As an initial response to the economic devastation created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act back in March, a $2+ trillion emergency fiscal stimulus package. In addition to several notable provisions, such as direct government payments to taxpayers and the elimination of the 10% early withdrawal penalty on distributions from retirement accounts, the CARES Act also suspended required minimum distributions (RMDs) for 2020 for IRAs, 401(ks), and other defined contribution retirement plans.
Unfortunately, the CARES Act didn’t address those who had already taken their RMD(s) – or at least what they thought were RMDs at the time – earlier in the year, but in April 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2020-23, which started to address this issue. More specifically, the Notice extended the rollover window deadline for distributions taken on or after February 1, 2020 to the later of July 15, 2020, or (the regular) 60 days after the distribution was received.
On June 23rd, 2020, the IRS further expanded its relief for early-year would-have-been-RMDs, when it issued Notice 2020-51. Notice 2020-51 provided unprecedented relief for many taxpayers, by not only (further) extending the rollover window for distributions that would have been 2020 RMDs (but for the CARES Act) to the later of August 31, 2020, or (the regular) 60 days after the distribution was received, but also by allowing taxpayers to ignore the prohibitions on completing multiple IRA rollovers in a 365-day period (the once-per-year rollover rule) or a rollover of a distribution from an inherited retirement account, that normally apply. The cutoff date for this unprecedented relief, however, is rapidly approaching, advisors have been fielding a flurry of questions from clients regarding the rollback guidance.
As a starting point, many clients are wondering if they have any options available if they miss the deadline. Unfortunately, distributions received more than 60 days ago, or for which a rollover would violate the one-per-year rollover rule, or that were made from an inherited IRA (401(k), or other defined contribution plan) generally won’t be able to be rolled back after the August 31, 2020 deadline. The sole exception to the hard deadline of August 31,2020 is for IRA, 401(k), and other defined contribution retirement plan owners (not beneficiaries) who can treat an early 2020 distribution as a Coronavirus-Related Distribution. More specifically, such distributions, as defined by Section 2202 CARES Act, can be returned up to three years after the date of distribution.
Meanwhile, some clients have asked what their options are if they took more than the required minimum distribution and would now like to roll those back. Unfortunately, unless such individuals are still within the 60-day window, or they can treat their distribution as a Coronavirus-Related Distribution, the portion of their distribution in excess of what would have been their 2020 RMD will not be eligible for return.
Another very common question has been around what happens when a client took an in-kind distribution earlier this year to satisfy their required minimum distribution. In many instances, the value of the distributed asset may have appreciated substantially since they were distributed. If the distribution was made from an IRA, retirees must return the same property that was taken out (as if the distribution was never made in the first place), regardless of how much the value of the property increased (or decreased) in the past few months. For those who may have already (incorrectly) returned cash to try and complete a rollover of the in-kind distribution, two steps are required to ‘fix’ the ‘problem’ without any penalties. First, the same property must be rolled back by the August 31, 2020 deadline. Second, the cash, along with any gain/loss attributable must be distributed as an excess contribution, by October 15, 2021.
Ultimately, the key point is that time is running short to return unwanted RMDs from retirement account, and while it’s possible for a limited number of retirees to classify prior distributions as Coronavirus-related distributions, the majority of individuals must take action by August 31, 2020 if they are to rollover an early year distribution that would have been an RMD, if not for the CARES Act. And while it’s possible that further relief for such amounts may be included in future stimulus bills by Congress, retirement accounts have already been specifically addressed with historic guidance, making it less likely that we’ll see future RMD relief from either Congress or the IRS.