old couple computing RMD

Don’t Wait Until New Year’s Eve to Take Your 2021 RMD

old couple computing RMD

Article Highlights:

  • 2021 RMD  
  • What Are RMDs?
  • Age 72 Distributions
  • IRAs and Qualified Plans 
  • Computing the RMD

What is an RMD?

Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) are required taxable distributions from qualified retirement plans and are commonly associated with traditional IRAs, but they also apply to 401(k)s and SEP IRAs. The tax code does not allow taxpayers to indefinitely keep funds in their qualified retirement plans. Eventually, these assets must be distributed, and taxes must be paid on those distributions. If a retirement plan owner takes no distributions, or if the distributions are not large enough, then he or she may have to pay a 50% penalty on the required distribution amount that is not distributed.

RMD Penalty

The penalty for failing to take the required minimum amount is 50% of the amount that should have been withdrawn but wasn’t. The penalty can be waived where the failure to take the required distribution was due to reasonable cause and steps are being taken to remedy the shortfall. The penalty waiver must be applied for, creating additional hassle, not to mention the potential additional tax created by multiple year distributions in one year.  

Note: RMDs do not apply to Roth IRAs. 

RMDs historically have needed to begin in the year when the retirement plan owner became age 70½, but a recent tax law change upped the starting age to 72 for years after 2019. The first year’s distribution for those turning age 72 in 2021 can be delayed to no later than April 1 of 2022. However, delaying the first distribution means taking two distributions in the subsequent year which has tax consequences. 

RMDs for 2021 are determined based upon the values of the accounts as of December 31, 2020, divided by the distribution period. The distribution period is based on the taxpayer’s life expectancy determined from the Uniform Lifetime Table for the taxpayer’s current age.  

2021 RMD Table

2021 RMD table

Example: Don’s oldest age during 2021 is 75 and he has a single IRA account with a value of $150,000 at the close of the business day on December 31, 2020. Using the Uniform Lifetime Table for years through 2021, we find that the distribution period for age 75 is 22.9 years. Thus, Don’s RMD for 2021 is $6,550 ($150,000/22.9).

Where an owner of a retirement plan or an IRA dies before receiving his or her entire RMD in the year of death, the unpaid amount must be distributed to the named beneficiaries or, if none, the decedent’s estate. 

Where an individual has multiple retirement plans and/or IRAs some additional complications may be encountered as to which accounts the distributions must be withdrawn from. Note that distributions from a 401(k) or other qualified retirement plan can’t be used to satisfy the RMD of an IRA or vice versa.

If you need to make your 2021 RMD by December 31, and haven’t yet done so, keep in mind that the 31st, a Friday, will be observed as the New Year’s holiday by many financial institutions. So, a word to the wise: don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to arrange for the distribution.   

If you need assistance related to your RMD, please contact this office at 551-249-1040.


Recommended Readings:

  • Required Minimum Distributions Have Resumed for 2021
  • Tax Breaks for Grandparents
  • Tax Credits You Might be Missing
  • Education Credits are for Children? Think Again!
  • Why Am I Getting A Letter From The IRS?
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