A FATAL IRA ROLLOVER ERROR by Paul Ferraresi

Only one 60 day IRA- to- IRA rollover can be done per year by an individual, regardless of how many IRAs he or she holds.

In the past, the IRS believed the rule applied separately to each IRA, but that is no longer the case. The new IRS publications make it clear that the rule now applies in the aggregate to all IRAs.

The once per year IRA rollover rule also does not apply to rollovers from other types of plans to IRAs, to rollovers from IRAs back to plans or to Roth conversions.

Further, the rule does not apply to non-spouse IRA beneficiaries, because they can never do a 60 day rollover anyway. Non-spouse IRA beneficiaries can move inherited IRA funds only using direct transfers. A spouse can do a rollover, but after a spouse’s death, spousal rollovers should also be done as direct transfers.

INDIRECT ROLLOVERS

A 60 day rollover means that the funds were withdrawn by the IRA owner via a check made out to the owner personally. By contrast, a direct transfer involves a trustee-to-trustee movement, in which the money moves directly from one IRA to another without anyone touching the money in between.

IRS Announcement 2014-32 makes it clear that a check made out to the receiving IRA will qualify as direct transfer and is not subject to the once-per-years IRA rollover rule. But a check made out to the IRA owner will not qualify for this exception because he or she can cash this check.

The rule now states that only one IRA-to-IRA rollover can be done per year from all IRAs held by an individual including SEPs, Simple IRAs and Roth IRAs. Note that one year means 365 days, not a calendar year.

If one does make another transfer, that will be an ineligible rollover and taxable to the extent of pretax funds withdrawn.

The transfer will also be subject to 10% early distribution penalty if one is under age 59 ½, and no exception to the 10% penalty applies here.

The action could also be subject to a 6% excess IRA contribution penalty if the ineligible rollover is not removed in a timely manner.

All of these IRA problems can be avoided by using only direct transfers. Direct transfers are not subject to this rule. An unlimited number of direct IRA transfers can be done.

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