tax tip

Plan would give retirement savers more time

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By Bankrate

give retirement savers more time

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., proposes to change some aspects of the way people must take retirement withdrawals from tax-deferred accounts. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

I admit it. I’m thinking about retirement. Of course, I’ve been thinking about retirement since I was 30.

Back then, my retirement thoughts were (mostly) about socking away money for my post-career years. Now they’re about how to take that money out so that I can enjoy the type of retirement I want.

The tax code makes some withdrawal decisions for retirement savers. If you have a traditional IRA or other tax-deferred account like a 401(k) workplace plan, you must take what are known as required minimum distributions once you hit age 70 1/2.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., thinks that age trigger needs to be changed.

RMD details

Required minimum distributions, or RMDs in Internal Revenue Service acronym-speak, is the amount you must take out of tax-deferred retirement accounts each year once you hit that septuagenarian half-birthday.

The reason is obvious. Uncle Sam is tired of waiting to collect taxes on all that retirement money that’s been sitting untouched, in many cases for decades.

The specific withdrawal amounts are a percentage of your total tax-deferred retirement account balances, based on your age.

What if you don’t need or want to touch your traditional IRA or similar account when you get into your 70s? Tough.

Fail to take your annual RMD and you’ll be hit with a penalty that’s 50% of what you should have withdrawn.

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Waiting longer on RMDs

Wyden, who is the ranking Democrat on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, wants to push back the RMD age.

In a proposal that Wyden is calling the Retirement Improvements and Savings Enhancements, or RISE, Act, he proposes bumping up the RMD age to 71 in 2018.

The age mandating retirement account distributions then would be increased to 72 in 2023, 73 in 2028 and, thereafter, would be adjusted based on actuarial estimates of increases in life expectancy.

“The ‘required minimum distribution’ age of 70.5 years has remained unchanged since the early 1960s,” says Wyden. Since then, life expectancy has risen, but the target withdrawal age for retirement accounts has not moved. Wyden’s proposal essentially is a life-expectancy inflation adjustment.

No RMDs for smaller amounts

Wyden also thinks it’s unfair to force savers to deplete their retirement savings within a certain time frame when they don’t have huge sums in their tax-deferred accounts.

The RISE Act would exempt owners of traditional IRAs and similar RMD-affected accounts from the mandatory withdrawal rules if balances in their retirement plans come to less than $150,000.

This flexibility, says Wyden, will let owners of small retirement accounts use that money as they need during their older years.

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Tell Wyden what you think

Wyden acknowledges that some already are questioning some of his proposals.

For example, there is concern from plan managers that the $150,000 exemption level would be hard to administer.

So Wyden is seeking public input on this and other portions of the RISE Act.

The measure, he notes, is not a formal piece of legislation (yet). Rather, it’s a discussion draft. It is being circulated specifically to get reaction, review and comment. “The responses will be reviewed and, if appropriate, incorporated into legislation,” says Wyden.

You can email your thoughts on the RISE Act to Retirement_Savings@finance.senate.gov. If you prefer snail mail, address your thoughts to Wyden at Senate Committee on Finance, 219 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510.

Bankrate also would like to hear from you on not only the RISE proposal discussed here, but other retirement savings issues. Do you find tax laws help you sock away cash for your golden years? Or are the retirement account tax rules too complicated or restrictive?

Keep up with federal and state tax news, as well as find filing tips, calculators and more at Bankrate’s Tax Center.

Paul S. Herman CPA, a tax expert for individuals and businesses, is the founder of Herman & Company, CPA’s PC in White Plains, New York.  He provides guidance and strategies to improve clients’ financial well-being.

Tax Calendar Q1 2015

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation! 

Your 2015 Tax Calendar Is Here.

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January 15

• Individual taxpayers’ final 2014 estimated tax payment is due unless Form 1040 is filed by February 2, 2015, and any tax due is paid with the return.

February 2

• Most employers must file Form 941 (“Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return”) to report Medicare, Social Security, and income taxes withheld in the fourth quarter of 2014. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.

• Employers who have an estimated annual employment tax liability of $1,000 or less may be eligible to file Form 944 (“Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return”).

• Give your employees their copies of Form W-2 for 2014. If an employee agreed to receive Form W-2 electronically, have it posted on the website and notify the employee.

• Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2014. You can use the appropriate version of Form 1099 or other information return. Form 1099 can be filed electronically with the consent of the recipient.

• File Form 940 (“Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return”) for 2014. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.

• File Form 945 (“Annual Return of Withheld Federal Income Tax”) for 2014 to report income tax withheld on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on pensions, annuities, IRAs, etc. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 11 to file the return.

• File Form 943 (“Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return for Agricultural Employees”) to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2014. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.

March 2

• The government’s copy of Form 1099 series returns (along with the appropriate transmittal form) should be sent in by today. However, if these forms will be filed electronically, the due date is extended to March 31.

• The government’s copy of Form W-2 series returns (along with the appropriate transmittal Form W-3) should be sent in by today. However, if these forms will be filed electronically, the due date is extended to March 31.

March 16

• 2014 income tax returns must be filed or extended for calendar-year corporations. If the return is not extended, this is also the last day for calendar-year corporations to make 2014 contributions to pension and profit-sharing plans.

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New Law Creates Tax-Favored Savings Accounts for Disabled Taxpayers

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As part of the larger tax extender legislation passed on Tuesday, Congress approved the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 (H.R. 647), which will allow disabled individuals to save money to pay for their disability expenses in tax-favored accounts, called ABLE accounts. The House of Representatives passed the measure on Dec. 3, by a vote of 404–17, and it now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The purpose of the bill is “[t]o encourage and assist individuals and families in saving private funds for the purpose of supporting individuals with disabilities to maintain health, independence, and quality of life” and “[t]o provide secure funding for disability-related expenses on behalf of designated beneficiaries with disabilities that will supplement, but not supplant, benefits provided through private insurance,” Medicaid, and other sources (H.R. 647, §101).

The bill adds a new Sec. 529A to the Code, under which a qualified ABLE program will be exempt from taxation (except for unrelated business income tax). A qualified ABLE program is a program run by a state that allows a person to make contributions for a tax year, for the benefit of an eligible individual, to an ABLE account established for the purpose of meeting the qualified disability expenses of the designated beneficiary of the account. A state’s ABLE program must limit designated beneficiaries to one account and must allow accounts to be opened only for residents of that state or a contracting state.

Eligible individuals must file a disability certification with the IRS or meet certain criteria for blindness or disability under the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. §1382).

Contributions must be made in cash, and the program must limit annual contributions to the amount of the annual gift tax exclusion in effect for that tax year.

The ABLE program must provide separate accounting for each designated beneficiary, and designated beneficiaries and contributors must not be able to direct the investment of contributions or earnings in the account.

Distributions from the account will not be included in the designated beneficiary’s gross income as long as they do not exceed the beneficiary’s qualified disability expenses. If they do exceed the beneficiary’s qualified disability expenses, the amount otherwise includible in gross income will be reduced by an amount bearing the same ratio to that amount as the expenses bear to the distributions.

Funds in ABLE accounts will also be disregarded for purposes of various federal means-tested programs.

Once signed by the president, the bill will take effect for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2014

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Bedford Hills NY, Chappaqua NY, Harrison NY, Scarsdale NY, White Plains NY, Mt. Kisco NY, Pound Ridge NY, Greenwich CT and beyond.

Any U.S. tax advice contained in the body of this website is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.