Traditional IRA distributions become mandatory beginning in the year that a Traditional IRA owner turns age 70½. These mandatory distributions are called required minimum distributions (RMDs). IRA owners must begin taking RMDs by April 1 of the year following the year they turn 70½. These distributions are based on the IRA balance divided by the applicable distribution period. Because IRAs were created to provide income during retirement—not to be a tax shelter— IRA owners failing to take their RMDs are subject to a 50 percent excess accumulation penalty tax on the assets that should have been distributed but were not.