Unraveling the Income in Respect of a Decedent “IRD”

The topic of Income in Respect of a Decedent (IRD) can be a particularly confusing aspect of the tax code – but it doesn’t need to be. Put simply, IRD is any income that a decedent would have received had death not occurred – that has NOT been included as income on the final return. In essence, this rule provides that certain items in the estate, specifically income items, do not receive a step-up in basis. This income has to be accounted for on one of three tax returns:

  • estate
  • beneficiary
  • other assignee (of right to income)

If you are the beneficiary of an IRA and are required to include some IRD on your tax return, you may be eligible for a special IRD deduction. This deduction is limited to any estate tax that has been paid on the income received in respect of the decedent. This would have to be a significant-sized estate, since the applicable exclusion amount for 2009 is $3.5MM – although this is set to change in 2010 with the sunset of the EGTRRA provisions (stay tuned to this channel for more news as it becomes available!).

It is important to note that the IRD deduction is only available for federal estate tax – your state estate tax may or may not be deductible, you’ll need to check that with your state authorities.

IRD from an IRA

From an IRA, IRD would include any income that you receive that was a portion of the gross estate. Any growth that occurs after the date of death of the original owner becomes income to the beneficiary, and therefore is not IRD. Any estate tax that can be attributed to that IRD is deductible as a miscellaneous deduction on Schedule A of Form 1040 – and this deduction is NOT limited by the 2% floor as are most other miscellaneous deductions. If the IRA had basis – that is, if the IRA included non-deductible contributions – then those contributions are not taxed to the beneficiary as IRD. Income tax has already been assessed on these amounts.

Roth IRA Nuances

For a Roth IRA, the IRD would only include income received via non-qualified distributions, and then only the portion that represents growth in the account. The main way that you could get caught by this one is if the IRA has not been established for the required five-year period prior to the death of the original owner. Any income (growth) in the account up to the date of death is IRD, the contributions are tax-free, and any growth after the date of death is income to the beneficiary.

IRD Deduction

To calculate the IRD deduction, you need to know the amount of the taxable estate, the amount of tax paid on the estate, and the value of the IRD item(s) in the estate. As an example, we’ll say we have an estate valued at $5MM, and an IRA worth $1MM. On the entire estate, we paid tax of $675,000.

Next, we calculate the estate tax on the value of the taxable estate without the value of the IRA – and we come up with $225,000. So the estate tax attributable to IRD is $450,000, or 45% of the IRA value. So, as we take distributions from the IRA, we are allowed to claim a deduction of 45% of each distribution until the entire $450,000 attributed estate tax is used up. This deduction offsets (in theory) the fact that you must include the distribution as ordinary taxable income.

Once again, this is not an activity for the faint of heart. I suggest working closely with your tax pro to make sure that you’re calculating things correctly – it can amount to some sizeable tax issues if you’ve fouled it up somehow.

About the author

Jim Blankenship, CFP®, EA

Jim Blankenship is the founder and principal of Blankenship Financial Planning, Ltd., a financial planning firm providing hourly, as-needed financial planning and advice. A financial services professional for over 25 years, Jim is a CFP professional and has earned the Enrolled Agent designation, a designation that qualifies him as enrolled to practice before the IRS. Jim is also a NAPFA-registered financial advisor, which designates him as a Fee-Only Financial Advisor.

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  • Hello, Mary Rose,

    If there was no estate tax paid when the estate was settled, this IRD would simply be includable as income to the beneficiary of the estate. It retains the same character in the hands of the beneficiary as it had in the hands of the decedent.

    In other words, treat the 1099R as if it were made out to your mother and include it as income. (Presumably she received the income…?)

    Hope this helps –


  • Hi Jim-

    I have been trying to figure out what to do with a 1099R that was received this year from the company my dad worked for when he passed away in Dec 2009. I help mom complete their final joint tax return for the 2009 tax year so from the IRS perspective they are done with filings associated with dad’s SSN. I have spoken to two different IRS agents in the Advanced Issues area that state that the company who was informed of Dad’s death in Dec 2009 did not make the last pension payment correctly. That it should have been made out to dad’s estate (we really didn’t create one since all he had was jointly owned by mom – we didn’t go through probate -everything rolled to her) or to mom who by dad’s will was entitled to receive anything he was entitled to. The company states that they did everything right. I am just realizing that I was googling incorrectly for this situation with word like “payments after death” and wasn’t finding what I would have figured was a more common occurrence until this morning when I discovered that this payment was really “Income in respect of a decedent” (IRD). At least I know what to research now. Do you have any suggestions for me?

  • Hello, Mary –

    Sorry that it took some time to find the answer to this – it’s a great question, but not one that comes with an easily attainable answer.

    The answer is that the IRD deduction will pass to the subsequent beneficiaries. I asked a couple of attorneys about this (without definitive answer) and finally found the answer in a book by Alan Acker, The Estate Planner’s Guide to IRD.

    Hope this helps –


  • My husband inherited assets with IRD deduction worth $550K. He died two years later and passed those assets on to his trust (for his children) and to me. No additional tax was due on his estate due to the exemption and marital deduction. Is the IRD deduction he was entitled to now lost? or does it pass thru to his beneficiaries since he didn’t live long enough to take it? So far, noone has been able to provide an answer on this, so I’m hoping you can!


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