When it comes to retirement and estate planning, the Administration’s proposed 2015 budget contains some worrisome suggestions. It’s no surprise that the President and Congress would like to raise more tax revenue without actually raising taxes. As a result there are two proposed changes to the treatment of ROTH IRAs we hope will not see the light of day.
First, a refresher on ROTH’s: Today, both Roth contributions and conversions are done with after-tax money. As a result, the ROTH balances are allowed to grow tax free, and withdrawals are tax free. Under current law, ROTH holders are not required to ever take distributions, and they are allowed to pass along the ROTH IRA to their beneficiaries’ tax free. This has made ROTH’s an effective estate and income planning tool for those expecting higher tax rates in the future.
The proposed changes would impose a Required Minimum Distribution beginning at age 70 ½ on ROTH’s, just like regular taxable IRAs. (The ROTH distributions would be tax free, but you’d have to take them each year as opposed to leaving the account alone to grow.) In another proposed change, you could still pass along the ROTH to heir’s tax free, but they would be required to liquidate the account within five years of inheriting it, effectively eliminating the ability to “stretch” out the ROTH over the lifetime of the beneficiaries. “If there’s no stretch IRA, it doesn’t pay for an older person to convert to a ROTH,” says Ed Slott, a noted IRA expert.
It’s worth noting that all of the proposed retirement plan changes were also included in the President’s 2014 budget, and none of them passed. With a divided Congress, we’d suggest it’s unlikely these changes will occur. Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on.