I will be 70 on Oct. 27, 2013. And I will reach 70 1/2 on April 27, 2014. Can I take my first withdrawal on Dec. 31, 2014, based on my 2014 year-end balance of my traditional IRA? And then take my subsequent year distribution on Dec. 31, 2015, based on my 2015 year-end balance? -Alice


You’ve almost got it right, but not quite, so let’s review the basic rules. Anyone who owns a traditional IRA is required to make Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) each year beginning in the year in which they turn 70 1/2. These distributions are calculated by dividing the prior year end IRA account value by an IRS factor (See IRS Publication 590 for the details). For the first RMD, the IRS allows a one-time option to defer it or push it back up until April 1 of the following year. After that initial RMD, all RMDs must be taken in the calendar year. So, if someone elects to defer his or her first RMD into the year following the one in which they turned 70 1/2, they will have to make two RMDs that particular year.

In your specific case, your first distribution will be a 2014 distribution based on your 12/31/13 IRA balance (not the 12/31/14 balance) and age. You could take that distribution any time in 2014 and wait all the way up until April 1, 2015. Your next RMD would be for 2015 and be based on the 12/31/14 account value.

Remember, while you can always withdraw more than the RMD, you don’t want to withdraw less. The IRS levies a whopping 50 percent excise tax on the amount not distributed as required.