In 2019 the SECURE Act eliminated this benefit for those who inherited IRAs and were not spouses of the IRA owner. The new rule mandated a full withdrawal within 10 years of receiving it and thus closed a loophole that allowed an indefinite tax deferral. Still, the IRS gave considerable flexibility to the inheritor as to the timing of withdrawal within that decade. Therefore, with some planning, beneficiaries could try to minimize the tax consequences of those distributions, for example by taking them during years when income – and marginal tax rates – were expected to be lower.
The IRS, however, published new rules in 2022 taking away much of that flexibility. For an IRA owner who died after 2019, non-spouse inheritors who are individuals are now required to take distributions annually and the whole amount by year 10.
The new rules
Distributions from an inherited IRA must be taken every year after the year of the owner’s death. The original IRA can take the first distribution in the year of death according to the age of the owner if the owner was already taking distributions, and then distribute the remainder to beneficiaries.
The amounts of these annual withdrawals for each beneficiary depends on their age, similar tot he way the required minimum distributions are calculated for traditional IRAs. Note, however, that the table used for the calculation (Table 1 in publication 590-B) starts at the age of 0, so even new-born baby beneficiaries (who are not minor children of the owner) may have to take distributions and pay taxes if their resulting income is large enough. If the beneficiary is older than the original owner, the owner’s age during the year of death should be used.
The entire amount has to be withdrawn within 10 years use the beneficiary’s age at the time, except when there are multiple beneficiaries. In that case, everyone would have to use the age of the oldest beneficiary – a rule designed to increase the IRS’ take.
There is an exception to this rule (what would an IRS rule be without an exception?) which is that if the owner’s IRA was split into different IRA accounts before distribution and each one had its own beneficiary, then each one will use his or her own age. In all cases, whatever is left in the account by the 10 th year will need to be distributed.
There are many more twists to the new guidelines, for example if the owner dies before the date of required distributions, or the beneficiaries are trusts or they are not the spouse but fall in certain categories that provide exceptions. These rules are complex, and every inheritor needs to discuss them in depth with their advisors.
Not surprisingly, the change created a great deal of consternation among planners who felt, with reason, that the IRS had moved the goalposts, the new guidelines were confusing and tax plans recently finished would have to be revised. Furthermore, since the changes went through a bit under the radar, many inheritors may be unaware of the new rules and could be liable to draconian penalties for missed distributions, equal to 50% of the amount that should have been taken out.
The IRS opened a window for public comment (which closed last May) and it received a great number of opinions opposing the new rules or, at a minimum, demanding the IRS to waive penalties for missed distributions for 2021. The IRS is currently reviewing the rules and it may yet issue further guidance, so many planners have advised owners of inherited IRAs to take distributions closer to year end, in case the rules change again.
One way or another, those who have an inherited IRA and thought that they had plenty of time to start their distributions could be slapped with very hefty penalties if they miss withdrawals this year. It is essential that they contact their accountants and advisors soon, and prepare for distributions that could result in additional taxes.
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