New IRS Guidance for Designated Roth Accounts

Posted on November 7th, by Hoberman & Lesser in Timely Articles.

Does your employer offer a 401(k), 403(b) or governmental 457 plan? If so, you may be able to set up a designated Roth account through your company’s plan. Then your Roth account will be allowed to receive designated Roth contributions that are taken out of your salary through so-called “salary-reduction contributions.” Here’s more on how this strategy works, why it may be advantageous for certain taxpayers, and how new IRS regulations add greater flexibility to allocating distributed after- and pretax amounts.

Designated Roth Account Basics

Unlike regular salary-reduction contributions, designated Roth contributions don’t reduce your taxable salary. Instead, the tax advantage comes later when you are allowed to take distributions from your designated Roth account without owing any federal income tax. These tax-free amounts are referred to as qualified distributions.

Important note: Setting up a Roth account makes the most sense if you believe you’ll pay the same or higher tax rates during your retirement years.

Treatment of Designated Roth Account Distributions

At some point, you may want to direct designated Roth account distributions to multiple destinations — say, to one or more taxable accounts and one or more tax-favored accounts — using tax-free rollovers. These transactions can be executed using the 60-day rollover rule or via direct rollovers where money is transferred directly between accounts. Favorable IRS rules generally allow you to allocate after-tax (tax-free) amounts from nondeductible contributions and pretax (taxable) amounts from deductible contributions and account earnings to the various destinations to achieve the best tax results.

The IRS recently issued an amended final regulation to eliminate a previous requirement affecting some Roth account transactions. That requirement mandated that a disbursement from a designated Roth account that was directly rolled over into a Roth IRA or another designated Roth account be treated as a separate distribution from any amount simultaneously paid directly to the account owner (you). When such mandatory separate distribution treatment applied, the pretax and after-tax amounts included in the designated Roth account disbursement had to be allocated pro rata to each separate distribution.

New IRS Guidance on Designated Roth Account Distributions

Fortunately, under a recently amended IRS regulation, separate distribution treatment is no longer required when part of a disbursement from a designated Roth account is directly rolled over tax-free into one or more eligible retirement accounts and part is sent to the account owner.

Now, you can follow the taxpayer-friendly rules to allocate after-tax and pretax amounts between the destinations to achieve the best tax results. The following example illustrates how the new guidance adds greater flexibility to allocating distributed after- and pretax amounts.

Effective Date

The amended final regulation applies to distributions from designated Roth accounts that are made on or after January 1, 2016. However, you can also elect to follow the favorable amended final regulation for distributions that were made on or after September 18, 2014, and before January 1, 2016. For more information about how the new guidance applies to your Roth accounts, contact us.