Wednesday, December 25, 2019

SECURE Act BIG Retirement Plan Changes: Major Take-Aways Read More Here!

Pangong Lake, Ladakh, India. Picture Courtesy:

I started blogging about taxes in 2013 because I wanted to share what I knew about taxes. In the process of getting word out about my writing, I have learnt a thing or two about social media and marketing my blog. The engagement with fellow Enrolled Agents and other professionals in the Tax field has been an amazing experience and in the process of educating others about taxes, I have learnt a lot myself both about Social Media marketing, about blogging and my online tax colleagues as well. 

As twenty-nineteen comes to a close, every tax professional agrees that the time since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act {TCJA} was passed in December 2017 has been a very stressful. There has been a lot of new rules and regulations, both proposed and final to process and understand applications. Just as we thought we had it all ready for the 2020 Tax Season, the Government pushed through a bunch of last minute laws. The most important of those and the one to have many far-reaching consequences was the SECURE Act, an acronym for Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019. 

The SECURE Act is a major act of retirement legislation to be passed in a decade. There is a LOT in this legislation that will not only effect some taxpayers getting close to the earlier retirement age of 70.5 years immediately but there are also other important provisions in the new Act that will effect taxpayers who plan on leaving their retirement plans to their heirs or those taxpayers who will inherit retirement plans. 

Here is a synopsis of some of the most important provisions from the Act:
  • Required Minimum Distribution {RMD} Now At 72: If you have not reached an "RMD Age" of 70.5 by December 31st, 2019 your new required minimum distributions are now due on April 1st of the year after you turn 72. The RMD for any year is the balance in your retirement plan as of December 31st of the previous year divided by the distribution period in the IRS' Uniform Lifetime Table. 
  • No Age Limit On Traditional IRA Contributions: Since a lot of Americans continue to live longer and work into their seventies, this Act repeals an earlier provision prohibiting an individual from making contributions into a Traditional IRA after the age of 70.5 years. 
  • 529 Education Savings Plan Can Be Used To Pay Off Student Loans: One can use up to $10,000 of their 529 Plan to pay off their student loans. This legislation also expanded the 529 Plans to cover costs associated with registered apprenticeship programs, homeschooling and private elementary, secondary or religious schools.  
  • Taxable Non-Tuition Fellowship and Stipend Eligible as Compensation for IRA Contributions: Before the legislation, those who had stipends and non-tuition fellowship payments were not allowed to use those earnings as a basis for contributing to Individual Retirement Accounts. After this legislation, graduate and post-doctoral students can begin using these earnings to put money away in retirement plans.
  • Long-time Part-time workers eligible for 401K Plans: Except in the case of collectively bargained plans, the bill will require employers maintaining a 401(k) plan to have a dual eligibility requirement under which an employee must complete either a one year of service requirement (with the 1,000-hour rule) or three consecutive years of service where the employee completes at least 500 hours of service.
  • Penalty-Free Distribution Allowed for Birth/ Adoption: Any "qualified birth/ adoption" expenses can be paid for with retirement plan distributions penalty free.
  • 401K Safe Harbor Rules Simplified: The legislation simplifies the employer non elective contribution safe harbor rules so that there is more "flexibility, improve employee protection and facilitate plan adoption."
  • Increase in Penalty For Failure to File: Penalty for failure to file a return has been increased to the lesser of $400 or 100% of the tax due.
  • Stretch IRA Is No LOnger Applicable for Most Taxpayers: The goal of a "Stretch IRA" is really a strategy used by those who have inherited IRA's and do not need the money and want to be able to take as little as possible by way of annual distributions. These "Stretch IRA's" can be used by a beneficiary to fund his/ her own retirement eventually. The premise of this type of strategy is that the Return on Investment on the remaining balance in the plan are greater than the annual distributions. 
        Under the SECURE Act, for beneficiaries who inherit after 2019, an inherited IRA has to be completely drawn out by the 10th year after year of death of the original account holder. {This is called a 10-year Distribution Cap} There are no required minimum distributions for beneficiaries in the 1st 9 years of inheritance. This rule is not applicable to the spouse of the deceased account holder, to a beneficiary who is disabled, is chronically ill, not more than 10 years younger than the account holder or is a minor child. 

The change in the "Stretch IRA" rules will definitely require a rehaul of Estate Plans that are using this strategy. And there is not much time left in order to put this in place! 
  •  Increase in Penalty in Failure to File Retirement Plan Returns {Forms 5500}: Per Section 403 of the SECURE Act, 
  1. Form 5500 penalty would be modified to $105 per day, not to exceed $50,000.  
  2. Failure to file a registration statement would incur a penalty of $2 per participant per day, not to exceed $10,000.  
  3. Failure to file a required notification of change would result in a penalty of $2 per day, not to exceed $5,000 for any failure.
  4. Failure to provide a required withholding notice results in a penalty of $100 for each failure, not to exceed $50,000 for all failures during any calendar year.
If any of the above applies to you and you find all this very last minute and overwhelming, I would not blame you at all. This would be a great time for you to contact both your Enrolled Agent and your Financial Planner and if you do not work with one or the other, it would be the perfect time to get one or both these professionals into your lives. 

If you need an Enrolled Agent with extensive experience in retirement matters, please contact us at 

Bibligraphy: The SECURE Act; Jeff Levine @CPAPlanner In-Depth Article 

I am an Enrolled Agent and owner of MN Tax and Business Services PLLC (, based in the Metro Detroit area in Michigan. The firm provides Tax Preparation, Planning services to Individuals, Small Businesses, Trusts and Non-Profit Organizations. Get my latest posts by subscribing to my blog. 

You can also find me tweeting @ManasaSogNadig where I have been @Forbes Top 100 Tax Tweeters for 2018 and 2019. 

Read my disclaimer here

Monday, December 2, 2019

Are You Ready For 2020? Tax Filing Season Is Coming!

Picture Courtesy: Angkor Wat

How was 2019? Did it go well for you? I have been talking to my colleagues in the tax sphere, opinions are all over the place. The Tax Reform roll-out kept most of us either waiting on the proposed regulations or trying to wrap our heads around the final regulations that kept coming through in bits and starts from the Internal Revenue Service. Kudos to the people who work there I must say, in spite of all the staffing issues, they were doing their best to keep the regs rolling out. 

Well, the proverbial Father Time does not wait for anyone,and here we are, final regs and proposed regs tucked under our elbows, getting ready for 2020! So, here are some steps my dear readers I thought would help you get your stuff together and be as ready as possible for Tax Season 2020. 

A. Adjust Your Withholding: If you are a wage earner and have been working with the same employer for the past few years, I would highly recommend doing a "payroll check-up" so you can make sure you are having enough taken out in taxes. A lot of taxpayers were in for a sticker shock after payroll withholdings changed for 2018 considering a lot of deductions were either removed or changed and exemptions were completely phased-out. Ask your tax preparer to help you with this or you could do this on your own on the IRS Website Tax Withholding Estimator

B. Adjust Your Employer Retirement Plan Contribution: If you have an Employer Provided Retirement Plan like a 401K or a 403b, you can stash away up to $19,000 (for 2019) and $ 6,000 in catch-up contributions for those over 50 years of age. If you have cash to spare, make sure you are maximizing these contributions before the end of the year. 

C. Check Your Eligibility For Individual Retirement Account {IRA} Contributions: In addition to your employer provided retirement accounts, you may be eligible to contribute in to an IRA. These contributions can be made up to the tax filing deadline or April 15th. You can make a maximum contribution of $ 6,000 (for 2019) and $ 1,000 in catch-up contributions for those over 50 years of age. Talk to your tax preparer to check your eligibility. 

D. Estimating Annual Income For Small and Medium Business Owners: If you are a business owner, it is important to calculate and pay your taxes every quarter: April 15th, June 15th, September 15th and December 31st. The most ideal and safe way to set this up is to open an Electronic Federal Tax Payment System Account on Payments can also be made through direct bank debit or with a credit card via Depending on your entity structure, size and nature of your business, you may be able to schedule these payments ahead of time. Many States also have a similar system. Do not forget your state taxes.

E. Making Retirement Plan Contributions For Business Owners: You can contribute into a Solo 401K/ SEP/ SIMPLE IRA. You can make both "Employer" and "Employee" contributions. Funding options on each of these retirement plans are different, and so are set up requirements. I would highly recommend you work with an Enrolled Agent to determine eligibility and contribution limits. 

F. Review Changes To Rental Income and Safe Harbor Requirements: The Internal Revenue Service issued clarifications in September 2019 regarding treating your rentals as a "trade or business" and a safe harbor to claim a deduction under §199A. Owners of rental properties need to comply with certain requirements to be able to claim their rentals as a "trade or business" and avail of a deduction under §199A. These requirements can be found here.

G. Renew Your Individual Tax Identification Number {ITIN}: If you or someone in your family has been issued an ITIN, be aware that the ITINs now expire. If your ITIN or someone in your family has an ITIN that is going to expire in 2019, you need to renew it unless you are now eligible to obtain a Social Security Number.Here are some FAQ's issued by the IRS. 

The key to a successful tax season, complete and proper filing of your taxes is to have all your records ready. We undertake end-of-year tax planning for our clients so we can avoid surprises at tax time! Please contact us or your trusted tax professional and get ready for 2020. 

Do not forget to read my disclaimer here. Please consult an Enrolled Agent for your unique tax needs. More of my contact information is on my website,