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A government lawyer acknowledged Monday that the Trump administration will miss its first court-imposed deadline to reunite about 100 immigrant children under age 5 with their parents. Department of Justice attorney Sarah Fabian said during a court hearing that federal authorities reunited two families and expect to reunite an additional 59 by Tuesday’s deadline. She said the other cases are more complicated, including parents who have been deported or are in prison facing criminal charges, and would require more time to complete reunions. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who ordered the administration to reunite families separated as part of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, said he will hold another hearing Tuesday morning to get an update on the remaining cases. He said he was encouraged to see “real progress” in the complicated reunification process after a busy weekend when officials from multiple federal agencies tried to sync up parents and children who are spread across the country. STORY FROM LENDINGTREE Crush your mortgage interest with a 15 yr fixed “Tomorrow is the deadline. I do recognize that there are some groups of parents who are going to fall into a category where it’s impossible to reunite by tomorrow,” he said. “I am very encouraged by the progress. I’m optimistic.” Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who leads a lawsuit against the federal government, sounded more skeptical. When asked by the judge if he believed the government was in full compliance of the court order, Gelernt said there was much more work to be done. “Let me put it this way: I think the government in the last 48 hours has taken significant steps,” he said. “We just don’t know how much effort the government has made to find released parents. I don’t think there’s been full compliance.” U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego. (Photo: U.S. District Court) The difficulty in reuniting the first 100 children shows the challenge that lies ahead as the Trump administration braces for another deadline in two weeks to reunite nearly 3,000 older children – up to age 17 – with their parents. The process is complicated because of all the different situations that emerged over the weekend. The government initially identified 102 children under age 5 who needed to be reunited but removed three children from that list because investigations into their cases revealed that those children came with adults who were not their parents, Fabian said. Twelve parents were found to be in federal and state custody on criminal charges, making a reunification impossible since the government can’t transfer minors to state and local prisons to protect the well-being of the child. Nine parents were deported, and the government established contact with only four of them, Fabian said. Four children had been scheduled to be released from government custody to relatives who weren’t their parents, leading the government to question whether to allow that process to be completed or to redirect the child back to a parent. Gelernt said he understood many of the hurdles but urged the judge to force the government to scrap its time-consuming investigation into every single case and start a 48-hour clock to reunify families that remain separated by Tuesday. Sabraw said he would decide that during Tuesday’s hearing. Fabian said one of the silver linings of the busy weekend is that her office worked closely with its challengers at the ACLU to share information on each child’s case, to ensure that representatives from immigration advocacy groups and volunteer organizations could be present during each reunification. Gelernt said they’re doing that to help the parents, who are often released from custody with no money and nowhere to go. Fabian said that coordination has led to a more formalized process between government agencies and with the immigrants’ lawyers that should make reunifications go more smoothly in the coming weeks. “I think this process over the weekend helped us see what information, and in what form, is the most useful to share,” she said. “I’d like to make that as efficient a process as possible.” -

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Don’t let IRS gobble your IRA with tax penalties

(Photo Martha Irvine, AP)

The IRS could take a big bite from your IRA if you’re retired and don’t meet the minimum withdrawal.

As the end of the year approaches, older investors need to pay close attention to the amount of money they have to withdraw from their retirement accounts — whether they like it or not.

So-called Required Minimum Distributions are a fixed amount that must be taken out of a retirement plan each calendar year once the beneficiary turns age 70½. RMD rules apply to all employee-sponsored retirement plans, including a 401(k), 403(b) and IRA — and if you don’t meet the minimum by Dec. 31, you could wind up paying steep tax penalties as a result.

While it may sound a bit silly that the IRS forces you to spend your own money in retirement, especially to those who don’t have a huge nest egg, the idea is to prevent the well-off from taking advantage of favorable tax treatment for retirement funds. After all, if you can keep growing your money tax free forever in an IRA … why not simply let it ride and leave a massive inheritance for your heirs, grown with the help of tax-free investment?

So, if you are lucky enough to have a big retirement account and have hit age 70½ in 2013, make sure you remember to tap that IRA this year before the tax man does on your next return.

The specific amount of your RMD will vary, and is determined by dividing the total market value of your retirement account by a life expectancy figure provided by the IRS in its Publication 590. There are also other factors, including your beneficiary status should you have a spouse who is eligible to share in your retirement funds, or your employment status, should you continue to work very late into life.

But, as a general rule, required minimum distributions start at about 5% of your retirement fund and move slowly higher as a percentage over time.

Here’s a working example: You’re single and just turned 70½ in 2013, with $500,000 in your IRA. IRS gives you a divisor of 27.4 for your nest egg — meaning you must withdraw $18,248 in the calendar year, or roughly 3.7% of that total.

Now for some Americans, $18,000 or so may not cover living expenses, and they will have to withdraw more or rely on Social Security to bridge the gap. But for those who have more than enough, it is wise to use the retirement funds first to avoid penalties that may be as high as 50% of what the IRS determines should have been withdrawn.

So using the previous example, if you have $500,000 in your IRA and don’t spend a penny, you could see Uncle Sam claim about $9,124 of your cash anyway.

Admittedly, many Americans are woefully underprepared for retirement and don’t have the luxury of simply forgoing distributions from their retirement accounts. According to the AARP, the average 401(k) balance of those over 55 was $255,000 to start 2013, meaning a required minimum distribution of about $9,300 a year to start — hardly a king’s ransom.

But if you’re in the enviable position of having enough resources beyond your IRA or 401(k) to live on, pay close attention to the RMD requirement because you could wind up getting charged big-time for not accessing your retirement cash after age 70½ as the government intended when it approved favorable tax rules for these plans.

Remember, you can always take the minimum out and reinvest it. In many cases, this is a cheaper alternative to simply forfeiting half of your RMD to Uncle Sam.

Jeff Reeves is the editor of and the author of The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks.

Source:Jeff Reeves, Special for USA TODAY

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