Options for taking your first minimum required distribution (MRD)

IRAs and other types of tax-deferred retirement accounts were designed to encourage Americans to save for retirement. At age 72*, you switch gears because you're required to start withdrawing a certain amount from your retirement accounts each year. That amount is called a minimum required distribution, or MRD (also known as a required minimum distribution, or RMD).

Compare these two deadline options and their tax implications before withdrawing your first MRD.

MRD RULES AND HOW THEY'RE CALCULATED

MRD rules apply to tax-deferred retirement accounts:

  • Most 403(b) and 401(k) and plans, including all of UC's plans—including the 403(b), 457(b), and DC Plan.
  • Traditional, rollover, simple, and SEP IRAs.
  • Most small-business accounts (Keoghs).

The IRS has specific rules around MRDs, including how to calculate them and the timing for when to take a distribution. It's important to understand the rules because the penalty for a missed MRD is 50% of the amount not taken on time.

  • In general, your MRD amount is calculated by dividing your tax-deferred retirement account balance as of December 31 of last year by your life expectancy factor.
  • If you have accounts in more than one UC plan, then your MRD must be calculated separately for each account and taken from each account.
  • If you have multiple IRAs, then your MRD must be calculated separately for each IRA account, but you can withdraw the total of all your MRDs from a single account or any combination of IRA accounts.

Keep in mind that the IRS taxes MRDs as ordinary income. This means that withdrawals will count toward your total taxable income for the year, which may push you into a higher tax bracket. Being pushed into a higher tax bracket may impact the taxes you pay for your Social Security or Medicare. Be sure to talk to your tax advisor about taking your first MRD.

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DEADLINES FOR YOUR FIRST MRD

The deadline for taking your MRD is December 31 each year. For your first MRD, and only your first, you may delay taking a distribution until April 1 of the year after you turn 72.

For example, if you turned 72 in June of this year, you have 2 choices:

  • You can take your first MRD by December 31 this year.
  • You can delay taking your first MRD until April 1 next year (the year after you turn 72).

If you choose to delay, you'll have to take your first and second MRD in the same year, which may push you into a higher tax bracket.

If you're still working, you may qualify for an exception from taking MRDs from your current employer-sponsored retirement account, such as a 401(k), 403(b), or small-business account. If you meet all of the requirements, you can delay taking an MRD from the account until April 1 of the year after you retire.

KNOWING YOUR OPTIONS

To understand how delaying your first MRD impacts your taxes and future MRDs, review your options and consider speaking with your tax advisor.

Consider these two options for Eli, a hypothetical UC retiree.

  • Eli will turn 72 this year.
  • Eli has $300,000 the UC DC Plan.
  • Eli’s life expectancy factor for this year is 27.4 based on the IRS Uniform Lifetime Table for someone age 70 years old.
  • For the purposes of this example, assume the value of Eli’s UC DC Plan account remains constant.
OPTION 1    
TOTAL MRD
$22,269.75
All income gained in one tax year
MRD #1
Funds withdrawn 
next year
$10,949.00
MRD #2
Funds also
withdrawn next year
$11,320.75
    $
$
   APRIL DECEMBER
YEAR 1  YEAR 2

Considerations for option 1:

  • Eli’s account balance was higher when the second MRD was calculated because Eli didn’t take out the first MRD.
  • Eli’s second MRD is $413.75 more.
  • Eli’s taxable income for one year would be two MRDs totaling $22,269.75, which will more likely push Eli into a higher tax bracket.

OPTION 2    
MRD #1
Funds withdrawn 
this year
$10,949.00
TOTAL MRD
$21,898.00
All income spread
over two tax years
MRD #2
Funds withdrawn 
next year
$10,949.00
$
  $
YEAR 1   YEAR 2

Considerations for option 2:

  • Eli’s first and second MRD amounts are the same ($10,949.00).
  • Eli’s taxable income would only be one MRD ($10,949.00) per year, which still has the potential to push Eli into a higher tax bracket, but not as likely as option 1.

To determine which option is best for you, talk with a tax advisor about your personal tax situation.