New Tax Benefits Investors are Being Granted

Personal Finance
0 min read
Image Credit: Thomas Galvez (Flickr)

The IRS (Actually Congress) Makes it Less Taxing to Invest

As we enter the new tax season, there is something important investors of all ages, incomes, and investment styles may have missed. Buried in the CONSOLIDATED APPROPRIATIONS ACT, which is the $1.7 trillion legislation passed just before the holidays, is a section called the SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022. If you missed it, and don’t wish to wade through the 4,100 pages of legislation, I’ve summarized seven key features below.

I’m not a tax attorney, CPA, or IRS employee, so although my reading comprehension is decent, use the below as a starting point, then get advice from professionals or sources, including, you’ve come to rely upon.

Investor Benefits

It’s not a stretch to expect that SECURE 2.0 will affect most Americans’ tax-advantaged investing accounts —  and most likely in a beneficial way. The bill, which builds on a retirement act passed in 2019, includes changes to 401(k)s and 403(b)s. Additionally, it now includes emergency needs provisions, ROTH changes, new rules for saving and withdrawing from retirement plans, and a 529 plan change that will be welcome for those trapped balances.

The vast majority of SECURE 2.0’s new rules begin this year, but some are not implemented until 2024 or even later.

Seven Key Areas to Help Taxpayers

#1 Automatic Enrollment and Plan Portability (Starts 2025)

This requires businesses adopting new 401(k) and 403(b) plans to automatically enroll eligible employees, starting at a contribution rate of at least 3%, beginning in 2025. It also permits retirement plan service providers to offer plan sponsors automatic portability services, transferring an employee’s retirement accounts to a new plan if they change jobs. This could benefit those that would be confused by the myriad of investments in a brokerage IRA as compared to a prepackaged 401(k) eligible retirement plan at the new employer.

#2 – Emergency Savings (Starts 2024)

Defined contribution retirement plans would be able to add an emergency savings account in the form of a designated Roth account eligible to accept participant contributions for non-highly compensated employees starting in 2024. Contributions would be limited to $2,500 annually (or lower, as set by the employer), and the first four withdrawals in a year would be tax and penalty-free. Depending on plan rules, contributions may be eligible for an employer match. In addition to giving participants penalty-free access to funds, an emergency savings fund could encourage plan participants to save for short-term and unexpected expenses.

#3 – Student Loan Debt (Starts 2024)

Employers will be able to “match” employee student loan payments beginning in 2024 with matching payments to a retirement account. This aids workers with increased retirement savings while they are paying off educational loans.

#4 – 529 Plans Rolled to Roth (Begins 2023)

After 15 years of aging, 529 plan assets can be rolled over to a Roth IRA for the beneficiary over five years. This is subject to the annual Roth contribution maximum with a lifetime cap of $35,000. The rollover is treated as a contribution towards the annual Roth IRA contribution limit.

#5 – Distributions Required by Law (Begins 2023)

When you’ve built up your IRA, 401(k), or 403(b) or other tax-advantaged money, you can’t shelter it from taxes forever. In the past, the IRS required you to pull an amount out, based on their calculation, each year upon reaching 72 years of age. This money is then fully taxable if it was sheltered from taxes when it was placed in the account. The Act now gives us an extra year to allow our investments to grow before beginning withdrawals. Starting in 2023, the age at which owners of retirement accounts must start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) increased to 73.

The SECURE 2.0 Act then increases the age at which RMDs must start to 75 starting in 2033.

There had been a steep penalty for failure to withdraw your RMD. It has been dropped from 50% of the amount not taken to 25%. By any measure, 25% is still a severe penalty, but it is better than having forgetfulness cost you 50% of your money. Better yet, the penalty will be reduced to 10% for IRA owners if the account holder withdraws the RMD amount previously not taken and submits a corrected tax return in a timely manner. The rationale is that self-managed IRAs are more likely to be missed than assets in 401(k) plans.

Additionally, Roth accounts in employer retirement plans will be exempt from the RMD requirements starting in 2024.

#6 – Increased Catch-Up Contributions (Begins 2025)

Starting the first day of 2025, individuals ages 60 through 63 years old will be able to make catch-up contributions of up to $10,000 annually to a workplace plan; this amount will then be indexed to inflation. The catch-up amount for people aged 50 and older has not changed for 2023 ($7,500.) There is, however, a “but.” If you earned more than $145,000 in the prior calendar year, all catch-up contributions at age 50 or older will need to be made to a Roth account in after-tax dollars. Individuals earning $145,000 or less, adjusted for inflation going forward, will be exempt from this Roth requirement.

IRAs currently have a $1,000 catch-up contribution limit for people aged 50 and over. Starting in 2024, that limit will be indexed to inflation, meaning it could adjust every year based on federally determined cost-of-living changes.

#7 – Employer Matching for Roth Accounts (Begins 2024)

Employers will be able (although not required) to provide employees the option of receiving vested matching contributions to Roth accounts. Until now, any employer match in a sponsored plan was made on a pre-tax basis. Contributions to a Roth retirement plan are made after tax, after which earnings can grow tax-free.

In 2024, Roth RMDs from an employer-sponsored plan is no longer required. This money can stay invested and even grow tax-free for as long as the account owner deems it prudent.


Take Away

The SECURE 2.0 Act provides over 90 changes that impact taxes, at the same time, could mean increased business for the firms involved in administering qualified plans. The law builds on earlier changes that increased the age at which retirees must take RMDs.

There are many small provisions in the new law; the highlights include helping younger workers save while they continue to pay off student debt, also making it easier to move accounts from one employer to another and to enable people to save for emergencies within retirement accounts.

Older Americans could feel a more immediate benefit from the increased age at which retirees must begin taking RMDs from IRA and 401(k) accounts and the increase in the size of catch-up contributions for older workers’ plans.  

SECURE 2.0 provides increased opportunities to save for retirement. Everyone’s financial situation is different. As always, consult a tax professional to understand how these changes best apply to your situation. We encourage you to consult Channelchek and other trusted sources of investment information as you weigh decisions related to the investments themselves.

Paul Hoffman

Managing Editor, Channelchek



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