Act 2

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I have a question about required minimum distributions (RMDs) from the IRA of a married couple. Do the RMD rules apply no matter which spouse reaches 70, even if the IRA is in the younger spouse's name?

No. The rules apply only to the IRA owner, in this case the younger person. The spouse's age is irrelevant because an IRA can't be jointly owned. (IRA is an acronym for Individual Retirement Arrangement.)

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The legal deadline for taking your first RMD is April 1 of the year after you turn 701/2. If your 70th birthday is between Jan. 1 and June 30, for example, you'll be 701/2 this year. Your first RMD deadline is therefore April 1, 2015. If your 70th birthday is between July 1 and Dec. 31, you'll be 701/2 in 2015 -- making your first RMD deadline April 1, 2016.

But it's sensible to take your first RMD before the end of the calendar year in which you turn 701/2 rather than waiting until the following April. The reason: Starting with the second RMD, the deadline will be Dec. 31 each year. The upshot is that no matter when your birthday falls, if you wait until the April deadline to take RMD No. 1, you'll wind up having to take RMD No. 2 in the same calendar year. That can be costly.

Taking two RMDs in the same calendar year might push you into a higher tax bracket. That could reduce or eliminate your eligibility for tax credits or deductions. A higher income would also affect the calculation determining how much, if any, of your Social Security benefit is taxable that year.

The bottom line Take your first RMD early enough to avoid having to take two taxable distributions in the same year.

Websites with more information and

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TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to Ask the Expert / Act 2, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747, or email Include your name, address and phone number. Questions can be answered only in this column. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your own advisers for your specific needs.