Doing Well by Helping Others Do Good: Rethinking the Still Working Exception to RMDs


Folks still working when they reach age 70½ may be able to push back required distributions from their employer-sponsored retirement plans until actual retirement. This is known as the “still working exception“ to the required minimum distribution (RMD) rules. As a result, these employees have an incentive to consolidate their retirement savings in the plan of the employer for whom they are working when they reach age 70½ in an effort to avoid taxable payments that they may neither want nor need.

For the charitably inclined, however, there may be a reason to consider rolling over these retirement savings to an IRA to accomplish what are known as qualified charitable distributions (QCDs).

Let’s consider both.


The “Still Working Exception”

Plan participants with paychecks may be looking for ways to avoid taxable distributions of their retirement accounts. The “still working exception“ affords them a workaround to pesky RMDs that would otherwise add to their taxable income.

If their plan at work allows them to defer the age 70½ start date on RMDs until retirement, and the plan allows them to roll in other retirement savings (traditional IRAs, former employer plans, etc.), the RMD problem is solved—at least until they retire

The "still working exception" applies only to a current employer plan and employees. It does not apply to:

  • Owners (more than 5%) of the company that sponsors the plan.
  • Any former employer plan.
  • SEP-IRAs and SIMPLE IRAs, whether still working or not.
  • Traditional IRAs.

Before considering the QCD alternative to plan consolidation, let’s round out the discussion by noting that, if relying on the “still working exception,“ an RMD would be due for the year of retirement. Those retirees older than age 70½  would have until April 1 of the following year to take this first distribution. If the retiree waits until this date, then a second distribution would be required by the end of that year as well—a distribution twofer. And if the retiree dies while still working—ouch—the retiree is deemed to have died before his or her required beginning date with respect to that plan, and there is no RMD due for the year of death—whatever consolation that provides.



QCDs are charitable gifts of IRA distributions that provide an alternative to the “still working exception“ for RMD management. QCD donors must be:

  • Age 70½ or older.
  • The named owner of a traditional IRA, inherited IRA, or inactive SEP-IRA or SIMPLE IRA.

The maximum annual QCD is $100,000 per taxpayer per calendar year aggregated among all of their IRAs.

In addition to benefiting the charity, the beauty of the QCD is that it:

  • May qualify as an RMD.
  • Reduces the amount of taxable IRA distributions by the amount of the QCD

For example, a $25,000 QCD could count toward a given year’s RMD but would not be added to that year’s adjusted gross income.

Keep in mind, these charitable gifts are not allowed from any other retirement plan (for example, 401(k) and 403(b)).


Putting It All Together

Folks who are working beyond age 70½ may be tempted to kick the can down the road on RMDs by relying on the “still working exception“ to the RMD rule. An alternative approach may be to gift RMDs as QCDs from an IRA. This would require funding the IRA while still working. Such funding could be accomplished by performing an in-service distribution of plan assets and rolling them over to an IRA. 

For additional information about RMDs and QCDs, please feel free to contact the Retirement Strategies Group at (800) 722-2333 or email us at


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