It’s not April showers or even pennies from heaven, but anyonewho put money away into a retirement plan needs to watch thecalendar, particularly if they turned 70½ in 2014.

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The IRS is reminding these folks that they must take a requiredminimum distribution from traditional IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457sand most other workplace retirement plans by April 1.

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If they don’t, the cost could be huge: 50 percent of the amountthey don’t withdraw but were required to. Say a seniorshould have taken $5,000 from a 401(k) plan by April 1 and failedto do so, for whatever reason. Uncle Sam will collect a penalty of$2,500 for that failure.

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Once that first RMD is over with, they’re not done. A second RMDmust be taken by Dec. 31 — and in every year after that, the RMDmust be taken by the last day of the year.

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The sole exception is the Roth IRA, which has no withdrawalrequirements. After all, you’ve already paid the taxes on the moneyin a Roth, so the IRS isn’t hot to see the funds disbursed, whilein other retirement plans, it can’t collect taxes until the moneyis out of the account.

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If you’re still actively working, of course, you generally don’tneed to take money out of your employer’s 401(k). But other thanthat, get ready to reverse the direction of all that retirementsaving.

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So how do you know how much money you need to take out —particularly if it will cost you half of it for not doing so ontime?

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Well, there’s a table for that — two, actually. One is thestandard, Table III(Uniform Lifetime), which helps you calculate how much the RMDhas to be. The other, which is only for a taxpayer with a spousemore than 10 years younger who is the taxpayer’s only beneficiary,is Table II. There are also calculators online at a number ofinvestment companies’ websites.

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Once you have to take money out, remember that you don’t have totake it in a lump sum— at least if you’re not up against thatdeadline.

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Instead, you might prefer to get it in installments throughoutthe year rather than all at once at the end. If so, you might wantto consider setting up a series of automatic withdrawals.

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So, what if you forgot about it? Or had an illness or otheremergency that caused the date to pass unmarked? You can ask for awaiver of the penalty, via a submission of IRS Form 5329 and aletter that explains the reason for your omission. You should alsolet the IRS know what action you plan to take to make up for thefailure.

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