Perhaps because shocked clients rarely repeat such a costly error, tax preparers report success with waivers. Kubey has never had a case where her request for a waiver has not been granted; Stoner is four for four. “If the IRS fails to respond within 36 months, the taxpayer is generally safe in presuming that the penalty has been waived,” says John Dundon, an enrolled agent and president of Taxpayer Advocacy Services in Englewood, Colo.

“Act quickly!” Blankenship adds. “One year is much easier to resolve than three or four years. Take the distribution and request the waiver as soon as possible. And be prepared to pay the penalty: Waivers are not automatic.”

Other good tax moves. RMDs cannot be rolled over into another tax-deferred account, but certain tax-advantaged investments can also help soften the tax blow of RMDs, which are treated as taxable income. Donations to a 529 education savings plan can offer tax breaks on the federal and state level; an individual can contribute up to $14,000 annually without triggering the federal gift tax. Blankenship says one good tax move is a qualified charitable distribution (QCD).

Adds Dundon, “If the taxpayers are married, each spouse can contribute up to $100,000 from their own IRAs.”

QCDs also require a direct transfer from the IRA to the charity. Your client can have the check mailed directly to the charity, or can forward a check from their account payable to the charity. If your client requests a check payable to him or her and intends to contribute the amount to the charity later on, the transaction constitutes a straight RMD.

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