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Ask the Expert: More questions about required minimum distributions

I have an IRA and a 401(k) plan. Suppose my annual RMD is $25,000, but I take out $35,000. The next year, suppose the RMD is $30,000. Can I take only $20,000 instead? I would have withdrawn $55,000 over two years, and that’s the RMD total for those two years. Similarly, let’s say I take a $50,000 distribution at age 68. When I’m 72, can I count that $50,000 distribution as a credit against my first RMD? And if the first RMD is less than $50,000, can I use any excess to satisfy the following year's RMD?

No, no, and no. Each annual required minimum distribution must be taken annually. You don’t get any credit for taking bigger, or earlier, distributions.

You should also know that you can’t combine the RMD from your IRA with the RMD from your 401(k) and withdraw the entire amount from either account. For example, if your 2021 RMD from the IRA is $30,000, and your 2021 RMD from the 401(k) is $10,000, you can't satisfy your RMD obligation by taking $40,000 from the IRA.

Each type of retirement account — IRA, 401(k), 403(b), 457 — has its own RMD rules. People who own more than one type of retirement account must follow the rules for each one.

Let's say you own several IRAs and two 401(k) accounts. After you determine the correct RMD for each IRA, you’re allowed to take the total amount from any one of the IRAs. But you must do a separate RMD calculation for each 401(k) plan, and you must take the appropriate RMD from each 401(k) plan. You can't combine them.

The bottom line

You can't reduce your annual RMDs by claiming credit for a bigger withdrawal or for withdrawals you took before you turned 72.

More information

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