I turned 70 in September. What's my deadline for taking required minimum distributions (RMDs)? Which accounts are subject to RMDS? Can I take them from a single account?

After turning 70½, you must take annual RMDs from traditional IRAs, SEP IRAs, Simple IRAs, and employer-sponsored 401(k), 403(b) and 457 plans. But you must calculate them separately.

The first deadline is April 1 of the year after you turn 70½. In your case, that would be April 1, 2021. But you must take all subsequent RMDs by Dec. 31 every year — so take your first RMD by Dec. 31, 2020, to avoid having to take two RMDs in 2021. 

To calculate the RMD from a retirement account, divide its previous year-end balance by your life expectancy factor, listed in the Uniform Lifetime Table in IRS Publication 520. You must use the life expectancy factor for your birthday age in the year you turn 70½. (That's 70 for people born between Jan. 1 and June 30, and 71 for those born between July 1 and Dec. 31.)

If your IRA balance on Dec. 31, 2019, is $100,000, for example, and your life expectancy factor is 26.5, your first RMD will be $3,774 — $100,000 divided by 26.5 — whether you take it by Dec. 31, 2020, or by April 1, 2021.

If you have several IRA accounts, you can add up their RMDs and withdraw the total from any one of them.

You can also aggregate the RMDs from several 403(b) plans and withdraw the total from one 403(b) plan. But you must withdraw an RMD from each 401(k) plan and from each 457 plan you participate in. They can't be aggregated.

The bottom line

Required minimum distributions from your retirement accounts are based on your life expectancy.

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