Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs)

  • At age 70 1/2, federal law requires you to withdraw a minimum amount from most retirement savings accounts.
  • You must withdraw from each plan type that is subject to RMDs.
  • There are severe tax penalties for not following RMD rules.

Near retirement

After you reach age 70 1/2, you are generally required by federal tax law to withdraw a minimum amount from your retirement savings plans each year. These withdrawals are called Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs).

When to begin taking RMDs

You are generally allowed to take penalty-free distributions starting at age 59 1/2. However, by April 1 of the year after you reach age 70 1/2, you are required to begin taking RMDs from your IRAs.

Depending upon the terms of your 401(k) or other employer plan, you may be able to delay taking RMDs until April 1 of the year following the later of the year you attain age 70 1/2 or the year you retire, provided you are not a 5% or greater owner of the business. Check with your plan administrator for details.

For subsequent years, you have to withdraw your RMD amount from your plans by December 31 of each year. This includes the year after you turn age 70 1/2, even if you take your first withdrawal that year.

For example, if you turn 70 1/2 in October 2013, your first RMD must be taken by April 1, 2014 and your second RMD must be taken by December 31, 2014. Most IRA owners take their first RMD in the year they turn 70 1/2 rather than delaying until April 1 of the next year. Before deciding to delay taking your 2013 RMD until the 2014 tax year, be sure to consider the tax effect of this decision.

What you do with RMDs is generally up to you — you may be able to take distributions in cash or in kind (e.g. as stock) which you can then reinvest or move into a brokerage account. The amount of each year's RMD depends on your age and the account balance at the end of the previous year.

Determining RMD amounts

RMDs are determined separately for each of your retirement plans and are required per individual, not per couple. The amount of the distribution is usually based on the uniform life expectancy table found in IRS publication 590 and the December 31 value of that plan. A different table is used if you have a spouse beneficiary who is more than 10 years younger than you. In each case, the RMD is calculated by dividing the year-end account value by the applicable life expectancy factor.

If you are a beneficiary of an Inherited IRA, your distribution requirements depend on whether the original owner or participant died before or after their required beginning date, whether you are a spouse or non-spouse beneficiary, and how you choose to treat your inherited account. There are several options available; your advisor can help you decide on an approach that is appropriate for you.

Avoiding tax penalties

There is a severe tax penalty for not following the RMD rules. If you do not take a distribution or if you withdraw less than the required amount, you may have to pay a penalty equal to 50% of the amount not taken. You can always take more than the required amount, but the extra withdrawals don't count toward your required distributions for future years.

Generally, withdrawals of pre-tax contributions and earnings are taxed as regular income. Withdrawals of RMDs from inherited Roth accounts are tax-free if certain requirements are met. Your financial advisor can help explain the tax treatment for your withdrawals.

RMDs for Roth IRAs, Roth 403(b), and Roth 401(k)

RMD rules do not apply to the original Roth IRA owner. RMD rules do apply to beneficiaries who settle to an inherited Roth IRA.  Spouse beneficiaries can move the assets to their own Roth IRA instead of an inherited Roth IRA to avoid RMDs.

Roth accounts in 401(k) and 403(b) plans are subject to RMD requirements, so you may want to roll your plan to a Roth IRA to avoid the distribution requirements. Before doing so, be sure to consider the effect of this decision on the 5-year holding period for qualified distributions.

RMDs from more than one plan

If you have more than one retirement plan, your RMDs must be calculated separately for each plan. However, if you have more than one IRA, whether traditional, SEP and/or SIMPLE IRA, you can then add the RMDs and take the combined distribution amount from any one or more of your IRAs. Similarly, if you have more than one 403(b) plan, you can take the combined distribution amount from one or more of your 403(b) accounts. You cannot, however, satisfy the RMD for your IRA with a distribution from your 403(b) and vice versa.

For 401(k), profit sharing and some other types of employer-sponsored plans, and for Inherited IRAs or Inherited 403(b)s, you must take an RMD separately from each plan, even if you have more than one plan within a type. For example, if you have two 401(k) plans and two inherited IRAs, you will generally need a total of four withdrawals to satisfy your RMD requirements.

Taking RMDs can be complex. Working with an Ameriprise financial advisor can help you decide how much you need to take and what to do with the distribution to help minimize taxes and support your larger retirement plan.

This information is not intended as legal or tax advice. Please consult with your legal and tax advisors regarding your individual situation.

Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC.

Ameriprise Financial Services Inc., and its affiliates do not offer tax or legal advice. Consumers should consult with their tax advisor or attorney regarding their specific situation.