On December 23, 2008, President Bush signed the Worker, Retiree, and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 (the Act) into law.  Section 201 of the Act waives any required minimum distributions (RMDs) for 2009 from retirement plans that hold each participant’s benefit in an individual account, such as § 401(k) plans and § 403(b) plans, and certain § 457(b) plans.  The Act also waives any RMD for 2009 from an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA).

This means that most participants and beneficiaries otherwise required to take minimum distributions from these types of accounts are not required to withdraw any amount in 2009.  If they do make a withdrawal in 2009 (that is not an RMD for 2008), they might be able to roll over the withdrawn amount into other eligible retirement plans.  Of course, they must still include any previously untaxed portion of the withdrawal that they do not roll over in their gross income.  See Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), Publication 590, and Pension and Annuity Income, Publication 575, for additional information on rollovers and on calculating the taxable portion of a distribution.

The Act does not waive any 2008 RMDs, even for individuals who were eligible and chose to delay taking their 2008 RMD until April 1, 2009 (e.g., retired employees and IRA owners who turned 70 1/2 in 2008).  These individuals must still take their full 2008 RMD by April 1, 2009.  The 2009 RMD waiver under the Act does apply to individuals who may be eligible to postpone taking their 2009 RMD until April 1, 2010 (generally, retired employees and IRA owners who attain age 70 1/2 in 2009).  However, the Act does not waive any RMDs for 2010.

If a beneficiary is receiving distributions over a 5-year period, he or she can now waive the distribution for 2009, effectively taking distributions over a 6-year rather than a 5-year period.  See IRS Notice 2009-9 which can be found here.