In March 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The legislation included a provision that allowed qualified retirement plan participants and IRA account holders to take penalty-free early distributions totaling no more than $100,000 between January 1 and December 31, 2020. If you took advantage of this measure, here’s what you need to know for tax filing.
What Is a Coronavirus Distribution?
In order for a distribution to be qualified under the CARES Act, it must have been made to a qualifying individual before December 31, 2020. You qualify if you, your spouse, or dependents were diagnosed with the virus, or if you, your spouse, or someone who shares your principal residence experienced a pandemic-related financial setback as a result of:
- A quarantine, furlough, layoff, or reduced work hours
- An inability to work due to lack of child care
- Owning a business forced to close or reduce hours
- Reduced pay or self-employment income
- A rescinded job offer or delayed start date for a job
The Three-Year Rules
A key provision in the Act allows the distribution(s) to be spread “ratably” over three years for purposes of calculating tax payments. In other words, the total can be reported in equal amounts on your 2020, 2021, and 2022 tax returns. For example, if you received a $15,000 distribution, you could report $5,000 in income for each of the three years. However, if you prefer, you can generally report the entire distribution in your 2020 tax filing.
Another provision allows you to repay all or a part of your coronavirus distribution to an eligible retirement plan within three years from the day after the date the distribution was received. Repayments will be treated as if you enacted a trustee-to-trustee transfer, and no federal income taxes will be owed. (A repayment to an IRA is not considered a rollover for purposes of the one-rollover-per-year rule.)
If you pay your income taxes prior to repaying the distribution, your repayment will reduce the amount of the distribution income you report in a subsequent year. Or instead, you may file an amended return, depending on your specific situation. Consider speaking with a tax professional before making any final decisions.
How to Report Distribution Income
If you received a coronavirus distribution(s) in 2020, you should use Form 8915-E, Qualified Disaster Retirement Plan Distributions and Repayments, to report the income as part of your 2020 federal income tax filing. You can also use this form to report any recontributed amounts.
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