Using the IRA Required Minimum Distribution To Pay Taxes
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Pay Taxes Once, Instead of Four Times, Using Your IRA’s Required Minimum Distribution

Age 70 ½ is an important age milestone for IRA owners. It’s the so-called ”day of reckoning” when the IRS begins collecting taxes on your deferred retirement savings. Fortu­nately, this event also triggers tax-planning oppor­tu­nities.

If you have income each year that results in paying quarterly federal tax estimates, you may be able to use your required minimum distri­b­ution (RMD) to pay some of your taxes. You simply elect tax withholding from the distri­b­ution in the amount that you need. For example, if your IRA RMD is $20,000 this year, you could ask your IRA custodian to withhold 100% of your RMD for taxes. This is equiv­alent to paying $20,000 spread out over four quarterly payments of $5,000 each.

With all else being equal, your income should be higher in the year of your first RMD because the IRA withdrawal itself is usually taxable. Using the figures above, if your income is $20,000 higher due to the RMD and you are in the 25% tax bracket you will owe an additional $5,000 in tax ($20,000 * 0.25%). If you were not required to pay quarterly estimates beforehand, you may just need to have 25% of your IRA RMD withheld for federal income taxes. If you had been paying quarterly, you now have $20,000 that has to be withdrawn and taxed anyway, which can be used to pay all or a portion of your tax.

Another benefit is that your withdrawal can be postponed until the end of the year giving your money more time to grow (if the stock market cooperates) before you send any funds to the IRS. You are credited for the taxes paid during the year no matter when the withdrawal and withholding is done. This is similar to taxes withheld during the year, as reported on an employee’s Form W‑2. IRA withdrawals are reported on IRS Form 1099‑R, along with the amount of tax withheld.

Be careful and consult a tax profes­sional if you have high income or if you are also paying state income taxes through quarterly payments. There are special circum­stances to consider and you may be required to keep paying these quarterly as usual.