By Sarah Brenner, JD
Director of Retirement Education
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Secure act regulations are here. On February 23, 2022, the IRS released the long-awaited proposed SECURE Act regulations. The new regulations clock in at 275 pages and offer guidance on many SECURE Act rules. They also include a few surprises. Here are some highlights.
Eligible Designated Beneficiaries
The SECURE Act did away with the stretch IRA for most beneficiaries, but those who are considered an eligible designated beneficiary (EDB) can still take advantage of it. The regulations clarify exactly who is an EDB. They specify that a minor child of an IRA owner is considered an EDB until his 21st birthday. The regulations also provide guidance on determining who qualifies as disabled, particularly for beneficiaries under age 18. Also, a new documentation requirement is imposed on chronically ill and disabled EDBs to qualify for the stretch.
The SECURE Act upended the rules for trusts as beneficiaries of IRAs, and guidance addressing the outstanding issues were sorely needed. The newly released regulations keep many of the rules that existed for trust beneficiaries prior to the SECURE Act such as the rules for look-through trusts. If a trust satisfies the look-through rules, then the beneficiaries of the trust are considered designated beneficiaries.
The regulations also attempt to answer some of the many issues with trusts that were raised in private letter rulings over the years. This includes when beneficiaries can be disregarded for purposes of identifying RMD payments, the impact of powers of appointments, and state laws that permit the terms of a trust to be modified after death.
The SECURE Act carved out special rules for trusts with disabled or chronically ill individuals allowing the stretch even if the trust has other beneficiaries. The new regulations provide guidance on these trusts and also add minor children of the IRA owner as another category of EDB that can still qualify for the stretch even if there are other non-EDB trust beneficiaries.
Beneficiaries Hit with Annual RMDs and the 10-Year Rule
The IRS has taken a somewhat surprising position on the new 10-year rule imposed by the SECURE Act. If the account owner dies before her required beginning date, the 10-year rule only requires that the entire account be emptied by December 31 of the tenth year following the year of death. There are no annual RMDs. However, the new regulations say that if the IRA owner dies after her required beginning date, then not only does the 10-year rule apply, but also annual RMDs are required in years one through nine.
The regulations include a new rule for spousal rollovers that seems to be intended to prevent spouse beneficiaries from using the new 10-year rule to delay RMDs. The rule requires “hypothetical missed RMDs” to be taken when a spousal rollover is done in some circumstances.
50% Penalty Relief
If the IRA owner was required to take an RMD in the year of their death, the rules require the beneficiary to take that RMD if the IRA owner did not do so prior to death. This rule can be hard on beneficiaries when the IRA owner dies late in the year. The new regulations provide some relief in these situations by providing an automatic waiver of the 50% penalty that usually applies when an RMD is missed. This waiver is available as long as the beneficiary takes the year of death RMD by her tax-filing deadline, including extensions.