Regular readers of this column will notice a change in title this morning.
This doesn't signal any change in content. It only reflects our growing feeling that the name we started with ("Personal Investing") defined that content a little too narrowly.
As an accounting term, a balance sheet is a statement of where one stands in terms of assets and liabilities on a given date.
In more common usage, the term has come to mean additionally a toting up of plus and minus, of advantage and disadvantage for a particular subject.
The broad topic here is personal finance, encompassing a range of subtopics that includes investments, insurance, taxation, estate planning, wills and trusts, retirement plans and social security.
Our goal is to help you get the most out of your personal assets and liabilities -- a balance sheet for the best possible lifestyle.
We try to explain the intricacies of the various elements of personal financial management in a way that will help you understand them better. And we provide a forum for answering specific questions that we think are of general interest.
So keep those cards and letters coming, folks!
Question: In one of your articles about IRAs, you advised people that they could roll over their investment without a penalty. But the bank where I do business says there is a Federal Reserve penalty if I withdraw the funds from my account. I would like clarification.
Answer: As a matter of fact, both my comments and the bank's position are right -- because we're talking about two different kinds of penalties.
An eligible worker is permitted to roll over funds from one IRA investment to another without incurring any tax liability or tax penalties.
This can be accomplished by requesting the trustee of the old IRA to transfer the assets in the account to the trustee of the new IRA (after making prior arrangements with the new trustee, of course).
Or if you prefer you can ask for a distribution to you of the assets in the old IRA, which you must then deposit in a new account within 60 days. i
(The assets must be deposited in precisely the form in which they were received. For example, if shares of stock were distributed to you from the old IRA, the same shares must go into the new account.)
But if you are using a bank certificate of deposit as the IRA vehicle, then you are subject to the same Federal Reserve rules as any other CD holder.
That is, a premature withdrawal (before maturity) would entail forfeiture of six months interest (assuming the CD is for a term of more than one year).
So while there is no tax liability incurred on a qualified rollover to a new IRA, the Federal Reserve penalty would apply if a CD is closed before the normal maturity date.
Incidentally, if you decide to go ahead and transfer from the CD to another IRA vehicle, the amount of the penalty may not be deducted from income on your tax return, since the associated interest income is not currently subject to tax.
Q: Re nondeductibility of interest paid on money borrowed for investing, I take it this means any type of investment. Am I naive to suppose that since I can't deduct the interest charges, then I don't have to declare the income from the investments made with the borrowed money?
A: First order of business -- let's clear up any misunderstanding of what I said. Loan interest is not deductible on your tax return only if the money was borrowed to buy tax-exempt securities (municipal bonds and funds or trusts that invest in such bonds).
(There are other circumstances when interest expense is not a valid deduction, but they are not pertinent to this discussion.)
So if you borrow money to buy corporate bonds or stocks, or to invest in real estate or similar vehicles which would generate taxable income, you can claim the interest as a deduction.
You're not being naive; in fact, your inference is the mirror image of the logic behind the rule on nondeductibility of interest expense on tax-exempt securities. And it really is quite logical: If the income produced by investing the borrowed money is not subject to tax, then the cost of borrowing the money is not a qualified tax deduction.