The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (the SECURE Act) was signed into law on December 20, 2019. The Act will likely impact large numbers of working Americans as well those already retired. In general, the Act is intended to increase access to tax-advantaged retirement plans and to help prevent older Americans from outliving their assets.
Here are some of the changes that could affect your planning.
Delayed Deadline for Taking Required Minimum Distributions
Tax law has generally required individual retirement account (IRA) owners and retirement plan participants to begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their accounts once they reach age 70½. The new law pushes back the age at which these distributions must begin to age 72 for IRA owners and plan participants born on or after July 1, 1949. This change allows individuals to take advantage of their retirement account’s tax-deferred nature for a longer period.
No Age Limit for Making Traditional IRA Contributions
Beginning with the 2020 tax year, the new law eliminates the 70½ age limit for making annual contributions to traditional IRAs. This is a plus for those people who continue to work past age 70½ and want to keep saving for retirement on a tax-deferred basis.
Penalty-Free Birth and Adoption Distributions
The new law also expands the exceptions to the 10% penalty for early withdrawals from IRAs and other tax-deferred retirement plans by adding an exception for “qualified birth or adoption distributions” up to $5,000. The new law defines a “qualified” birth or adoption distribution as a withdrawal from an IRA or other eligible retirement plan made during the one-year period beginning on the date the IRA owner’s or the plan participant’s child is born or the adoptee’s adoption is finalized. If desired, parents may replenish their retirement savings by repaying the amount distributed.
Restrictions on Stretch IRAs
The new law places severe restrictions on the use of “stretch” IRAs. A stretch IRA generally permitted beneficiaries to take their RMDs from an inherited IRA over their life expectancy. Thus, beneficiaries were able to stretch payments from the inherited IRA over many years and potentially pass on the inherited IRA to their own beneficiaries. The SECURE Act changes the RMD rules for beneficiaries of IRA owners (and plan participants) who pass away in 2020 or later. Under the SECURE Act, the use of stretch IRAs is restricted to a limited group of IRA beneficiaries. The specific details on who is eligible to use stretch IRAs is complex, and IRA owners who base their estate plans on the use of a stretch IRA should consult with a financial professional to see how they might be impacted.
Small Business Retirement Plans
Good news if you own a small business — the SECURE Act provides incentives to make it easier for you to establish a retirement plan. Starting in 2020, eligible employers that establish a 401(k) or SIMPLE IRA plan with automatic enrollment may qualify for a new tax credit of $500 per year for up to three years. In addition, the existing credit for small employer plan startup costs has increased to as much as $5,000 per year for three years. Previously, the annual credit maximum was $500. Employers also have more time to establish a qualified retirement plan. Previously, a qualified plan, such as a profit sharing plan, had to be adopted by the last day of the employer’s tax year to be effective for that year. The SECURE Act allows a qualified plan to be adopted as late as the employer’s tax filing deadline (plus extensions).
Your financial and tax professionals can provide more details about these and other important SECURE Act changes and how they may affect your retirement planning.