IRS About-Turns on Approach to One-Per-Year Limit on IRA Rollovers – Trustees beware!
Posted by William Byrnes on March 21, 2014
In Announcement 2014-15 that will be published in IRB 2014-16 on April 14, 2014, the IRS alerted trustees that it has had a major about turn on how its views the one-per-year limit on IRS rollovers. It’s view will now be much more restrictive on roll overs. What brought about the change of thinking? The January 28, 2014 Tax Court decision of Bobrow v. Commissioner.
Section 408(d)(3)(A)(i) provides generally that any amount distributed from an IRA will not be included in the gross income of the distributee to the extent the amount is paid into an IRA for the benefit of the distributee no later than 60 days after the distributee receives the distribution. Section 408(d)(3)(B) provides that an individual is permitted to make only one rollover described in the preceding sentence in any one-year period.
Proposed Regulation § 1.408-4(b)(4)(ii) and IRS Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), provide that this limitation is applied on an IRA-by-IRA basis. However, a recent Tax Court opinion, Bobrow v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2014-21, held that the limitation applies on an aggregate basis, meaning that an individual could not make an IRA-to-IRA rollover if he or she had made such a rollover involving any of the individual’s IRAs in the preceding 1-year period. The Tax Court stated at page 12:
“The plain language of section 408(d)(3)(B) limits the frequency with which a taxpayer may elect to make a nontaxable rollover contribution. By its terms, the one-year limitation laid out in section 408(d)(3)(B) is not specific to any single IRA maintained by an individual but instead applies to all IRAs maintained by a taxpayer. Section 408(d)(3)(B) speaks in general terms: An individual may not receive a nontaxable rollover from “an individual retirement account or individual retirement annuity” if that individual has already received a tax-free rollover within the past year from “an individual retirement account or an individual retirement annuity.””
The Tax Court continued at page 13, looking at Congress’ intent surrounding the enactment of section 408(d)(3)(B):
“Section 408 was enacted as part of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, Pub. L. No. 93-406, sec. 2002(b), 88 Stat. at 958. Recognizing that the American workforce had become much more mobile than in previous years, Congress enacted the section 408(d)(3)(A) exemption as a way of providing employees with some measure of flexibility with regard to their retirement planning. However, Congress added the section 408(d)(3)(B) limitation as a way to ensure that taxpayers did not take advantage of section 408(d)(3)(A) to repeatedly shift nontaxable income in and out of retirement accounts.”
Thus, the Tax Court concluded that: “Had Congress intended to allow individuals to take nontaxable distributions from multiple IRAs per year, we believe section 408(d)(3)(B) would have been worded differently.”
The IRS announced that it anticipates that it will follow the interpretation of § 408(d)(3)(B) in Bobrow and, accordingly, intends to withdraw the proposed regulation and revise Publication 590 to the extent needed to follow that interpretation. These actions by the IRS will not affect the ability of an IRA owner to transfer funds from one IRA trustee directly to another, because such a transfer is not a rollover and, therefore, is not subject to the one-rollover-per-year limitation of § 408(d)(3)(B). See Rev. Rul. 78-406, 1978-2 C.B. 157.
What Happens Now?
The IRS has received comments about the administrative challenges presented by the Bobrow interpretation of § 408(d)(3)(B). The IRS understands that adoption of the Tax Court’s interpretation of the statute will require IRA trustees to make changes in the processing of IRA rollovers and in IRA disclosure documents, which will take time to implement. Accordingly, the IRS will not apply the Bobrow interpretation of § 408(d)(3)(B) to any rollover that involves an IRA distribution occurring before January 1, 2015. Regardless of the ultimate resolution of the Bobrow case, the Treasury Department and the IRS expect to issue a proposed regulation under § 408 that would provide that the IRA rollover limitation applies on an aggregate basis. However, in no event would the regulation be effective before January 1, 2015. The Announcement is available http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/a-14-15.pdf
Warning on IRA Rollovers: Regulators to Scrutinize Suitability: Tomorrow’s blog article will provide another Warning on IRA Rollovers: Regulators to Scrutinize Suitability!
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