How to know if you need a required minimum distribution for 2023

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As a retiree, mandatory retirement plan withdrawals can be a source of stress and confusion — and complex changes over the past few years have led to mistakes, financial experts say.

Generally, you must start these yearly withdrawals, known as required minimum distributions, or RMDs, by a specific age. Before 2020, RMDs began at age 70½, and the Secure Act of 2019 increased the beginning age to 72. But in 2022, Secure 2.0 raised the age to 73, which started in 2023.

The RMD rules for inherited individual retirement accounts are even more complicated, prompting the IRS to waive penalties for missed RMDs over the past couple of years.

“They’re crazy,” said IRA expert and certified public accountant Ed Slott, describing the new RMD rules. “You shouldn’t need an engineering degree to figure it out.”

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For 2023, RMDs apply to both pretax and Roth 401(k) accounts, along with other workplace plans. The mandatory withdrawals also apply to most IRAs, but there are no RMDs for Roth IRAs until after the account owner’s death. 

If you skip your yearly RMD or don’t withdraw enough, there’s a 25% penalty on the amount you should have withdrawn. You can reduce the penalty to 10% if the RMD is “timely corrected” within two years, according to the IRS.

You can request a penalty waiver from the IRS by filling out Form 5329 and attaching a letter of explanation. But there’s no guarantee the IRS will agree to waive the fee, Slott said.

Which account owners need to take an RMD

“The most important change that retirees should know about RMDs is the increased age,” said certified financial planner Ben Smith, founder of Cove Financial Planning in Milwaukee.  

Secure 2.0 bumped the RMD beginning age to 73 from 72 for pretax IRA owners and retirement plan participants. You must take your first RMD by April 1 of the year following the year you turn 73, he said.

If you turn age 72 in 2023, you can delay RMDs until age 73. But if you turned 72 in 2022, you needed to take your 2022 RMD by April 1, 2023, and your 2023 RMD by year-end.

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To put it another way: If you were born in 1950 or earlier, you need to take an RMD in 2023, and those born in 1951 or later don’t have an RMD in 2023, Slott explained.

“People still working with a company plan can delay until they retire,” he said. But the extension doesn’t apply to IRAs.

Inherited IRA owners also need to know the withdrawal rules, which hinge on when the original owner died and the type of beneficiary.

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