July 3, 2020

New IRS Guidance on Suspension of RMDs

And just as we thought that the new coronavirus guidance was beginning to slow down, the IRS proved us wrong.

On June 23, 2020, the IRS issued new guidance on the waiver of required minimum distributions (“RMDs”) from certain qualified retirement plans.

I. General Background

As a refresher, section 401(a)(9) of the Internal Revenue Code requires certain qualified retirement plans, including 401(k) plans, to make RMDs starting on the employee’s required beginning date. Back in December, the SECURE Act made a change to when RMDs are required to be made:

OLD RULE: Under the old rule, participants were generally required to start taking RMDs from a retirement plan by April 1 following the later of (a) the calendar year they reach age 70 ½; or (b) the calendar year they retire.

NEW RULE: Under the new SECURE Act rule, for people who attain age 70 ½ after December 31, 2019, the age for RMDs increases to 72. Individuals who attain 70 ½ on or before December 31, 2019 are not affected (i.e., the old rule continues to apply).

II. CARES Act Relief for RMDs

As you might remember, on March 27, 2020, the CARES Act waived RMDs otherwise required in 2020. However, because the CARES Act was not enacted until March 27 of this year, some people who took their RMD earlier in the year may have missed the boat on the waiver. However, as we were expecting, on June 23 the IRS issued guidance to provide relief for those individuals.

In the June 23 guidance, the IRS permits anyone who already who took an RMD in 2020 from certain plans to roll those funds back into the plan. Under the normal rules, rollovers must be made within 60 days from the date of a distribution, but last week’s new guidance extends this 60-day window for any RMD already taken this year to August 31, 2020. For example, if a participant received a single-sum distribution in January 2020, part of which was treated as ineligible for rollover because it was considered an RMD, that participant will now have until August 31, 2020 to roll over that part of the distribution. You probably should notify anyone who falls into this category of this extended deadline.

The waiver applies to the typical defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) and 403(b) plans, as well as IRAs. The relief does not apply to defined benefit plans.

The notice also provides rollover relief for additional payments that would not otherwise be eligible for rollover:

• Distributions to a plan participant paid in 2020 (or paid in 2021 for the 2020 calendar year in the case of an employee who has a required beginning date of April 1, 2021) if the payments would have been RMDs in 2020 (or for 2020) if it weren’t for the 2020 waiver.
• For a plan participant with a required beginning date of April 1, 2021, distributions that are paid in 2021 that would have been an RMD for 2021 but for the RMD waiver.

Therefore, the guidance waives the RMD for 2020 even if the employee’s required beginning date is April 1, 2021. For example, if an employee attained age 70 ½ before January 1, 2020, and retires in the 2020 calendar year, that employee’s required beginning date is April 1, 2021. Because of the CARES Act, the employee is not required to receive an RMD for 2020 before April 1, 2021 but nonetheless must still receive the RMD for the 2021 calendar year by December 31, 2021. If the employee receives a distribution during 2021, then that distribution is treated as an RMD for the 2021 calendar year to the extent the total RMD for 2021 has not been satisfied even if the distribution is made on or before April 1, 2021 (and, accordingly, is not eligible for rollover). However, because of the June 23 guidance, once the RMD for 2021 has been satisfied, any subsequent amounts distributed in 2021 that would otherwise not be eligible rollover distributions may be rolled over consistent with the rules provided in the guidance.

Lake Moore is an ERISA and employee benefits attorney who actively advises companies (large and small, public and private), administrators, accountants, tribal governments, and other lawyers on the compliance, administration, correction, and innovative design of a multitude of employee benefit plans.

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