For certain retirement accounts, the IRS requires you to take distributions based upon your life expectancy once you reach the age of 72 ½ (the required age was raised from 70 ½ with the passage of the SECURE Act in December 2019). As a result of the COVID-19 emergency, the CARES Act suspended the requirement to take these distributions in 2020. There are many who did not yet take a distribution for the year. For them, they can decide if it is a piece of income they need and whether to take it. However, some took their Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) at the beginning of the year and they may now be realizing that they did not need this income and that they do not want to pay the associated income tax on the distribution. Even worse, they may have taken it in January and have found themselves in a position where the time period to return it without taxation has lapsed. What can they do?
The IRS has issued guidance for individuals who received an RMD for retirement accounts in 2020 prior to the COVID-19 emergency and now wish to return it. Notice 2020-51 provides procedure and rules allowing for a return of these monies in light of the fact that an RMD is not required for this year. In many instances, you may be able to return the distribution, thus eliminating the income tax liability on that amount. Most importantly, this rollback must be done by August 31, 2020.
The ability to return the RMD without tax consequences extends to those who took a lump sum distribution as well as to those who received an amount monthly. It will also apply to persons of all ages that are the beneficiary of an inherited IRA. Note that while the RMD can be returned, the IRS did not extend these provisions to allow you to “rollback” or give back an amount in excess of your RMD.
In addition to the RMD rollback provisions, the IRS Notice 2020-51 allowed special provisions for Corona-Virus related distributions. If you fall in the broad category of persons impacted by COVID-19, you can receive an early distribution of your retirement account without the 10% additional tax/penalty that would otherwise have been assessed. This is significant if you are under 59 ½ and you need to use funds in your retirement account but wanted to avoid the large penalty.
If you received some or all of your required minimum distribution from your retirement account in 2020 before the enactment of the CARES Act, you should contact your financial advisor, accountant or attorney to determine whether you qualify for these special rollbacks and if it is in your best interest to take advantage of this provision. Not all retirement accounts have the same treatment so an individualized look is essential and should be done as soon as possible to comply with the August 31, 2020 deadline.