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The CARES Act 2020 RMD Waiver: What You Need to Know

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (#CARES Act), signed into law on March 27, 2020, includes provisions that temporarily relax several key retirement account rules. One of these provisions is a waiver of required minimum distributions (RMDs) in 2020.

Here's what you need to know.

#RMD Rules Generally, once you reach age 72 (or age 70½, if you reached that age prior to December 31, 2019), you are required to withdraw a certain amount of money from your IRA, 401(k), 403(b), or other qualified retirement plan account each year.

The CARES Act Waiver The CARES Act has waived the mandate to take an RMD in 2020 from your IRA, workplace defined contribution plan (i.e., 401(k), 403(b)), or inherited IRA. In addition, individuals who reached age 70½ in 2019 and who had deferred their 2019 RMD until the required beginning date of April 1, 2020, may waive both that RMD and their 2020 RMD.

RMDs from defined benefit plans and cash balance plans are not eligible for the waiver, nor are RMDs taken before December 31, 2019.

Keep in mind that you don't have to leave the money in your account. You certainly may take your RMD as usual if you wish, but there are potential benefits to forgoing the distribution this year.

Benefits to Leaving the Money in Your Account Because #RMDs are calculated based on your account value at the end of the prior year (i.e., as of December 31, 2019), you may be withdrawing a much larger percentage of assets from your account than you otherwise would. This is because financial markets have fallen, in some cases, more than 30 percent from their recent highs, which likely has also depressed portfolio values.

Not taking an RMD in 2020 may help you avoid a bigger tax bill and potentially benefit more from a market recovery.

What If You Already Took Your RMD? If you have already taken your 2020 RMD (or your 2019 RMD for those who deferred their first distribution until 2020), you may roll the distributed assets back into your account within 60 days, without taxes or penalties.

If it has been more than 60 days since you took your 2020 RMD, you may be able to roll it back, but at this time, the IRS has yet to say whether it will extend the 60-day rollover period. Instead, you likely will need to qualify for a COVID-19-related hardship to be able to return the distribution to the account without taxes or penalties. 

The Importance of Professional Guidance As with any newly introduced legislation or change to financial transaction rules, the situation is fluid and additional clarification may be coming from regulatory agencies. As such, be sure to reach out to us or your financial institution if you have questions about waiving your RMD this year.


This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer. © Copyright 2020 Commonwealth Financial Network®

Presented by Sara Romaine. Sara Romaine is a financial advisor at Blue Hills Wealth Management. BHWM is located at 300 Crown Colony Drive, Quincy MA. Sara can be reached at 617-471-6800 or Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member, FINRA/SIPC a registered investment advisor. Fixed insurance products and services and College Planning services offered by Blue Hills Wealth Management and College Funding Solutions are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth.


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