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When Are Retirement Assets Protected from Creditors?

An advisor asked: “Can you give me a refresher on the creditor protection rules for retirement plan assets at the federal and state levels?”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center (RLC) Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings and income plans, including nonqualified plans, stock options, and Social Security and Medicare. We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

A recent call with an advisor in Minnesota is representative of a common question on creditor protection for retirement plan assets.

Highlights of the Discussion
• The level of creditor protection for retirement plan assets depends on

1) the type of plan assets, and

2) whether the owner of the assets has filed for bankruptcy and, if not, the governing laws of the state with jurisdiction over the assets.

• The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA), effective October 17, 2005, clarified the level of creditor protection for retirement plan assets when the owner has filed for bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy
• BAPCPA amended Section 522 of the Bankruptcy Code to exempt from a debtor’s bankruptcy estate retirement assets that are held in

– IRC Sec. 401(a) plans (e.g., 401(k), defined contribution and defined benefit plans);
– 403(b) plans,
– Traditional IRAs (up to $1 million of contributory assets, indexed periodically),
– Roth IRAs (up to $1 million of contributory assets, indexed periodically),
– Simplified employee pension (SEP) plans,
– Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLE) plans,
– Church plans,
– Governmental plans,
– Multiemployer plans,
– Eligible 457(b) plans of state and local governments and IRC Sec. 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations and
– IRC Sec. 501(a) plans of tax-exempt organizations.

• Eligible rollover distributions under IRC Sec. 402(c) retain the unlimited bankruptcy protection given to them while held in the exempt retirement plan if they are contributed to another eligible retirement plan within 60 days of distribution. Earnings on the rollover assets are protected as well.

Nonbankruptcy
• In nonbankruptcy situations, assets held in ERISA plans are fully protected under the anti-alienation provision of the law [see Section 541(c)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code pursuant to Patterson vs. Shumate, 504 U.S. 753 (1992) and Section 206(d)(1) of ERISA].
• The protection of IRA assets (including rollover amounts) from general creditors of the IRA owner in nonbankruptcy situations falls under applicable state law, with many states—but not all—providing some level of exemption. (Link to State Government Websites for more information)
• Keep in mind that any qualified retirement plan or IRA (including traditional, Roth, rollover, SIMPLE or SEP plan IRAs) may be subject to an IRS tax levy.

Conclusion
The amount of creditor protection for retirement assets depends on whether the investor has filed for bankruptcy or not, and the type of retirement savings arrangements involved. For specific situations, individuals should consult legal counsel.

 

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new rules
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No More Age Restriction for Traditional IRA Contributions

“My client is 80 and still working. She wants to put some money aside for when she might retire; however, she doesn’t have access to a workplace retirement plan. Is an IRA an option?”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center (RLC) Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings and income plans, including nonqualified plans, stock options, and Social Security and Medicare.  We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

A recent call with an advisor in New York is representative of a common question related to making traditional IRA contributions.

Highlights of Discussion

More power to your client! You bet; an IRA is a great option. Of course, the most prudent course of action is to encourage your client to discuss her contribution options with her tax advisor.

Provided your client has the right amount of earned income to support it, she could contribute to a Roth IRA or—because of a key law change—she could contribute to a traditional IRA. She could even do a combination of Roth and traditional IRA contributions as long as she doesn’t exceed the maximum contribution of $7,000 for a person > age 50 between the two accounts. And, because the IRS has granted a special delay to the usual April 15th tax filing deadline,[1] she still could make a 2020 IRA contribution (Roth or traditional) up until May 17, 2021!

Prior to 2020, once a person reached age 70 ½, he or she could not contribute to a traditional IRA any longer. That rule changed for 2020 and later years as a result of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (the SECURE Act) (see TITLE I, section 107 of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020). The SECURE Act removed the age restriction for eligibility to make a traditional IRA contribution.  Roth IRA contributions have never had a maximum age limit, but they are subject to a maximum earnings limit. Consequently, for 2020 and beyond, the only requirement to be able to make a traditional or Roth IRA relates to having modified adjust gross income (MAGI) for the year—enough to make either a traditional or Roth IRA contribution, but not too much in the case of a Roth IRA contribution.

As to the question of deductibility, since your client does not participate in a workplace retirement plan—any traditional IRA contribution she may choose to make would be tax deductible, potentially. Active participation in a retirement plan can affect whether a traditional IRA contribution is tax deductible.  For details, please see a prior case: Active Participation May Affect IRA Deductibility

Conclusion

Recognizing that more people are working passed their 70s and may want to continue to save for retirement, the Administration saw fit to do away with the age limit for making traditional IRA contributions, effective for 2020 and beyond.

[1] Tax Day for individuals extended to May 17

 

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IRA
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How to Make a Legit $28,000 IRA Contribution

A colleague of mine said a 60-year-old couple who is a client of his just made a $28,000 IRA contribution. Is this some kind of new rule? I thought the maximum annual contribution was $6,000, with a potential additional $1,000 catch-up contribution for someone age 50 and over?

Highlights of Recommendations

  • A $28,000 IRA contribution for the couple is possible, courtesy of a combination of several IRS rules covering
  1. carry-back and current year contributions,
  2. spousal contributions and
  3. catch-up contributions.
  • From January 1, 2021 to May 17, 2021[1], it is potentially possible for a traditional or Roth IRA owner age 50 and over to make a $14,000 contribution: $7,000 as a 2020 carry-back contribution and $7,000 as a 2021 current-year contribution. That means a married couple filing a joint tax return could potentially make a $28,000 IRA contribution, with $14,000 going to each spouse’s respective IRA (either Roth or Traditional).
  • When making the contributions it is important to clearly designate to the IRA administrator that a portion is a carry-back contribution for 2020 and a portion is a 2021 current-year contribution in order to avoid having the full amount treated as a current-year contribution and, subsequently, an excess contribution for 2021.
  • Such a large combined contribution would only be possible if
    • The couple had not previously made a 2020 contribution to a traditional or Roth IRA,
    • Each spouse was age 50 or older as of 12/31/2020,
    • The couple has earned income for 2020 and 2021 to support the contributions, and
    • For a Roth IRA contribution, the couple’s income is under the modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) limits for Roth IRA contribution eligibility (see below).
  • Whether the traditional IRA contributions would be tax deductible depends upon “active participation” of either spouse in a workplace retirement plan[2] and the couple’s MAGI.
  • Please see the applicable MAGI ranges in the following chart.
Traditional IRA Eligibility for Deductible Contributions
Taxpayer Category 2021 MAGI Phase-Out Ranges 2020 MAGI Phase-Out Ranges
Married active participant filing a joint income tax return $105,000-$125,000 $104,000-$124,000
Single active participant $66,000-$76,000 $65,000-$75,000
Married active participant filing separate income tax return $0-$10,000 $0-$10,000
Spouse of an active participant $198,000-$208,000 $196,000-$206,000

Roth IRA Contribution Eligibility

Taxpayer Category 2021 MAGI Phase-Out Ranges 2020 MAGI Phase-Out Ranges
Married filing a joint income tax return $198,000-$208,000 $196,000-$206,000
Single individuals $125,000-$140,000 $124,000-$139,000
Married filing separate income tax return $0-$10,000 $0-$10,000

 

Conclusion

The deadline for making 2020 traditional or Roth IRA contributions is May 17, 2021. That means there is a window of opportunity that allows eligible couples to double up on IRA contributions (for 2020 as a carry-back contribution and one for 2021 as a current-year contribution) to the tune of $28,000.

 

 

[1] Usually, April 15th, but the IRS extended the 2020 tax filing deadline to May 17, 2021

[2] See Active Plan Participant and IRA Contributions

 

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Qualified Charitable Distributions in 2020

“I have a client who consistently has made Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) for the last several years and wants to make another for 2020.  Are they still available even though required minimum distributions (RMDs) are suspended for 2020?”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center (RLC) Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings and income plans, including nonqualified plans, stock options, and Social Security and Medicare.  We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

A recent call with a financial advisor from South Dakota is representative of a common inquiry related to charitable giving.

Highlights of the Discussion

  • Yes, if your client is an “eligible IRA owner or beneficiary,” s/he can still make a QCD for 2020 if s/he does so by December 31, 2020. Although the gift will not have the added benefit of counting towards an RMD for the year (since none are due pursuant to the CARES Act), s/he’ll still be able to exclude the QCD from taxable income and have the satisfaction of supporting a good cause. Because the QCD reduces taxable income, other potential benefits may result, for example, a person may be able to avoid paying higher Medicare premiums because of the reduced income. Note that for those who make both QCDs and deductible IRA contributions in the same year, new rules as a result of the SECURE Act may limit the portion of a QCD that is excluded from income.
  • An eligible IRA owner or beneficiary for QCD purposes is a person who has actually attained age 70 ½ or older, and has assets in traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, or “inactiveSEP IRAs or savings incentive match plans for employees (SIMPLE) IRAs. Inactive means there are no ongoing employer contributions to the SEP IRA or SIMPLE IRA. A SEP IRA or a SIMPLE IRA is treated as ongoing if the sponsoring employer makes an employer contribution for the plan year ending with or within the IRA owner’s taxable year in which the charitable contribution would be made (see IRS Notice 2007-7, Q&A 36).
  • A QCD is any otherwise taxable distribution (up to $100,000 per year) that an eligible person directly transfers to a “qualifying charitable organization.” QCDs were a temporary provision in the Pension Protection Act of 2006.  After years of provisional annual extensions, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 reinstated and made permanent QCDs for 2015 and beyond.
  • Generally, qualifying charitable organizations include those described in §170(b)(1)(A) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) (e.g., churches, educational organizations, hospitals and medical facilities, foundations, etc.) other than supporting organizations described in IRC § 509(a)(3) or donor advised funds that are described in IRC § 4966(d)(2). The IRS has a handy online tool Tax Exempt Organization Search, which can help taxpayers identify organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. Note that s/he would not be entitled to an additional itemized tax deduction for a charitable contribution when making a QCD.
  • Changes under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act made the decisions related to charitable giving more complicated in 2020. In addition to the above information on QCDs, the CARES Act created a new above-the-line deduction of $300 for charitable contributions, and allows for cash gifts to most public charities of up to 100 percent of adjusted gross income in 2020.  Because of the added complexity, seeking the advice of a tax professional regarding charitable giving would be the best course of action. IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, provides good basic information on the topic.
  • Where an individual has made nondeductible contributions to his or her traditional IRAs, a special rule treats amounts distributed to charities as coming first from taxable funds, instead of proportionately from taxable and nontaxable funds, as would be the case with regular distributions.
  • Be aware there are special IRS Form 1040 reporting instructions that apply to QCDs.
  • Section IX of IRS Notice 2007-7 contains additional compliance details regarding QCDs. For example, QCDs are not subject to federal tax withholding because an IRA owner that requests such a distribution is deemed to have elected out of withholding under IRC § 3405(a)(2) (see IRS Notice 2007-7 , Q&A 40).

 Conclusion

Eligible IRA owners and beneficiaries, including those with inactive SEP or SIMPLE IRAs, should be aware of the benefits of directing QCDs to their favorite charitable organizations.  Law changes have enhanced other giving options, making professional tax advice essential when making a gifting decision.

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CARES Act Payment and IRA Contributions

“My client wants to know the following:  ‘Can I use my $1,200 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act payment to make an IRA contribution? My other income comes from Social Security, pension payments and interest income payments.’”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center (RLC) Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings and income plans, including nonqualified plans, stock options, and Social Security and Medicare.  We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

A recent call with a financial advisor from Nevada is representative of a common inquiry related to IRA contributions.

Highlights of the Discussion

Unfortunately, no, the CARES Act payments are actually “Recovery Rebates” or “credit against taxes,” according to Section 2201 of the CARES Act and, therefore, would not be considered earned income for IRA contribution purposes [see Publication 590-A, Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)].  An individual must have wages or self-employment income to make an IRA contribution. Wages and self-employment income are commonly referred to as earned income.  Social Security, pension and interest income are not considered earned income for IRA contribution purposes, either.

The CARES Act payments are an early credit on a tax filer’s 2020 tax liability. The IRS will use the tax filer’s 2018 tax return to determine benefits, unless the individual or couple has already filed their 2019 Federal tax return. Individuals who are not dependents may receive up to $1,200 (i.e., single filers and heads of households); joint filers can receive up to $2,400; and there is an additional rebate of $500 per qualifying child, if they have adjusted gross income (AGI) under $75,000 (single), $150,000 (joint), or $112,500 (heads of household) using 2019 tax return information. The rebate phases out by $50 for every $1,000 of income earned above those thresholds.

If your client had some self-employment or even part-time wage income from actual service performed, then an IRA contribution based on such income would be feasible.

Conclusion

What can and cannot be used as eligible earned income to support an IRA contribution can be confusing. While CARES Act Recovery Rebates are welcome relief, they are not considered income for IRA contribution purposes.

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How is it possible to make a $27,000 IRA contribution by April 15, 2019?

“A colleague of mine said a 60-year-old client couple of his just made a $27,000 IRA contribution. How is that possible without creating an excess contribution?”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings and income plans, including nonqualified plans, stock options, and Social Security and Medicare. We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business. A recent call with a financial advisor from Massachusetts is representative of a common inquiry related to IRA contributions.

Highlights of the Discussion

There is a window of opportunity from January 1 through April 15, 2019, for a married couple to be able to contribute up to $27,000 at one time to their IRAs. Sizeable contributions like this are possible each year during tax season because of the carry-back and current-year IRA contribution rules, combined with the catch-up contribution limits for those ages 50 or more.

Here’s how it breaks down. From January 1 to April 15, 2019, it is potentially possible for a traditional or Roth IRA owner age 50 and over to contribute $6,500 as a 2018 carry-back contribution, and $7,000 as a 2019 current year contribution, for a total of $13,500.[1] That means a married couple filing a joint tax return could potentially make combined IRA contributions totaling $27,000, with $13,500 going to each spouse’s respective IRA.

Please be aware of the caveats. Such a large contribution would only be possible if the couple

  • Had not previously made 2018 contributions to traditional or Roth IRAs;
  • Each spouse was age 50 or greater as of December 31, 2018;
  • The couple has earned income to support the contributions;
  • For a Roth IRA contribution, had modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) under the limits for Roth IRA contribution eligibility; and
  • For a traditional IRA contribution, was under age 70½. (Whether a couple’s traditional IRA contributions would be tax deductible depends upon the couple’s MAGI and participation in a retirement plan at work. Please see the applicable MAGI ranges below.
Roth IRA Contribution Eligibility 2018 and 2019
Taxpayer Category 2018 MAGI Phase-Out Ranges 2019 MAGI Phase-Out Ranges
Married filing jointly $189,000-$199,000 $193,000-$203,000
Single individuals $120,000-$135,000 $122,000-$137,000
Married filing separately $0-$10,000 $0-$10,000
Traditional IRA Eligibility for Deductible Contributions
Taxpayer Category 2018 MAGI Phase-Out Ranges 2019 MAGI Phase-Out Ranges
Married active participant filing jointly $101,000-$121,000 $103,000-$123,000
Single active participant $63,000-$73,000 $64,000-$74,000
Married active participant filing separately $0-$10,000 $0-$10,000
Spouse of an active participant $189,000-$199,000 $193,000-$203,000

When making IRA contributions during the period between January 1 and April 15th of a given year, it is important for an investor to clearly designate to the IRA trustee or custodian for what year a contribution is being made (e.g., what portion represents a carry-back contribution for the preceding year and what portion represents a current-year contribution) in order to avoid having the full amount treated as a current-year contribution and, subsequently, an excess contribution.

Conclusion

Because of the carry-back and current-year IRA contribution rules, there is a window of opportunity through April 15th that allows eligible investors to double up, seemingly, on IRA contributions. Investors interested in maximizing their contributions in this way should consult their tax advisors regarding their particular circumstances.

 

[1] For eligible individuals under age 50, the maximum IRA contribution limit is $5,500 for 2018 and $6,000 for 2019.

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IRA
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Payroll Deduction IRA vs. Employer-Sponsored IRA

Is there a difference between payroll deduction IRAs and employer-sponsored IRAs?”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings and income plans, including nonqualified plans, Social Security and Medicare. We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

A recent call with a financial advisor from New Jersey is representative of a common inquiry related to workplace IRAs.

Highlights of the Discussion

Payroll deduction IRAs and employer-sponsored IRAs are similar, but they have important differences. A key difference is level of involvement by the employer.

The IRS views payroll deduction IRAs as arrangements that merely allow employees to make contributions to IRAs by having amounts deducted from their paychecks by their employers which are then directed to IRAs for deposit. There are no employer contributions. All the standard IRA rules apply. Further, if a payroll deduction IRA program follows the IRS’s safe harbor rules for structure, it is not considered an employer pension plan and, therefore, exempt from the rules of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) (see DOL Reg. 2510.3-2(d) and Interpretive Bulletin 99-1).

Generally, a payroll deduction IRA is not considered an ERISA plan if

  1. it is voluntary;
  2. there are no employer contributions;
  3. the employer does not endorse a particular IRA provider (although limiting the number of IRA providers is permitted within limits); and
  4. the employer receives only reasonable compensation for administrative services.

In contrast, IRC Sec. 408(c) and IRC Sec. 219(f)(5) allow employers and employee associations to establish employer-sponsored IRA arrangements and make employer contributions to employees’ IRAs or a common trust fund that separately accounts for the employees’ contributions. Employers who want an IRS ruling on their employer-sponsored IRA plans may file IRS Form 5306, Application for Approval of Prototype or Employer-Sponsored Individual Retirement Arrangement. These are savings arrangements other than simplified employee pension (SEP) plans under IRC Sec. 408(k) or savings incentive match plans for employees (SIMPLE) IRA plans under IRC Sec. 408(p). Consequently, all the standard IRA rules apply.

Any amount contributed by an employer to an IRA that is employer sponsored under IRC Sec. 408(c) shall be treated as payment of compensation to the employee (other than for a self-employed individual), deductible by the employer and subject to Social Security and unemployment taxes. Employees may be able to deduct such contributions under the standard rules that apply for the deductibility of traditional IRA contributions [Treasury Regulation 1.219-1(c)(4)]. In this scenario, the employer-sponsored IRA arrangement is considered an ERISA plan for certain purposes, for example, they are subject to limited Form 5500 Reporting (See “IRA Plans” IRS Form 5500 instructions).

Conclusion

While payroll deduction IRAs and employer-sponsored IRAs have similarities, the DOL views them differently, depending on the level of involvement by the employer.

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IRA
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Active Plan Participant and IRA Contributions

“Active participation in an employer’s retirement plan can affect whether an IRA contribution made by the participant is deductible on the tax return. What does ‘active participation’ mean?”

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings plans. We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

A recent call with a financial advisor from Minnesota is representative of a common inquiry involving a taxpayer’s ability to make a deductible IRA contribution. 

Highlights of Discussion

For purposes of the IRA deduction rules, an individual shall be an “active participant” for a taxable year if either the individual or the individual’s spouse actively participates during any part of the year in a(n)[1]

  • Qualified plan described in Internal Revenue Code Section [IRC §401(a)], such as a defined benefit, profit sharing, 401(k) or stock bonus plan;
  • Qualified annuity plan described in IRC §403(a);
  • Simplified employee pension (SEP) plan under IRC §408(k);
  • Savings incentive match plan for employees (SIMPLE) IRA under IRC §408(p);
  • Governmental plan established for its employees by the federal, state or local government, or by an agency or instrumentality thereof (other than a plan described in IRC §457);
  • IRC §403(b) plan, either annuity or custodial account; or
  • Trust created before June 25, 1959, as described in IRC §501(c)(18).

When an individual is considered active depends on the type of employer-sponsored plan.

Profit Sharing or Stock Bonus Plan:   During the participant’s taxable year, if he or she receives a contribution or forfeiture allocation, he or she is an active participant for the taxable year.

Voluntary or Mandatory Employee Contributions: During the participant’s taxable year, if he or she makes voluntary or mandatory employee contributions to a plan, he or she is an active participant for the taxable year.

Defined Benefit Plan: For the plan year ending with or within the individual’s taxable year, if an individual is not excluded under the eligibility provisions of the plan, he or she is an active participant for that taxable year.

Money Purchase Pension Plan: For the plan year ending with or within the individual’s taxable year, if the plan must allocate an employer contribution to an individual’s account he or she is an active participant for the taxable year.

Refer to IRS Notice 87-16 for specific examples of active participation.

As a quick check, Box 13 on an individual’s IRS Form W-2 should contain a check in the “Retirement plan” box if the person is an active participant for the taxable year.

 

Form W-2 Box 13 Retirement Plan Checkbox Decision Chart

Type of Plan Conditions Check Retirement Plan Box?
Defined benefit plan (for example, a traditional pension plan) Employee qualifies for employer funding into the plan, due to age/years of service—even though the employee may not be vested or ever collect benefits Yes
Defined contribution plan (for example, a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, a Roth 401(k) or 403(b) account, but not a 457 plan) Employee is eligible to contribute but does not elect to contribute any money in this tax year No
Defined contribution plan (for example, a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, a Roth 401(k) or 403(b) account, but not a 457 plan) Employee is eligible to contribute and elects to contribute money in this tax year Yes
Defined contribution plan (for example, a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, a Roth 401(k) or 403(b) account, but not a 457 plan) Employee is eligible to contribute but does not elect to contribute any money in this tax year, but the employer does contribute funds Yes
Defined contribution plan (for example, a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, a Roth 401(k) or 403(b) account, but not a 457 plan) Employee contributed in past years but not during the current tax year under report No (even if the account value grows due to gains in the investments)
Profit-sharing plan Plan includes a grace period after the close of the plan year when profit sharing can be added to the participant’s account Yes

 

If a person is an active participant, he or she must apply income thresholds to determine whether an IRA contribution is deductible or not. Please refer to the following chart

IRA Contribution Deductibility

 

Conclusion

Participating in certain employer-sponsored retirement plans can affect an individual’s ability to deduct a traditional IRA contribution on an individual’s tax return for the year. The IRS Form W-2 should indicate active participation in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. When in doubt, taxpayers should check with their employers.

 

 

[1]  IRS Notice 87-16

 

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IRAs, SEPs, SIMPLEs and Qualified Charitable Distributions

 

My client has a simplified employee pension (SEP) IRA through his place of employment. He’s wondering if he can make a tax-free, qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from his SEP IRA?

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs and qualified retirement plans. We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business. A recent call with an advisor in South Dakota is representative of a common inquiry involving charitable IRA distributions.

Highlights of Discussion

A QCD is any otherwise taxable distribution (up to $100,000 per year) that an “eligible IRA owner or beneficiary” directly transfers to a “qualifying charitable organization.” QCDs were a temporary provision in the Pension Protection Act of 2006.  After years of provisional annual extensions, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 reinstated and made permanent QCDs for 2015 and beyond.

With tax rates dropping in 2018 as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, taxpayers may get more “bang for their bucks” on their 2017 tax returns by completing a QCD by December 31, 2017.

Generally, IRA owners must include any distributions of pre-tax amounts from their IRAs in their taxable income for the year. Aside from the benevolent aspect of making a QCD, a QCD is excludable from taxable income, plus it may count towards the individual’s required minimum distribution (RMD) for the year, and may lower taxable income enough for the person to avoid paying additional Medicare premiums. Note that he or she would not be entitled to an additional itemized tax deduction for a charitable contribution when making a QCD. (Apart from a QCD, IRA owners who take taxable IRA distributions and donate them to charitable organizations may be eligible to deduct such amounts on their tax returns for the year if they itemize deductions (Schedule A of Form 1040). See IRS Tax Topic 506 and IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions for more information.)

An eligible IRA owner or beneficiary for QCD purposes is a person who has actually attained age 70 ½ or older, and has assets in traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, or “inactiveSEP IRAs or savings incentive match plans for employees (SIMPLE) IRAs. Inactive means there are no ongoing employer contributions to the SEP IRA or SIMPLE IRA. A SEP IRA or a SIMPLE IRA is treated as ongoing if the sponsoring employer makes an employer contribution for the plan year ending with or within the IRA owner’s taxable year in which the charitable contribution would be made (see IRS Notice 2007-7, Q&A 36).

Generally, qualifying charitable organizations include those described in §170(b)(1)(A) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) (e.g., churches, educational organizations, hospitals and medical facilities, foundations, etc.) other than supporting organizations described in IRC § 509(a)(3) or donor advised funds that are described in IRC § 4966(d)(2). The IRS has a handy online tool Exempt Organization Select Check, which can help taxpayers identify organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.

Where an individual has made nondeductible contributions to his or her traditional IRAs, a special rule treats amounts distributed to charities as coming first from taxable funds, instead of proportionately from taxable and nontaxable funds, as would be the case with regular distributions.

Be aware there are special IRS Form 1040 reporting instructions that apply to QCDs.

Section IX of IRS Notice 2007-7 contains additional compliance details regarding QCDs. For example, QCDs are not subject to federal tax withholding because an IRA owner that requests such a distribution is deemed to have elected out of withholding under IRC § 3405(a)(2) (see IRS Notice 2007-7, Q&A 40 ).

Conclusion

Eligible IRA owners and beneficiaries, including those with inactive SEP or SIMPLE IRAs, should be aware of the benefits of directing QCDs to their favorite charitable organizations.

 

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December 2017 IRA and Retirement Plan Deadlines

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs and qualified retirement plans.  We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business. A recent call with an advisor in California is representative  of a common inquiry involving December deadlines.

Highlights of Discussion

There are several IRA and retirement-plan related deadlines that occur in December as summarized next.

December 1, 2017 Deadline for calendar-year plans to provide plan participants with safe harbor, qualified default investment alternative (QDIA) and automatic enrollment notices.
December 15, 2017 ERISA extended deadline for distributing the Summary Annual Report to plan participants (for plans that filed Form 5500 with an extension)
December 29, 2017* Deadline for IRA owners and retirement plan participants to satisfying their second and subsequent years’ required minimum distributions for 2017
Deadline for making qualified nonelective contributions or qualified matching contributions to correct failed actual deferral percentage (ADP) or actual contribution percentage (ACP) tests in the previous plan year for plans using the current-year testing method
Deadline for removing an ADP or ACP excess contribution for the prior plan year with a 10% excess tax in order to avoid an IRS correction program
Deadline to complete a 2017 Roth IRA conversion or designated Roth in-plan conversion
Deadline to amend an existing 401(k) plan to a safe harbor design for 2018
Deadline to amend a 401(k) safe harbor plan to remove safe harbor status for 2018
Deadline to amend plan for discretionary changes implemented during the 2017 plan year

*Generally, December 31st.  However, December 31, 2017, falls on a Sunday.

Conclusion

December is a busy month for IRA and retirement-plan related deadlines. Have you marked your calendar?

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