Vernoia, Enterline + Brewer, CPA LLC

Taxpayers who wish to withdraw funds from a retirement account such as an IRA before they reach the age of 59½, can do so without their distributions becoming subject to the additional 10 percent tax. One option is to have their distributions made in substantially equal periodic payments, as outlined in Sec. 72(t) of the IRC. Taxpayers can use one of three methods to calculate these substantially equal payments:

(1) Required minimum distribution method. Under this method, a taxpayer divides the retirement account’s principal by the appropriate number on the IRS’s life expectancy table for the year in which distributions will begin. That number depends upon the taxpayer’s age. Payment amounts will be predetermined each year by dividing the remaining principal by the number corresponding to the taxpayer’s age. Note: Although this method of computation is much simpler than the second and third, it results in lower annual distributions. The length of time, however, over which the distributions are made is generally greater than for the amortization and annuitization methods.

(2) Fixed amortization method. Under the amortization method, the annual amount of payments is fixed at the time the first payment is made. The amount of the annual distribution is determined by amortizing the taxpayer’s account balance using the appropriate reasonable interest rate released by the IRS over a number of years, which equals the life expectancy of the account owner.

(3) Fixed annuitization method. As with the amortization method, all resulting annual payments remain the same for each succeeding year. The amount of the payments is determined by dividing the account principal by the appropriate annuity factor, which is based on the IRS’s mortality table and an interest rate of not more than 120% of the federal mid-term rate.

Payments made calculated through the annuitization method are generally the highest. Taxpayers electing to use this method should be aware that higher annual payments will more quickly exhaust their principal. So long as the distribution payment scheme remains unmodified for a five year period beginning from the first payment date, the distributions will not be subject to the additional 10 percent tax.

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