A key provision of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is intended to help alleviate some of the economic hardship many Americans are experiencing as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It allows tax-favored treatment for distributions from retirement accounts in certain situations.
The Penalty Waiver & More
Under the CARES Act, IRA owners who are adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible to take tax-favored “coronavirus-related” distributions (CVDs) of up to $100,000 from their IRAs. If you’re under age 59½, the early withdrawal penalty that normally would apply is waived. Any eligible IRA owner can recontribute (repay) a CVD back into their IRA within three years of the withdrawal date and treat the withdrawal and later recontribution as a tax-free rollover. There are no limitations on what you can use CVD funds for during that three-year period.
The CARES Act also may allow you to take tax-favored CVDs from your employer’s qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or profit-sharing plan, if the plan allows it. If allowed, the tax rules for CVDs taken from qualified plans are similar to those for CVDs taken from IRAs. As of this writing, a lot of details still need to be figured out about how CVDs taken from qualified plans will work. Contact the appropriate person with your employer for more information.
The 7 Basic Rules
There are seven basic rules for taking CVDs from IRAs:
- You can take one or more CVDs up to the $100,000 limit.
- CVDs can come from different IRAs.
- The three-year recontribution period for each CVD begins on the day after you receive it.
- You can make your recontributions in a lump sum or through multiple recontributions.
- You can recontribute to one or several IRAs, and they don’t have to be the same accounts you took the CVDs from.
- As long as you recontribute the entire CVD amount within the three-year window, the whole transaction or series of transactions are treated as tax-free IRA rollovers.
- If you’re under 59½, the 10% penalty tax that usually applies to early IRA withdrawals is waived for CVDs, even if you don’t recontribute.
If your spouse owns one or more IRAs in his or her own name, he or she may be eligible for the same distribution privilege.
CVDs can be taken from January 1, 2020, through December 30, 2020, by an eligible individual. That means an individual:
- Who’s diagnosed with COVID-19 by a test approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
- Whose spouse or dependent (generally a qualifying child or relative who receives more than half of his or her support from you) is diagnosed with COVID-19 by such a test,
- Who experiences adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, furloughed, laid off or having work hours reduced due to COVID-19,
- Who’s unable to work because of lack of childcare due to COVID-19 and experiences adverse financial consequences as a result,
- Who owns or operates a business that has closed or has had operating hours reduced due to COVID-19 and has experienced adverse financial consequences as a result, or
- Who has experienced adverse financial consequences due to other COVID-19-related factors.
As of this writing, IRS guidance on how to interpret the last two factors is needed. Check in with us for the latest developments.
When Taxes Are Due
You’ll be taxed on any CVD amount that you don’t recontribute within the three-year window. But you won’t have to worry about owing the 10% early withdrawal penalty if you’re under 59½.
You can choose to spread the taxable amount equally over three years, apparently starting with 2020. But here it gets tricky, because the three-year window won’t close until sometime in 2023. Until then, it won’t be clear that you failed to take advantage of the tax-free CVD rollover deal. So, you may have to amend a prior-year return to report some additional taxable income from the CVD. As of this writing, the IRS is expected to issue guidance to clarify this issue. Again, check in with us for the latest information.
You also have the option of simply reporting the taxable income from the CVD on your 2020 individual income tax return Form 1040. Again, you won’t owe the 10% early withdrawal penalty if you’re under 59½.
Getting Through the Crisis
CVDs can be a helpful, flexible tax-favored financial tool for eligible taxpayers during the pandemic. But it’s just one of several financial relief measures available under the CARES Act that include tax relief, and other relief legislation may be forthcoming. Our team at Maggart can help you take advantage of relief measures that will help you get through the COVID-19 crisis.