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Don't Miss the Deadline for Your RMDs

Usually, you can wait until April 1 to take your first RMD. But the deadline falls on a holiday weekend this year, so you'll need to act sooner.

Question: I turned 70½ last year and took part of my required minimum distribution in 2017, and I'm taking the rest before the April 1, 2018, deadline. Does that mean I have to take my next RMD by December 31, 2018, too? Do I report the full RMD with my 2017 tax return or just the portion I took in 2017?

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First of all, if you turned 70½ in 2017 and still haven't taken your full RMD, you need to act quickly. The deadline for taking your first RMD is usually April 1 of the year after you turn 70½. But because April 1 falls on a Sunday this year, you need to withdraw the money by Friday, March 30. Also, Friday is a stock market holiday, so you will need to sell any investments as soon as possible so the money can be withdrawn in time, says Maura Cassidy, vice president of retirement at Fidelity.

You report the portion of the withdrawal you took in 2017 on your 2017 tax return, and the portion you withdraw in 2018 on your 2018 tax return. You will still have to take your second required distribution by December 31, 2018, which will also be taxable on your 2018 return. You'll receive Form 1099-R from your IRA administrator showing how much money you withdrew from the IRA each year. The form doesn't specify which portion of the withdrawal was for your 2017 RMD and which was for your 2018 RMD. It's up to you to keep those records to prove you met the deadline.

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If you're concerned about missing the deadline in the future, you can ask your IRA administrator to automate your RMDs. Fidelity, for example, lets you set up automatic RMD withdrawals on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, or on a custom schedule. Nearly half of Fidelity's IRA customers automate their RMDs.

You calculate your RMD by taking your traditional IRA balance at the end of the previous calendar year and dividing it by the IRS's life-expectancy factor based on your age. (See our Calculate Your Required Minimum Distribution calculator to run the numbers.) If you have several traditional IRAs, you can add up the total required amount from all of your accounts and withdraw the money from one or more of the accounts (you don't have to take a withdrawal from each account, as long as all of your withdrawals add up to the total required distribution). With 401(s), on the other hand, you must calculate the required distribution for each account and withdraw it from each one separately.

For more information about the RMD rules, see When to Take Your First Required Minimum Distribution From an IRA and 10 Things Boomers Must Know About RMDs From IRAs.

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