“Stretch IRAs” in The Taxman’s Crosshairs

Inherited retirement accounts are truly one of those gifts that keep on giving because heirs can benefit for many years without much tax burden, but Congress is starting to talk about curtailing breaks on the accounts.

For all the bills, budget proposals, and political fury raging over Capitol Hill these days, it’s strange to think that one of the more far-reaching changes may come from a funding proposal for a transportation bill. That’s right, but it’s a big transportation bill. As Reuters reported here, the Senate Finance Committee has been considering action that would severely limit inherited IRA’s.

A lot of people stash fairly large sums into their nest-egg accounts and work to keep that money safe. They do this rather than spend it because, in the worst case, tax-advantaged dollars would be nice in a pinch. In the best case it offers a fairly convenient way of giving excess assets to your heirs at a tax advantage.

There are a number of rules in that regard that I’ve discussed here in the past, but in short, heirs generally have the choice between taking a lump sum or stretching out the withdrawal in a pattern similar to required minimum withdrawals (RMDs). The latter alternative, called a “stretch” IRA, is on the chopping block.

The proposal would limit the life of such “stretch” IRAs by placing a five year limit on liquidations of such accounts. It’s “financing” to the Senate because that forces an awful lot of money to be taken out and taxed within a short time span. It’s financial security for the inheriting taxpayer, on the other hand, but this proposal would limit the ultimate potential of these accounts to accrue over time and then limit the leeway of the inheritor to have even withdrawals over a longer period.

It might not go anywhere. Regardless, keep your eyes on this because it’s made its way to the table and therefore we might see it reappear into any number of budget discussions.

Unfortunately, too, in order to make it work Congress would grandfather old IRAs into it, so that means an awful lot of inheritors have something to think about for the future. Read more in the original article, and others like it.

Reference: Reuters (February 14, 2012) “ ‘Stretch’ IRA tax shelter on the chopping block


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