Many provisions of the Internal Revenue Code are complicated. Proper interpretation of the rules and regulations contained in these provisions requires the assistance of an experienced and knowledgeable tax professional. The third part of our series about the most confusing provisions of the Internal Revenue Code addresses retirement accounts.
There are over a dozen different tax-advantaged retirement savings accounts, each with its own set of rules governing contributions, distributions and when money may be withdrawn without incurring any penalties.
Why Is It Confusing?
- There are a large list of incentives from which to choose
If you have any type of financial difficulty, keep in mind that there’s a tax impact to events such as job loss or foreclosure. Such consequences may not necessarily be predominantly negative. For example, if your income decreased, you may be newly eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit or other tax credits, which is a good thing.
Of the utmost importance when facing some financial obstacle is to contact the IRS immediately if you believe that you may have trouble paying your tax bill. Please see our blog You Can’t Pay Your Tax Bill in Full You Have Options…An experienced and knowledgeable tax attorney may help ease any financial burden. Remember that to avoid additional penalties, you also should always file a tax return even if you are unable to pay.
Owners of Self-Directed IRAs which engage in certain types of “prohibited transactions” or invest in life insurance, foreign investments or collectibles may risk losing the tax-deferred status of their IRA accounts. If the owner (or beneficiary) of an individual retirement account, as described in I.R.C. §408(a), engages in any transaction that is prohibited under IRC §4975, the entire value of the IRA, determined as of the first day of the taxable year for which the account or annuity ceases to be an IRA, is treated as distributed to the IRA owner. See I.R.C. §408(e)(2)(B).
In 1997, the Roth IRA was introduced. Since then, many people have converted all or a portion of their existing traditional IRAs to a Roth IRAs, where interest earned may be completely tax-free. This benefit applies as, once a taxpayer has held the account for five years, no taxes will be owed when the money is withdrawn at retirement. This is the opposite of a traditional IRA where a tax break is received in the present, but income taxes are paid in retirement.
When strapped for cash, IRA owners have traditionally been able to take a short-term loan from their IRA, although this has been limited in recent years. Taxpayers may withdraw money from an IRA, without penalty or any tax liability, for up to sixty (60) days. The borrowed monies must be “rolled back” into an IRA within 60 days from the day after the date of the withdrawal, or income tax and penalties apply to the amount withdrawn and unreturned. Similar rules exist for rolling over one Roth IRA to another Roth IRA. The sixty day count involves calendar days, not business days. Keep in mind there is no extension for the sixtieth day falling on a weekend or holiday.
Which retirement account, vehicle or venture is best? One thing is certain, diversity still carries the day when it comes to investments as different ones afford the most flexibility. The returns on different types of investments are treated differently by the tax code, which logically means that some get better tax treatment than others. Qualified dividends and capital gains, for example, are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income, and thus are attractive investment options for retirement.
The IRS has made available several tax breaks for military personnel, especially over the last few decades. For federal tax purposes, the U.S. Armed Forces includes officers and enlisted personnel in all regular and reserve units controlled by the Secretaries of Defense, the Army, Navy and Air Force. The Coast Guard is also included, but not the U.S. Merchant Marine or the American Red Cross. Some of these tax breaks are retroactive, and thus require the filing of an amended return by the affected taxpayer. Remember that if you away from home because of duty in the military, your spouse can use a power of attorney to file a joint return on your behalf. Here are ten tax breaks worth noting for military personnel.