How Retirement Account Withdrawals Affect Tax Brackets

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How Retirement Account Withdrawals Affect Tax Brackets

Retirement Tax Brackets: How Retirement Account Withdrawals Affect It

Many retirement experts predict that you’ll need 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income to live well in retirement, but might withdrawals from retirement funds cause you to be taxed more heavily? This is determined by the kind of account and the amount of your withdrawals.

The Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) is the most favorable form of account for retirees (k).Taxes on money deposited into these accounts are owed when it is deposited, i.e. using after-tax funds. After retirement, withdrawals are tax-free on the whole amount, including any profits earned.

Traditional IRAs and 401(k)s operate differently in that you get a tax credit when you contribute but must pay taxes on withdrawals after retirement. And since withdrawals are taxed as regular income, you may find yourself in a higher tax rate in retirement.

Key Takeaways

  • Withdrawals from regular IRAs and 401(k) plans are taxed.
  • Withdrawals from Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s are typically tax-free.
  • Withdrawals from retirement accounts might push you into a higher marginal tax band.
  • You will not pay more taxes on your other income, just on the withdrawals from your retirement account. That is how marginal tax rates operate.
  • When withdrawing funds from a conventional account, keep your tax rate in mind. You may be able to restrict your withdrawals to avoid exceeding the maximum for your tax rate.

Traditional IRA and 401(k) Accounts

Pre-tax funds are used to finance conventional IRA and traditional 401(k) accounts. That is, you may deduct your annual payment to a regular IRA. While financing your retirement, you lower your taxable income for the year.

There are limits to how much money you may deposit into these accounts. For example, if you are under the age of 50, you may only invest up to $6,000 in a conventional account for the tax years 2021 and 2022. You may contribute an extra $1,000 in catch-up contributions if you are 50 or older, for a total of $7,000.

A 401(k) contribution for 2021 is $19,500, and $20,500 in 2022, with a $5,500 catch-up payment for both years.

If it’s an employer-sponsored classic 401(k), you don’t even have to claim the deduction (k).Generally, 401(k) contributions are made immediately from your paycheck, using pre-tax monies. This reduces your taxable income for the year, saving you money at tax time. Contributions and profits in either kind of account—traditional IRA or 401(k)—grow tax-deferred until you take the money in retirement.

Required Minimum Distributions

If you haven’t touched your retirement funds before the age of 72, you must take required minimum distributions (RMDs) every year after that or suffer a harsh penalty.

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When you begin taking RMDs, they are considered income and will be included into your tax rate. Furthermore, the money is deducted from your taxable income for the year. When combined with other sources of income, such retirement account withdrawals might drive you into a higher marginal tax band.

If you invest in a certain delayed annuity, you may be able to postpone taking your RMDs. But there are certain ground rules. You may only spend up to $135,000 on the annuity from your regular IRA or 401(k). You may add a qualified longevity annuity contract (QLAC) to your retirement portfolio. These monies are maintained separate from the amount taken into account for your RMD withdrawals. However, costs may be substantial, and you cannot access the annuity’s cash value if you want cash in a lump amount right now.

The SECURE ACT of 2019 improved the regulations for required minimum distributions (RMDs). Previously, the RMD began at the age of 7012, but this has recently been increased to 72.

Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) Accounts

Because Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) accounts are funded using after-tax monies, they do not provide an immediate tax reduction like standard IRA and 401(k) accounts. However, provided you fulfill a few requirements, the money you remove from them—both your original contributions and any investment earnings—will be tax-free in retirement.

You may withdraw funds from a Roth-style account at any time for any reason, with no tax consequences or penalties. However, your investment profits will be tax-free only if you are at least 5912 years old and have contributed to any Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) for at least five years. This is known as the “five-year rule.”

If you expect your taxes will be higher in retirement, Roth accounts may be a good investment. However, the amount you may put into one is limited. Individuals earning more than $144,000 in 2021 or 2022, for example, do not qualify for a Roth IRA. Income restrictions for married couples filing jointly are $208,000 in 2021 and $214,000 in 2022. Like a standard IRA, you may only contribute $6,000 each year in 2021 and 2022, plus a $1,000 catch-up amount if you are 50 or older.

No Required Minimum Distributions

Any early withdrawals from investments will be added to your income for the year and taxed at your regular income tax rate. Unless you qualify for an exemption, you may additionally face an extra 10% penalty.

Roth IRAs and 401(k)s, unlike standard IRAs and 401(k)s, do not have mandatory minimum distributions throughout the owner’s lifetime. So, if you don’t need the money, you may keep it and let it grow tax-free for your heirs.

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Unless they are surviving spouses, heirs to a Roth account must draw required minimum distributions from the account.

Penalty-Free IRA Withdrawals

If you take an early withdrawal from a regular or Roth IRA, you may be subject to a 10% penalty—unless one of the following circumstances applies:

  • You are permanently and completely incapacitated.
  • You are the heir of a dead IRA owner.
  • You utilize the distribution to purchase, construct, or remodel a house (a lifetime maximum of $10,000 applies).
  • You have medical costs that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).
  • After leaving your employment, you’re paying medical insurance payments (and the distribution isn’t higher than the cost of the insurance).
  • You want to use the payout to pay for eligible educational expenditures.
  • The payout is being made as a result of an IRS levy on the eligible plan.
  • You are accepting qualifying reserve payouts.
  • You’re making a series of payments that are about equal.

401(k) Hardship Withdrawals

An early withdrawal from a 401(k), like an IRA, may result in a 10% penalty. However, if you qualify for a hardship distribution due to “immediate and serious financial necessity,” you may be allowed to withdraw penalty-free.

According to IRS rules, you may be eligible for a hardship distribution if you utilize the funds to pay for:

  • Medical care expenses
  • Costs related to buying a home
  • Educational expenses
  • Costs to avoid eviction
  • Funeral expenses
  • Certain costs for repairing damage to your principal residence

You may roll over a regular account into a Roth account if you’re saving for retirement. However, you will be required to pay income taxes on the remaining sum that year.

Tax Brackets for 2021 and 2022

Traditional retirement account withdrawals must be taxed, but they do not always put you into a higher marginal tax rate. It depends on your current tax bracket and how much your withdrawals contribute to your income.

Here’s a look at the tax brackets for 2021 and for 2022:

2021 Tax Rates and Brackets
Tax RateSingle FilersMarried Filing JointlyHeads of Household
10%Upto $9,950Upto $19,900Upto $14,200
12%$9,951 to $40,525$19,901 to $81,050$14,201 to $54,200
22%$40,526 to $86,375$81,051 to $172,750$54,201 to $86,350
24%$86,376 to $164,925$172,751 to $329,850$86,351 to $164,900
32%$164,926 to $209,425$329,851 to $418,850$164,901 to $209,400
35%$209,426 to $523,600$418,851 to $628,300$209,401 to $523,600
37%$523,601 or more$628,301 or more$523,601 or more

For example, suppose you’re single and your other income totals $40,000. Your top marginal tax rate is 12%. However, any extra income (such as withdrawals from retirement accounts) that sends you over the $40,525 level would be taxed at the next marginal tax rate—in this example, 22%. This does not imply that you will be taxed at 22% on your total income. Because of how marginal tax brackets operate, the tax rates on your first $40,525 would be unaffected—only anything beyond that would be.

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2022 Tax Rates and Brackets
Tax RateSingle FilersMarried Filing JointlyHeads of Household
10%$0 to $10,275$0 to $20,550$0 to $14,650
12%$10,275 to $41,775$20,550 to $83,550$14,650 to $55,900
22%$41,775 to $89,075$83,550 to $178,150$55,900 to $89,050
24%$89,075 to $170,050$178,150 to $340,100$89,050 to $170,050
32%$170,050 to $215,950$340,100 to $431,900$170,050 to $215,950
35%$215,950 to $539,900$431,900 to $647,850$215,950 to $539,900
37%$539,900 or more$647,850 or more$539,900 or more

The percentages stay the same in 2022, although the income levels are somewhat higher:

How Can I Achieve a Zero Tax Bracket in Retirement?

It is not impossible, but it is difficult to avoid paying taxes in retirement. If your yearly individual income is $25,000 (single filer) or $32,000 (joint filer), your Social Security payments will be taxed. If you can live on less than these sums, you may be able to avoid paying Uncle Sam. Otherwise, to reduce your taxes in retirement, you might convert regular IRA assets to Roths, explore investing in tax-free municipal bonds, or sell your family home and live off the proceeds tax-free.

Will My Tax Bracket Be Higher in Retirement?

According to conventional opinion, your income, and hence your tax rate, should be lower once you retire. You may wind up in a lower tax band if you have less income in retirement. But it’s not that easy. To begin with, future tax rates may vary, and some retirees may not receive tax deductions such as mortgage interest if they have paid off their property, or any dependent deductions if their children are grown. The loss of these deductions may push you into a higher tax rate.

How Is the Tax Bracket in Retirement Determined?

There are no specific tax rates for retirees, but depending on your retirement income, which will normally include social security payments as well as pension or retirement account payments, you may wind up in a higher or lower tax bracket when you retire.

The Bottom Line

Some individuals want to retire with a tax bracket of zero. It’s difficult to envisage attaining that objective while living in a minimally comfortable manner. Income tax is levied when an individual earns more than $10,275 (or $20,550 for a married couple filing jointly). If your annual income exceeds $25,000, you must pay taxes on a portion of your Social Security benefits.

The idea is to pay as little tax as possible. One method is to invest in a Roth 401(k) or a Roth IRA rather than their standard equivalents. If you already have money in conventional retirement accounts, you should consider a Roth IRA rollover before retiring. You’ll have to pay taxes on the amount transferred that year, but the long-term ramifications might be positive.

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