Most retirees have heard the word “IRA” and may not fully understand this retirement savings plan. An IRA, or Individual Retirement Account, is merely a type of account that allows for the owner to grow, tax-deferred, the underlying investments within the account. I often hear people say that “I have an IRA for each year to diversify my investments.” It is often misunderstood that the IRA owner can own one IRA and maintain many different investments within the account. This article will help you avoid some of the common mistakes made by IRA owners.
Mistake Number 1: Avoid ineligible rollovers.
Under the current federal tax code, owners of IRA may rollover the IRA once-per-year. The confusion, and resulting taxable event, occurs when the owner interprets, incorrectly, the “once-per-year” requirement. This descriptor of time means literally one year from the date of the last rollover, not the calendar year. For example, if you performed a rollover on March 1, 2018, and performed another rollover on February 28, 2019, you would be subject to a penalty.
Mistake Number 2: Missing the 60-day deadline.
A gentleman came to our office recently with a concern about his IRA. After much discussion, we provided him several alternatives to resolve his issue. His concern was due to advice he received from a friend that he could withdraw money from his IRA to purchase a piece of property and then seek financing from his bank to return the withdrawn funds. However, the friend, not a licensed financial adviser, failed to mention the strict timeline for such transactions. The Internal Revenue Code allows 60 days to accomplish the rollover to prevent taxation of the event. In this instance, the man was informed by his bank the process of underwriting the loan would take longer than 60 days. To illustrate the tax cost of this transaction, the man had withdrawn $200,000. The penalty of 10% assessed to the distribution, the man was under 59½ years of age, and the income taxes due now cost the man approximately $80,000! We quickly worked with his local bank to structure a lending arrangement that would allow him to return the withdrawn funds to his IRA within the 60-day mandatory deadline. We solved the problem but the stress it created was unbearable for the gentleman.
There is no IRS relief for missing the 60-day rollover deadline unless you file for a Private Letter Ruling with the IRS which will cost thousands in filing fees and you may not receive relief if your facts do not warrant such. The simple mitigation strategy is to not use your IRA as a lending source. Congress meant for these accounts to be long-term in nature and for retirement purposes.
Mistake Number 3: Failing to Meet a Hardship Exception.
One of the greatest contentions of angst to individuals is when hardship is being experienced by the family and funds in the IRA can’t be utilized for the particular relief needed. Unless the IRA owner experienced a natural disaster that is described in the Internal Revenue Code, the hardship distribution received from the IRA will be taxable and subject to a possible penalty for early withdrawal if the owner is less than 59½ years of age.
The confusion that causes this mistake to occur is that employer plans generally provide for a hardship distribution. IRAs do not. By statutory language, few exceptions to the penalty application to the distribution apply. Two of the primary exceptions we have seen are higher education expenses for a dependent and a first-time home purchase by the IRA owner.
This area of the U.S. tax laws is very complex. It is vital you seek appropriate guidance before potentially committing the mistake. If you are concerned about your investments and/or your IRA account, you may qualify for a Complimentary Stress-Test. Seek out a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner and CPA to give you the confidence you are in compliance and meeting your retirement objectives.
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