Does Your Required Minimum Distribution Have To Be In Cash?

Here’s something that I bet you’ve never run across – when you have to begin taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your IRA or Qualified Retirement Plan (QRP), most folks think you must take these distributions in cash.

This is not the case, you can actually take distributions of any sort, not just RMDs, from your plan (IRA or QRP) in either cash or “in kind”.  By “in kind”, this means that you can take the actual securities (stocks, bonds, or other investments) from the account.  These distributions in kind can be used to satisfy your RMD for the year.  There can be both pros and cons to taking distributions in kind.

Pros in favor of in-kind distributions

You might want to consider using an in-kind distribution if your IRA or QRP is fully invested and you want to keep it that way.  Sometimes (such as in a market downturn) it can be beneficial to maintain a cash position, but generally it’s often in your best interest to remain fully invested.  Using an in-kind distribution will allow you to remain fully invested before and after your distribution.

Another reason that you might want to use an in-kind distribution is if you have a particular position in a stock (for example) that you consider to be undervalued, such that it will appreciate considerably after you’ve distributed it.  This would put you in a position to have your gain (beginning with the date of distribution) taxed at capital gains rates rather than ordinary income tax rates.

In this second case you need to understand that you’d be taxed at ordinary income tax rates on the value of the distribution (on the day of the distribution) and your basis in the position will be set at that value.  Future gains will be considered against that basis.

In addition, if you don’t have to cash out of a position in order to distribute it, you wouldn’t incur a trade commission.  Assuming that you would just re-invest in the same or a similar security, you’d then incur another trade commission when you made the new purchase.  So distributing in-kind can cause a double commission to be paid, which may not be necessary.

Cons against in-kind distributions

Sometimes it can be difficult to value a security – for example if it is very thinly-traded.  In a situation such as this, distributing the RMD in-kind can cause difficulties, especially if you’re hoping to minimize the distribution to only the required minimum.

With this in mind, in order to reduce confusion and ensure that you’re taking exactly the correct amount in your RMD, it can be prudent to maintain or create a cash holding that will be sufficient for your RMD.

Taxation

It’s important to keep in mind that no matter how you take your distributions, you’ll have to pay ordinary income tax on the distribution – and the tax may be pro-rata if the IRA is partly non-deductible.

About the author

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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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  • Hi Jim.
    If I understood you correctly the in-kind RMD will be taxed in 2 ways – one is a tax on the actual distribution – an ordinary gain, and 2 – the tax on future gains – at capital gain rate if held appropriately.
    My question is – when is the first tax to be paid, in the year of distribution or at the time of future sale of security. The second is clear – at the tame or selling and realizing the gain.
    Please advise,
    Thanks,
    Genrikh.

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