another IRA, then it may be hopeless to argue and can lead to severe penalties for your money. The best way to do an IRA rollover is to do it on an institution to institution transfer basis. Have Morgan Stanley move the money directly to Isakov Planning Group, for instance.

Excess ContributionsFor 2010, you can contribute a maximum of $5,000 ($6,000 if you're 50 and older) a year per person into a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or a combination of the two. Excess contributions are penalized at 6% per year for as long as the money sits illegally in the IRA.

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Yulian Isakov
Yulian Isakov

Isakov Planning Group financial advisors bring industry leading resources and expertise to help clients pursue and achieve their goals. Along with expert market analysis from the firm's top investment managers, your Isakov Planning Group financial advisor will work with you to develop and deliver tailored solutions that can help you get on track and ultimately achieve your most important objectives, whether you're looking to plan for retirement, build tax-free wealth, get your kid's through college, or build a lasting legacy for your family.

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