Published Tuesday, July 14, 2020, 10:45 p.m. EST
A confluence of events have suddenly aligned to create a major tax planning opportunity for individuals who are currently taking IRS-mandated required minimum distributions (RMDs) from an individual retirement account or are about to start taking RMDs.
A provision of the CARES Act the Covid crisis emergency aid law in effect since March 27, 2020 -- lets you skip your required minimum distribution in 2020. Since many individuals of RMD-age (72 and above) have been remaining homebound during the Covid crisis and are spending less, skipping all or part of an RMD is easy and often makes sense over the long term. Skipping an RMD in 2020 would leave that money in the IRA to compound tax-free over a longer time period.
Here's where the unusual alignment of factors takes a special twist. Instead of skipping your 2020 RMD and simply leaving it in your retirement account , you can withdraw all or part of it, pay the income tax on the withdrawal amount and use that amount to fund a tax-free Roth IRA!
Distributions taken as RMDs from pre-tax retirement accounts are always taxable whereas distributions from a Roth IRA are never taxable! Converting assets to a Roth IRA in this manner could provide tax-free income for years, and when you die, to your spouse and your IRA beneficiaries for the life of the Roth IRA.
2020 also happens to be a particularly good year to convert assets from a traditional pre-tax retirement account to a Roth IRA. Why? Because when you withdraw assets held in a traditional IRA or other qualified pre-tax retirement account, you will owe income tax on the withdrawals. The unusual confluence of events making it possible for you to live on a lower income during the Covid crisis creates this unique tax saving opportunity for long-term investors who act before December 31, 2020.
With stock prices still off their all-time highs and continuing to suffer frequent and often vicious one-day drops, taking the opportunity to sell stocks in your retirement account and converting the proceeds into a Roth IRA makes particularly good sense. In addition to selling these stocks when they are relatively cheap, you would also be realizing the taxable income from the retirement account at a time when the Covid crisis has kept your expenses low.
Between now and the end of 2020, the unusual confluence of events makes it wise to evaluate skipping a required minimum distribution and converting to a tax-free Roth IRA. It is a major tax saving opportunity that you do not want to miss.
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