After you reach age 70½, you must take annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your IRAs (except Roth IRAs) and, generally, from your defined contribution plans (such as 401(k) plans). You also could be required to take RMDs if you inherited a retirement plan (including Roth IRAs). If you don’t comply — which usually requires taking the RMD by December 31 — you can owe a penalty equal to 50% of the amount you should have withdrawn but didn’t.
So, should you withdraw more than the RMD? Taking only RMDs generally is advantageous because of tax-deferred compounding. But a larger distribution in a year your tax bracket is low may save tax. Be sure, however, to consider the lost future tax-deferred growth and, if applicable, whether the distribution could: 1) cause Social Security payments to become taxable, 2) increase income-based Medicare premiums and prescription drug charges, or 3) affect other tax breaks with income-based limits.
Also keep in mind that, while retirement plan distributions aren’t subject to the additional 0.9% Medicare tax or 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT), they are included in your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). That means they could trigger or increase the NIIT, because the thresholds for that tax are based on MAGI.
In addition to taking your retirement plan RMD’s, don’t forget to take action with these other last-minute tax-saving tips before December 31:
1. Pay your 2015 property tax bill that’s due in early 2016.
2. Make your January 1 mortgage payment.
3. Incur deductible medical expenses (if your deductible medical expenses for the year already exceed the applicable floor).
4. Pay tuition for academic periods that will begin in January, February or March of 2016 (if it will make you eligible for a tax credit).
5. Donate to your favorite charities.
6. Sell investments at a loss to offset capital gains you’ve recognized this year.
7. Ask your employer if your bonus can be deferred until January.
Keep in mind, however, that in certain situations these strategies might not make sense. For example, if you’ll be subject to the alternative minimum tax this year or be in a higher tax bracket next year, taking some of these steps could have undesirable results.
If you’re unsure whether these steps are right for you, consult us before taking action.