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I'm having trouble understanding exactly when I must make a required IRA withdrawal.

Your first required withdrawal is FOR the year in which you turn 70 1/2. It's based on the prior year-ending balance and your age at the end of your "70 1/2" year. You may delay taking this, and only this, distribution until April 1 of the following year. You must take the RMD for the following year during that calendar year.

Example. You turn 70 1/2 in 2012. You must take an RMD for 2012 between 1/1/2012 and 4/1/2013. You must take an RMD for 2013 between 1/1/2013 and 12/31/2013.

You have to look at your particulars, but to me it makes more sense to take your first RMD during your 70 1/2 calendar year. Continuing with the above dates, if you delayed you'd have RMD's for both 2012 and 2013 on your 2013 return, creating a spike in income. Also, your 2012 ending balance, used to calculate your 2013 RMD, would still include the money spoken for by the 2012 RMD.

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