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This is getting ridiculous.

Yes, it is.

You do not have to take your RMD before you do a conversion.

But I think you do. And I'm not a ribbon clerk or a corporate lawyer. ;-)

How about Pub 590?

Required distributions. You cannot convert amounts that must be distributed from your traditional IRA for a particular year (including the calendar year in which you reach age 70½) under the required distribution rules (discussed later in this chapter).

Or something more authoritative: Treas Reg 1.408A-4 Q&A-6

Q-6. Can an individual who has attained at least age 701/2 by the end of a calendar year convert an amount distributed from a traditional IRA during that year to a Roth IRA before receiving his or her required minimum distribution with respect to the traditional IRA for the year of the conversion?

(a) No. In order to be eligible for a conversion, an amount first must be eligible to be rolled over. Section 408(d)(3) prohibits the rollover of a required minimum distribution. If a minimum distribution is required for a year with respect to an IRA, the first dollars distributed during that year are treated as consisting of the required minimum distribution until an amount equal to the required minimum distribution for that year has been distributed.

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