What Is a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)?

A required minimum distribution聽(RMD) is the amount of money that must be withdrawn from a traditional IRA, SEP, or SIMPLE individual retirement account (IRA) by owners and qualified retirement plan participants of retirement age.

As of 2020, the age for withdrawing from retirement accounts changed. It now must happen by April 1 following the year account holders reach age 72 (prior to 2020, the RMD age had been 70陆 years old). The retiree must then withdraw the RMD amount聽each subsequent year based on the current RMD聽calculation.

However, on March 27, 2020, President Trump signed a $2 trillion coronavirus emergency stimulus package into law. It suspended required minimum distributions from retirement accounts in 2020. This gives those accounts more time to recover from the stock market downturns, and retirees who can afford to leave them alone get the tax break of not being taxed on mandatory withdrawals.

Key Takeaways

  • The required minimum distribution is the amount you must take out of your account to avoid tax consequences.
  • Retirees can and do take more than the RMD.
  • If you have multiple accounts, you will usually need to calculate the RMD for each separately and may have to take an RMD from each.
  • The $2 trillion coronavirus emergency stimulus package suspended required minimum distributions from retirement accounts in 2020.

Understanding Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)

An RMD acts as a safeguard against people using a retirement account to avoid paying taxes. Required minimum distributions are determined by dividing the retirement account鈥檚 prior year-end fair market value by the applicable distribution period or life expectancy.锘 The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a worksheet to help taxpayers calculate the amount they must withdraw.锘 Generally your account custodian or plan administrator will calculate these amounts and report them to the IRS.

Some qualified plans allow certain participants to defer the start of their RMDs until they actually retire, even if they are older than age 72. Qualified plan participants should check with their employers to determine whether they are eligible for this deferral.

Roth IRAs do not require withdrawals at any age, as the taxes are already paid.

It should be noted that an investor聽must withdraw聽the required minimum distribution聽but may withdraw above that amount.聽If聽an investor wants to withdraw 100% of the account in the first year, that鈥檚 perfectly legal, but the tax bill could be a shocker.

How to Calculate a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)

When calculating a required minimum distribution for any given year, it is always wise to confirm on the IRS聽website聽that you are using the latest calculation worksheets.

Different situations call for different calculation tables. For example, IRA account holders whose spouse is the account鈥檚 only beneficiary and more than 10 years younger than the account holder use one table, while IRA account holders whose spouse is the account鈥檚 only beneficiary and the same age as the account holder use a different table.

The RMD calculation involves three steps:

  1. Write down the account鈥檚 balance as of Dec. 31 of the previous year.
  2. Find the distribution factor listed on the聽calculation tables that corresponds to your age on your birthday of the current year. For most people, this factor number ranges from 27.4 all the way down to 1.9. As a person gets older, the factor number goes down.
  3. Divide the account balance by the factor number to find the RMD.

Example of a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)

For example, we have Bob, who is an account holder age 74, and his birthday is Oct. 1. April is nearing, and Bob鈥檚 IRA is worth $225,000 and had a balance of $205,000 on Dec. 31 of the previous year. The distribution factors from his relevant IRS table are 23.8 for age 74 and 22.9 for age 75.

The required minimum distribution is calculated as:

RMD = $205,000 梅 22.9 = $8,951.97

So Bob needs to withdraw at least $8,951.97.

There are some other things Bob should keep in mind. If, for example, he has multiple IRAs (lucky Bob), he must calculate the RMD separately for each account. Depending on the types of accounts Bob has, he may have to take RMDs separately from each account rather than all from one account.

Special Case: Inherited IRAs

Generally, with an inherited IRA, an account holder must take annual distributions regardless of age. Failure to take the distribution results in a whopping 50% tax penalty on the RMD. Spouses and non-spouses are treated differently here, so it is important to check the IRS guidelines on inherited IRAs.