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There ARE Solutions for Required Minimum Distributions! 11.15.2021

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By: Steve Pitchford, Director of Tax and Financial Planning      

Dreading a Required Minimum Distribution, or RMD, from a retirement account? No doubt, it’s because of T-A-X-E-S.

While RMDs can be an unwanted by-product of contributing to and investing in retirement accounts such as 401(k)s, IRAs, 403(b)s, etc., there are impactful and proactive tax planning strategies that can materially lessen the tax sting of an RMD.

What are RMDs, and how should an individual plan for them within the context of a tax-efficient retirement strategy? Read on to learn more about RMDs, and specifically, three actionable RMD strategies worth evaluating to better keep Uncle Sam at bay.

Required Minimum Distributions RMD taxes

What is an RMD?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires that individuals begin taking annual distributions (read: withdrawals) from pre-tax qualified retirement accounts[1] when they reach age 72. These withdrawals are referred to as required minimum distributions (RMDs).

RMDs from pre-tax qualified retirement accounts are subject to ordinary income tax rates in the year in which they are taken.

Examples of pre-tax qualified retirement accounts include:

  • Regular/Traditional IRAs
  • SEP IRAs
  • SIMPLE IRAs
  • 401(k) plans[2]
  • 403(b) plans
  • 457(b) plans
  • Profit sharing plans
  • Other defined contributions plans  
  • Inherited IRAs (subject to special rules, see page six)
  • Annuities, but only when held within another qualified retirement plan

Generally, Roth IRAs are the only type of qualified retirement plan not subject to RMDs. Withdrawals from Roth IRAs are tax-free, and the IRS does not mandate distributions from these accounts, as no tax revenue is generated when taking a Roth distribution.

Why are Investors Subject to RMDs?

Pre-tax contributions to a qualified retirement account provide two important and major tax advantages:

  1. A dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxable income (read: an income tax deduction) for the contribution in the year it was made
  2. Investment earnings (interest, dividends, and capital gains) are not taxed until withdrawn from the plan[3]. The power of tax-deferred compounding is tremendous, FYI:
The Power of Tax Deferral RMD taxes

If RMDs did not exist and an individual had sufficient supplemental financial means[4] to meet their retirement spending goals and objectives, they would probably avoid distributions from a pre-tax qualified retirement plan in the interests of avoiding paying the concurrent ordinary income taxes on those distributions. Requiring these distributions ensures that the government will not lose out on valuable tax revenue, on top of the lost tax revenue from the upfront tax deduction and tax-deferred growth that retirement accounts already provide.

How are RMDs Calculated?

For most individuals, the annual RMD calculation is as follows:

  1. The individual determines the account balance as of December 31 of the year before the RMD is to be taken.[5]
  2. The account owner determines his or her “life expectancy factor” using the life expectancy tables published by the IRS.
  3. The account balance is divided by the life expectancy factor to determine that year’s RMD.

The life expectancy table used for most individuals is the following:

Required Minimum Distributions How are RMDs Calculated

*Individuals should speak with their financial advisor or tax professional to ensure that they are not subject to a different life expectancy factor, as exceptions to the above table do exist.

Investment custodians such as Charles Schwab, Fidelity, and Vanguard typically calculate RMDs on behalf of the retirement account owner. However, it is the responsibility of the owner to ensure the RMD is satisfied before year-end.[6]

Towerpoint Tip:

Withholding taxes directly from qualified retirement plan distributions is generally the most convenient way to pay the RMD taxes. However, using after-tax dollars instead to pay estimated tax payments to cover the RMD taxes may be a more tax-efficient approach.

What If an Investor Misses Taking Some or All of Their RMD?

If a retirement account owner who is subject to an RMD misses taking it by December 31, the penalty is steep: 50% of the RMD shortfall.

If this happens to occur, the individual should immediately:

  1. Take corrective action and distribute the shortfall from their qualified retirement account as quickly as possible.
  2. File a Tax Form 5329.
  3. Attach a letter to the Form 5329 explaining the steps taken to correct this and why it was missed in the first place. While there is no formal guidance from the IRS regarding an error that would qualify for the penalty to be waived, three common positions taken are a change in address resulting in not getting the RMD notification, a death in the family, or an illness.

How to Effectively Plan to Decrease RMD Taxes

There are three strategies that we regularly employ for our Towerpoint Wealth clients to mitigate RMD taxes.

Strategy One: Accelerate IRA Withdrawals

Subject to certain exceptions, age 59 ½ is the first year in which an individual is able to take a distribution from a qualified retirement plan without being subject to a 10% early withdrawal tax penalty.

Consequently, the window of time between age 59 ½ and age 72 becomes an important one for proactive RMD tax planning. By strategically taking distributions from pre-tax qualified retirement accounts between these ages, an individual may be able to lessen theiroverall lifetime tax liability by reducing future RMDs (and the risk that RMDs may push them into a higher tax bracket) by reducing the retirement account balance.

This strategy becomes particularly opportune for an individual who has retired before age 72, as it often affords the individual the ability to take these taxable distributions in a uniquely low income (and lower income tax) period of time.

At Towerpoint Wealth, we utilize BNA Income Tax Planner, a robust piece of tax planning software, to evaluate these types of tax planning opportunities, helping our clients optimize this decision-making process.

Towerpoint Tip:

Don’t forget Social Security! Leveraging distributions taken from qualified retirement accounts to serve as a retirement income “bridge” is an important consideration when strategically planning how and when to receive Social Security benefits. Oftentimes, it is advisable to take distributions from qualified retirement accounts to meet retirement spending goals and objectives and delay filing for Social Security benefits until age 68, 69, or even 70.

Why? Each year Social Security benefits are deferred, starting at the first eligible filing year of age 62, until age 70, the monthly benefit amount increases by a guaranteed 8%! 

Strategy Two: Execute a Roth Conversion

A Roth conversion is a retirement and tax planning strategy whereby an individual transfers, or “converts,” some or all of their pre-tax qualified retirement plan assets from a Traditional IRA into a tax-free Roth IRA.

While ordinary income taxes are owed on any amounts of tax-deferred contributions and earnings that are converted, a Roth conversion, when utilized properly, is a powerful tax planning strategy to reduce a future IRA RMD, as Roth assets are not subject to RMDs. Further, Roth conversions 1) maximize the tax-free growth within a taxpayer’s investment portfolio, 2) provide a hedge against possible future tax-rate increases (as Roth retirement accounts are tax-free), and 3) leave a greater tax-free financial legacy to heirs.

Roth IRAs IRA RMD

For both strategies #1 and #2: Consider executing these strategies for the older spouse first, as this individual will be subject to an IRA RMD earlier. For this same reason, it is often advisable to contribute to the younger spouse’s pre-tax qualified retirement plan first.

Towerpoint Tip:

At Towerpoint Wealth, pairing a Roth conversion with the “frontloading” of a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) has been a powerful tax planning strategy, allowing our clients to convert additional assets “over” to tax-free Roth assets at lower tax rates, while also allowing taxpayers who would not ordinarily itemize deductions to “hurdle” the standard deduction. This ensures that they receive at least a partial tax deduction for their charitable contribution to a DAF.

Strategy Three: Use the IRA RMD to Make Qualified Charitable Distributions

When an individual becomes subject to an IRA RMD, in lieu of having the IRA distributions go to them, they may consider facilitating a direct transfer from their IRA to one, or more, 501(c)3 charitable organizations (up to $100K annually). This is known as a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD).

As long as these distributions are made directly to the charity, they 1) satisfy the RMD and 2) are excluded from taxable income.

This strategy, when executed property, results in a dollar-for-dollar income reduction compared to a “normal” RMD.

Required Minimum Distributions Charitable Distributions

What Is an Inherited IRA, and Are They Subject to RMDs?

An Inherited IRA, also commonly known as a Beneficiary IRA, is a qualified retirement account that is opened on behalf of the beneficiary(ies) of the original owner’s qualified retirement account after the death of this owner. While the rules surrounding RMDs for Inherited IRAs can be complicated, Inherited IRAs are subject to mandatory distribution schedules.

For most individuals, the RMD on Inherited IRAs is levied as follows:

            RMD on Inherited IRA for an owner who passed before December 31, 2019

Subject to a life expectancy table similar to those for regular RMDs. These RMDs begin the year following the death of the owner.

            RMD on Inherited IRA for an owner who passed after December 31, 2019

Subject to the “10-Year Rule” where all funds need to be distributed ten years after the year of the owner’s death. How and when funds are distributed within this ten-year time horizon is up to the owner of the Inherited IRA.

Towerpoint Tip:

The “10-Year Rule” is making Inherited IRA tax planning more important than ever. Although the flexibility of how and when to withdraw funds within this period may be helpful, the window of distribution is more compressed (for most individuals) compared to the “old” rules.

Individuals should consider a Roth conversion if they are concerned about their inheritors paying taxes on future distributions. While Inherited Roth IRAs are subject to the same RMD rules as Inherited IRAs, the distributions are tax-free. A Roth conversion, within this context, is an estate planning strategy to transfer tax liability to the original account owner and away from the future inheritor(s).

How Can We Help?

At Towerpoint Wealth, we are a fiduciary to you, and embrace the legal obligation we have to work 100% in your best interests. We are here to serve you and will work with you to formulate a comprehensive and tax-efficient retirement strategy. If you would like to discuss further, we encourage you to call, 916-405-9166, or email spitchford@towerpointwealth.com to open an objective dialogue.


[1] A retirement plan that provides tax advantages relative to nonqualified plans. Most employer-sponsored plans are qualified retirement plans.

[2] Less than 5% owners can defer RMDs until they leave the company or retire.

[3] Taxable investment accounts, such as a brokerage account or trust account, are subject to taxes based on annual earnings. Investors receive a Form 1099 each year showing the income to be reported on tax returns.

[4] Pension income, Social Security benefits, taxable investment assets, etc.

[5] For example, a 2021 RMD is calculated using the account balance as of December 31, 2020.

[6] RMDs may be taken all at once or throughout the year.

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Will Your Portfolio Fall to Pieces Due to Federal Income Tax Increases? 10.01.2021

Lots of talk. Lots of posturing. Lots of sound bites. But not a lot of action (so far, at least). A familiar refrain? It is, when it comes to our elected officials in Washington D.C.

washington gridlock Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Summary

In today’s Trending Today newsletter, we are going to explore the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, the $3.5 trillion infrastructure plan details, and, perhaps most importantly to investors, the potential federal income tax increases that may occur if and when either, or both, of these massive bills become law.


Legislators are taking a two-step approach in their efforts to pass President Biden’s ambitious jobs and infrastructure program, some provisions being Republican-friendly, and some Democrat-friendly. This two-track plan to pass this legislation works as follows: Put the GOP-friendly items in a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that could pass on a bipartisan basis, and then put the rest in a much larger $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill that would attempt to pass on a party-line vote, via what is known as budget reconciliation, which only requires a simple majority to pass it.


The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, already passed the Senate by a vote of 69-30 on August 10. Many people have asked: “What is the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and what’s in it?” Focusing on the traditional definition of infrastructure, the bill focuses on roads, bridges, rail, and water. It is truly a monumental measure, with an equally monumental 13 digit price tag!

What’s in the bipartisan infrastructure bill?

what is the bipartisan infrastructure bill

However, the bipartisan infrastructure bill cannot become law until it also passes the House of Representatives, and that is where things begin to become tricky.

Nancy Pelosi Federal Income Tax Increases

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi promised that the House would vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill yesterday, but that vote was again delayed. The problem? Pelosi faces pressure from progressive Democrats, who say they will not support the “skinny” $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill unless the much bigger $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill, focusing on human infrastructure and social spending such as climate change mitigation, increased child care funding, and health care expansions, also moves ahead.

We truly feel it is amazing that we live in a world where spending $1.2 trillion on a bipartisan infrastructure bill is considered “skinny,” but it is when compared to the $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill!

Financing such social programs as universal pre-kindergarten, extended childcare, and expansion of health insurance coverage provided under Obamacare, the $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill, known as the American Families Plan (AFP), it represents the largest expansion of federal spending since the New Deal. And, with this enormous price tag comes the concurrent federal income tax increases to fund it. Here are the potential “highlights”:

  • Federal income tax increases – the AFP will restore the 39.6% pre-Trump, pre-Tax Cuts and Jobs Act marginal ordinary income tax rate. This current marginal rate is 37%.
  • Multimillionaire excise tax – the AFP places a 3% excise tax on income in excess of $5 million
  • Higher corporate tax rates – the corporate tax rate is set to increase form 21% to 26.5%, with a new minimum tax of 16.5% on offshore earnings
  • Higher capital gains tax rates – the federal marginal capital gains tax rate for those with incomes higher than $400,000 will increase from 20% to 25%, and will be retroactive to September 13, 2021

And the less-likely but still possible proposals:

Additionally, the following indirect federal income tax increases are in the crosshairs:

  • Elimination of Roth IRA conversions for taxpayers filing jointly with incomes over $450,000, and for single taxpayers with incomes over $400,000
  • Elimination of “Backdoor” Roth IRA contributions, banned for ALL income levels
  • Mandatory taxable drawdowns of large IRAs – contributions to IRAs that have a total value of $10 million or more would be prohibited, IRAs and 401(k)s in excess of $10 million will have required minimum distributions of half of the amount over $10MM, and for retirement accounts over $20 million, everything over $20MM must be distributed immediately

Federal Income Tax Increases Explained

Still confused? Have more questions? Hungry for clear answers? Found below is a simple educational video we just produced, designed to break down the complicated topic of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, the $3.5 trillion infrastructure plan details, and the concurrent federal income tax increases that may occur, all specifically arranged in a digestible and easy-to-understand format.

Click HERE to watch the video!

Federal Income Tax Increases Explained

Be sure to also click the SUBSCRIBE button to follow

Towerpoint Wealth on YouTube!

Importantly, and regardless of how things shake out, at Towerpoint Wealth we sincerely believe three things:

  1. Taxes will be higher over the next few years, perhaps as early as January of 2022, and perhaps significantly for higher income earners
  2. It is very reasonable to assume that this infrastructure legislation, in one way, shape, or form, will become law, and that trillions of dollars will soon be spent by our Federal government
  3. The next three months represent the most important tax planning months in recent years, as potential federal income tax increases mentioned above could be effective as soon as 1/1/2022

These tax planning opportunities include:

  • Accelerate income into THIS YEAR, and defer tax deductions into future tax years, to leverage today’s low income tax rates and minimize tomorrow’s potential Federal income tax increases
  • Utilize a partial, or even full, Roth IRA conversion in 2021, for the same reason mentioned directly above
  • Evaluate gifting strategies, such as the utilization of a donor advised fund (DAF), to accelerate (or “bunch”) your charitable contributions to hurdle the standard deduction in 2021

Have a plan, and if you don’t, we encourage you to click HERE to message us and begin to discuss your circumstances further. With the high probability of federal income tax increases occurring in the near future, time is of the essence!

What’s Happening at TPW?

Our always-photogenic Director of Research and Analytics, Nathan Billigmeier, and his beautiful wife Jessica, post together prior to heading into the brand new Safe Credit Union Performing Arts Center in downtown Sacramento to see a stellar performance of Hamilton!

Nathan Billigmeier Director of Research and Analytics

Most of the Towerpoint Wealth family (and extended family!) had a fun day of golf two Monday’s ago, directly supporting the Rotary Club of Arden-Arcade and the Rotary Club of Granite Bay to raise resources and money for homelessness, at-risk youth, and local schools and parks.

It was quite the “Around the World” golf tournament, specifically the craft beer, jello shots, and marshmallow drive on the TPW-hosted 7th hole!

Graph of the Week

Are you a nocoiner, or do you HODL?

A compelling chart below suggests that cryptocurrency does not appear to be going away any time soon!

What do you think is going to happen with crypto? Click HERE to message us and let us know your thoughts!

Trending Today

As the 24/7 news cycle churns, twists, and turns, a number of trending and notable events have occurred over the past few weeks:

As always, we sincerely value our relationships and partnerships with each of you, as well as your trust and confidence in us here at Towerpoint Wealth. We encourage you to reach out to us at any time (916-405-9140, info@towerpointwealth.com) with any questions, concerns, or needs you may have. The world continues to be an extremely unsettled and complicated place, and we are here to help you properly plan for and make sense of it.

Click here to Download

Towerpoint Wealth Sacramento Independent Financial Advisor

– Joseph, Jonathan, Steve, Lori, Nathan, and Michelle

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Hope for Immunity in Our Community? 03.12.2021

A year ago yesterday, on March 11, 2020, the WHO officially declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. Later that night, the NBA pulled the plug on two scheduled games (including the Pelicans/Kings game here in Sacramento), and then immediately suspended its season after Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell both tested positive for the disease:

NBA Immunity

The battle against coronavirus has unquestionably been a difficult, painful, arduous, and seemingly constant one over the past 12 months, with the underlying question constantly on everyone’s mind: “When will we reopen and get back to normal?” And while we are by no means at the finish line yet, at Towerpoint Wealth we believe we are much closer to the end of the pandemic than we are to the beginning of it.

Why the hope? We will let the visuals support a number of key reasons for our optimism:

Huge declines in COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations

Widespread vaccine distribution

Extreme fiscal stimulus

Measured re-opening of the economy

Pending herd immunity

At Towerpoint Wealth, we believe it is also time to look forward, without letting our guard down, with expanding optimism and appreciation for what the future holds. Understanding we will always remain pragmatic, and avoid cockeyed optimism, we do believe that the marathon is almost at its conclusion.

What’s Happening at TPW?

Our lovely Director of Operations, Lori Heppner, along with her Bella. 🙂

Our Partner, Wealth Advisor, Jonathan LaTurner, spent a few days last month in Tulum, Mexico, doing some wedding venue due diligence with his bride-to-be, Katie McDonald. Yes, we’re all very jealous of you two, walking Tulum Beach and both looking great!

TPW Service Highlight – Charitable Giving

It used to be (and still can be) as simple as writing a check and mailing it off to your favorite charity. However, simply giving cash may not be the best, nor the most beneficial or impactful, way to be philanthropic. Fortunately, today’s donors have a myriad of gifting strategies that can increase the economic benefits of their gifts, both for the charity, as well as for you.

From charitable remainder trusts, charitable lead trusts, and private foundations, to donor advised and pooled income funds, and from IRA qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) to charitable gift annuities, there are many options for those who are inclined towards philanthropy. Determining which charitable strategy is best for your personal circumstances can be challenging, and as experts in this field, we stand ready to help you better understand the advantages and disadvantages of each as we develop the most appropriate gifting strategy for you. Click HERE to talk more with us about your philanthropic intent and charitable gifting plan.

Issuance of Amended 2020 Form 1099s – Don’t File Too Early!

Have you received your 2020 Form 1099s in the mail or via email? Have you already received amendments to your original 1099s? Scroll down to read a newly-published report authored by our Director of Tax and Financial Planning, Steve Pitchford, to find out why we recommend NOT actually filing your tax return until early April!

The Frustrations of Form 1099 | It's Tax Time

Chart of the Week

It’s not unusual to see -2%, -5%, and even -10% pullbacks in the stock market. Frankly, we should *expect* them to happen, remain objective and not worry about them when they do, and have a plan and the flexibility to make tactical portfolio adjustments to take advantage of them when they occur.

Trending Today

In addition to shots and stocks, a number of trending and notable events have occurred over the past few weeks:

As always, we sincerely value our relationships and partnerships with you, as well as your trust and confidence in us here at Towerpoint Wealth. We encourage you to reach out to us at any time (916-405-9140, info@towerpointwealth.com) with any questions, concerns, or needs you may have. The world continues to be an extremely complicated place, and we are here to help you properly plan for and make sense of it.

– Joseph, Jonathan, Steve, Lori, Nathan, Matt, and Michelle

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Donor Advised Funds (DAF) | One Minute Tax Tips

This week’s One Minute Tax Tip discusses managing your #charitablegiving in a tax-smart way by considering opening and funding a DAF, or donor advised fund.

In addition to the benefit of potentially receiving an immediate #incometaxdeduction, opening and funding a DAF allows you to transfer and donate stocks, bonds, and other appreciated investments, helping you to avoid paying capital gains taxes on them. Plus, you get to name your DAF whatever you may like (i.e. “The Jones Family Foundation” or “The Smith Philathropic Fund”)!

Click below to watch Matt’s 60 second video to better understand what this strategy entails, why 2020 might be an excellent year to open and fund a DAF, and email us at info@towerpointweath.com to discuss if this planning opportunity may make sense for you.

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Steve Pitchford Cited As Expert, Published on MutualFunds.com

Our Director of Tax and Financial Planning, Steve Pitchford, recently penned a white paper for Towerpoint Wealth that focuses on strategies to manage the risk and income tax consequences of owing a concentrated stock position. Steve was cited as an expert by MutualFunds.com for his work and content on the subject, publishing his commentary on their website on June 11.