By Ian Berger, JD
IRA Analyst

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act), certain individuals can take up to $100,000 of distributions from IRAs and company plans during 2020 and receive special tax relief. Those distributions are known as coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs).

On May 4, the IRS released a set of Q&As pertaining to CRDs. The IRS did not address many of the questions about CRDs left unanswered in the CARES Act itself. However, the IRS did promise additional guidance “in the near future.”

Here are the highlights of the Q&As:

  • Not everyone is entitled to make CRDs or receive the CARES Act tax relief. Instead, you must be a “qualified individual.” You meet that definition if:

– you have been diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 by a test approved by the CDC;

– your spouse or dependent has been diagnosed with the virus; or

– you have suffered “adverse financial consequences” due to the virus as a result of:

> being quarantined; being furloughed or laid off; or having work hours reduced;

> being unable to work due to lack of child care; or

> closing or reducing hours of a business you own or operate.


The CARES Act gives the IRS discretion to expand that definition. In the Q&As, the IRS strongly hinted that it would liberalize the definition when it issues its additional guidance.

  • In addition to allowing CRDs, the CARES Act provides tax relief for company plan loans. First, the dollar limit for loans taken by September 22, 2020 was increased to $100,000 (but no more than the vested account balance). Second, plan loan repayments scheduled to be made between March 27, 2020 and December 31, 2020 can be delayed for up to one year. The Q&As clarify that company plans are not required to offer CRDs or either of the plan loan provisions. So, if you are a “qualified individual,” you need to check with the plan administrator or your HR department to see if your company has adopted the CRD or loan provisions.


  • If you are a “qualified individual,” the CARES Act waives the 10% early distribution penalty on CRDs if you are under age 59 ½, allows you to spread taxes on CRDs over three years, and allows you to repay CRDs to an IRA or company plan within three years. The Q&As confirm that, even if your company plan does not offer CRDs, you can still use this special tax relief for up to $100,000 of withdrawals made in 2020 if you are a “qualified individual.”


  • For those that do take a CRD, the distribution should be reported on your 2020 federal income tax return. You must include the taxable portion of the distribution in income ratably over the 3-year period – 2020, 2021, and 2022 – unless you elect to include the entire amount in income in 2020. You would use IRS Form 8915-E (which is expected to be available before the end of 2020) to report any repayment of a CRD and to determine the amount of any CRD includible in income for a year.


  • Another important retirement-related provision of the CARES Act is the waiver of required minimum distributions (RMDs) for 2020.  The Q&As do not address the RMD waiver, but we expect guidance from the IRS on that issue as well.