However stout your tax defenses, there is almost no avoiding the levy against retirement plans for the year you reach 70 1/2, when you must start withdrawing cash from I.R.A.’s and 401(k) plans and paying ordinary income tax on it, writes Robert Hershey. In addition to a possible increase in ordinary tax rates, the 3.8 percent Medicare payroll tax will start next year to apply to capital gains, dividends and other investment income for joint filers with at least $250,000 in income. Retirement distributions are excluded from the Medicare tax but still must be included in calculations of the $250,000 threshold.
So, what’s a retiree to do? Here, financial planners weigh in on whether or not to defer your withdrawals until April 1 of the following year, how to decide between a lump sum distribution or quarterly payouts, and how to juggle distributions coming from multiple retirement accounts.