Saturday, August 29, 2020

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Notice from IRS on reversing RMDs from retirement accounts

IRS notice 2020-51 has been released as additional "fine-tuning" of the provision in the CARES Act that excuses required minimum distributions (RMDs) from IRAs and other retirement accounts this year. The notice advises that anyone who had already taken an RMD for 2020 before the law was passed in March will have until August 31, 2020 to restore the funds to the account, and the distribution will be regarded as rescinded. Under the statute and regulations, the "standard" time is limited to 60 days.

Recall that the other important provision of the CARES Act was that anyone, regardless of age, can withdraw up to $100,000 from an IRA if the money is needed due to a Covid-related hardship, and some or all of the money can be restored within three years without the recognition of income. If the owner finds that he is unable to restore all of the money, he will be given three years to pay the income tax due on the distribution.

Incidentally, our experience this year leads to a new recommendation. If you calculate your RMD in January based on the value of the account as of the preceding December 31, you should take the money out then rather than waiting until later in the year. Most retirement accounts saw values drop by 20-25% in March and April of this year, and if such a drop happens the owner of an IRA can be hard pressed to take the RMD from the remaining funds.

Monday, April 6, 2020

FTC reviewing the Funeral Practices rule

The Federal Trade Commission issued a request for comments on its Trade Regulation Rule governing funeral directors and funeral homes in mid-February 2020. The Part 453 regulations were first adopted in 1982 and were amended a couple of times since then. No amendment is proposed. The request for comments is part of an ongoing review process. The rule was reviewed in 2008 and a determination was made then that it should be retained.

The request includes this comment:
The Commission reviews its rules and guides periodically to seek information about their costs and benefits, regulatory and economic impact, and general effectiveness in protecting consumers and helping industry to avoid deceptive or unfair practices. These reviews assist the Commission in identifying rules and guides that warrant modification or rescission. 
With this document, the Commission initiates a new review. The Commission solicits comments on, among other things: (1) The economic impact of, and the continuing need for, the Funeral Rule; (2) the Rule's benefits to consumers; (3) and the burden it places on industry members subject to the requirements, including small businesses.
The FTC is accepting written comments until April 14, 2020.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Selected items from the CARES Act

The CARES Act, signed into law by the President on March 28, makes a number of provisions that will be of interest to individuals and businesses. We will not try to describe them all, nor we will provide details on the direct monetary payments coming to families. Those have been well explained by others.

There is a new "above the line" deduction for up to $300 in charitable deductions that can be used by taxpayers who use the standard deduction. Some limits will apply.

The 60% of income limit on charitable contributions by those who itemized their deductions is waived for 2020. If you wish you can give away your entire salary.

Repayment on certain Federal student loans is suspended and no interest will accrue between now and September.

Employers may offer a new before-tax benefit to their employees: They may pay or allow the employee to defer up to $5,250 this year to repay student loans, and that money is not included in the employee's taxable income. This may be more popular than you would think because it would not cost the employer anything to offer this new benefit.

IRA owners have several new benefits.
  • Required minimum distributions for 2020 are waived. The first-time RMDs for 2019 that have not yet been made are also waived. 
  • Certain owners who are affected by the coronavirus have the option to withdraw up to $100,000 of IRA funds, without being subject to the 10% penalty that would apply if they are under age 59 1/2. As always, the funds that are taken out are taxable, but the tax will not be payable if the funds are repaid to the account within three years, and if they are not repaid the tax payments can be spread over three years. 
The $500,000 limit on net operating losses for businesses has been waived for 2020 and retroactively for 2018 and 2019 as well.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

IRS Guidance on the new rules

The IRS has released Notice 2020-6, which provides some early comments on a couple of details on the change in retirement plan distribution rules.

The first provides some relief to custodians who may include erroneous information about the Required Beginning Date when sending a required form to owners.

The other is directed to advisors of those individual IRA and 401-k owners who are right at the age 70-71 boundary. In its typical fashion, this IRS notice tells them:
The SECURE Act did not change the required beginning date for IRA owners who attained age 70-1⁄2 prior to January 1, 2020. In order to reduce misunderstanding among IRA owners, the IRS encourages all financial institutions, in communicating these RMD changes, to remind IRA owners who attained age 70-1⁄2 in 2019, and have not yet taken their 2019 RMDs, that they are still required to take those distributions by April 1, 2020. 
Enter the IRS Translator. What this means in English is: If you were born after June 1948 but before July 1949, your Required Beginning Date is still April 1, 2020 and this will not change.

Your first required distribution, which must be taken by that date, will be for 2019, based on the account value as of December 31, 2018. The 2020 distribution will need to be taken this year as well.

(h/t Kitces)

Monday, January 6, 2020

New distribution rules for inherited retirement accounts

You may have read reports of the SECURE Act passed in December and signed by the President. Most of the changes made in this new legislation relate to creating new employer-sponsored retirement accounts - allowing employers to combine to offer new plans to their employees.

Three of the new provisions are very important for the owners of existing IRAs and other retirement accounts:
  • The “required beginning date” on which the owner of the account must begin taking required distributions from the account is now April 1 after the year he or she reaches age 72, an extension of one to two years. 
  • The prohibition on contributing to an IRA after the owner must begin taking required distributions has now been removed. 
  • The money that is left in the account after the death of the owner or (in many cases) the owner's spouse must now be distributed to the designated non-spouse beneficiary within ten years of the death. Those distributions are taxable income. The previous preferred option of taking those funds out over that beneficiary’s life expectancy has been removed. 
For the owners of sizable retirement accounts (more than $100,000-200,000 or so per designated beneficiary) there are some trust-based options that we can discuss, particularly for those beneficiaries who would have trouble managing money for themselves. These would not avoid the tax but they would assist in the preservation and management of the funds that remain.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Medicare Part A and observation status

Andrew Taylor writes in the Los Angeles Times “I’m on Medicare and I still got a $25,000 hospital bill.” 

Taylor was diagnosed with prostate cancer and went to the hospital at his doctor’s direction for surgical treatment, a radical prostatectomy (complete removal of the organ). He spent two nights on a surgical ward before going home. 

He received a surprise bill for $25,000 from the hospital and another $4,700 from his surgeon.

Why? He was on Medicare Part A but not on Medicare Part B. Without telling him, the hospital had placed him on “observation status” despite the fact that he was there for a full surgical procedure. A patient on observation status is not regarded as “admitted,” and Part A covers only patients who have been admitted to a hospital. 

Taylor had no idea that this designation by the hospital would make such a major difference, even though he himself is a physician. Like many people, he knew that he had Medicare coverage for in-hospital treatment and he was being treated in a hospital. He assumed that something as major as a radical prostatectomy would be paid under that coverage. 

He recommends: 
“What can be done? If you are scheduled to be hospitalized for elective surgery, get a written statement from your surgeon and from the hospital that you will be admitted and not placed under observation status.” 
This is also a recurring problem for patients who require a rehabilitative stay in a nursing home after in-hospital treatment. Medicare will typically pay for such nursing home care, but only if the patient has been admitted for three days, under the "two midnight" rule. If the hospital has classified the procedure as outpatient or the patient as an observation patient, Medicare coverage for that needed postoperative care will not be provided. 

In general, before undergoing any planned medical treatment, consult with your physician to ensure that problems like this will not arise. The regulations adopted by CMS in November 2015, and the CMS publications on the two-midnight rule, reflect that CMS consistently emphasizes the physician's medical judgment (not that of his or her billing people) on the question of whether the care that is needed for the planned treatment is expected to require a hospital stay that will span three days / two midnights and thus be eligible for Medicare coverage. In addition, CMS has developed a list of inpatient only procedures (over 150 pages) which identifies the surgeries that will automatically be paid under Part A. 

For ER visits, emergency services by themselves are, in general, covered only under Medicare Part B, but sometimes the condition that gives rise to the emergency requires inpatient care, and the same situation can arise. 

Pay for elder care

 AARP provides ideas, including programs that will pay family members to provide care to elders.  How to Receive Pay When Becoming a Family ...