IRA Trick – Eliminating Quarterly Estimated Tax PaymentsA little-known fact about IRA distributions is that when you have taxes withheld from the distribution (which are then sent directly to the IRS), the withheld money is considered to have been received throughout the year – even if it is received late in December. Using this fact to your advantage, you could figure out how much your total estimated tax payments should be for the year sometime in early December, and then take a distribution from your IRA in that amount. Here’s the trick: Instead of taking the distribution yourself, fill out a form W-4P to direct the funds to be withheld and sent to the IRS. Voila! You’ve now made even payments to the IRS for each of the four quarters, on time with no penalties!
The downside to this plan is that, in the event of the taxpayer’s untimely death before the annual distribution is made, the estimated payments will be considered as unpaid up to the date of death, and therefore the estate will be responsible for paying the underpayment penalty. Other than that shortcoming, this trick could provide you with several months’ additional interest/return on your money, plus remove the hassle of the quarterly filings.
But, Jim, what if I’m retired and under age 59½? Won’t there be a penalty?
There doesn’t have to be, although I’d place this particular move into the “higher degree of difficulty” category of tricks – not to be taken lightly.
Pre-59½ Retiree: How to Avoid Penalty?Same situation as before, but now you must take another step: once you’ve taken the distribution and properly filed the W-4P to have the distribution withheld as tax – execute a 60-day rollover, placing the same amount of money either into the same IRA or another IRA… effectively, you’ve pulled the old switcheroo with the IRS on this: What has happened is you’ve paid tax with a distribution that didn’t happen!
How can this be? Well, the IRS allows you to replace (or rollover) money from any source back into your IRA, so it doesn’t matter that your original distribution was used for withholding. So you have made up for missing all those quarterly estimated payments (no underpayment penalty now) plus by rolling over the funds you’ve avoided the 10% early withdrawal penalty as well.
CaveatI mentioned that this last trick fits into the “higher degree of difficulty” category of tricks. The reason I say this is because using your account in this fashion (essentially a 60-day loan) can be hazardous – the primary reason is that 60 days is all you have, and 60 days can be a relatively short period of time. Plus, the IRS HAS NO SENSE OF HUMOR ABOUT THIS. If you miss the rollover period by one day, you’re outta luck.
In addition to the 60-day period, there is also the limitation of only one 60-day rollover per 12-month period. Again, remember: no sense of humor at the Service. This is especially true if it’s clear that you’ve been pulling a fast one on them with a scheme like suggested above. It is for these reasons that this rollover trick should only be used in the most dire of circumstances – such as if you completely forgot to make quarterly payments and are facing a stiff underpayment penalty, for example. Otherwise, I’d suggest leaving this one alone. By all means, you should not try this trick year after year.