Most Americans prefer not to pay more in income tax than absolutely required or to pay taxes any sooner than necessary.  This includes many retired individuals who do not need to tap into their employer-sponsored retirement plan benefits yet but are required to do so – and to pay taxes on those benefits – once they attain a certain age.  The amount a retiree must take for a given year (and on which the retiree must pay taxes) is based on the value of the retiree’s account divided by the Internal Revenue Service’s applicable life expectancy table.  For retirees hoping to further postpone the year as of which they must begin taking retirement plan benefits, Division T of the SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022 (SECURE 2.0) delivered a holiday gift – one of several delivered by a bipartisan group of legislators in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023.

Before SECURE 2.0, a required minimum distribution (RMD) generally must begin by April 1st, following the year in which a retiree attains age 72.  This is the RMD beginning date set by the 2019 SECURE Act, effective for distributions after December 31, 2019.  Before that, retirement plan participants had to start taking RMDs from their retirement plans by April 1st after attaining age 70 ½.

Effective for distributions made after December 31, 2022, Section 107 of SECURE 2.0 increases the RMD age to 73 for retirees who (a) attain age 72 after December 31, 2022, and (b) attain age 73 before January 1, 2033.  It then increases the RMD age to 75 for retirees who attain age 74 after December 31, 2032.

Additionally, Congress directed the Internal Revenue Service to update its regulations to eliminate what can amount to a penalty on plan participants with accounts that include annuity contracts.  Under current regulations, if a retirement account holds an annuity contract in addition to other assets, the RMD amount is determined by bifurcating the account between the annuity portion and the other assets, with the result that RMD amounts can be higher than they otherwise would be if no part of the account value was attributable to an annuity contract.  Section 204 of SECURE 2.0 essentially provides that the plan participant can elect to have the RMD calculated based on the aggregated account.  Until new regulations are issued, plans can rely on a good faith interpretation of the law. 

For RMD errors, Section 302 of SECURE 2.0 reduces the excise tax applicable when there’s a failure to take the full amount of an RMD timely.  Under prior law, the excise tax was equal to 50% of the amount by which a retiree’s RMD exceeded the amount actually distributed, if any, by the retiree’s required beginning date.  SECURE 2.0 reduces that excise tax penalty to 25% of the amount that should have been distributed.  (The penalty is further reduced to 10% if the retiree takes a corrective distribution within two years.) 

Finally, under prior law, RMDs from a Roth IRA account did not have to begin before the account owner’s death, but no such exception to the RMD distribution rules existed for Roth accounts under employer plans, like 401(k) plans.  Section 325 of SECURE 2.0 ends the pre-death RMD requirement for Roth designated accounts in a 401(k) plan, effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2023.  However, note that, for retirees who attain age 73 in 2023, Roth account RMDs still must be made by April 1, 2024.     

Stay tuned for more in our series on SECURE 2.0.  Please contact a Jackson Lewis employee benefits team member or the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you regularly work if you have questions or need assistance.