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NonDeductible IRA Contributions: Good or Bad Idea?

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If you find yourself in the position of having too high of an income to make a deductible contribution to your IRA for the year ($110,000 for joint filers in 2011, $66,000 for Single and Head of Household), you may be wondering if it’s a good idea to make a non-deductible contribution to your IRA.

There are two opposing camps on this issue, and the deciding factor is how you’re intending to use the funds in the near term.

It’s a Good Idea

If you’re intending to convert your IRA to a Roth and your income is too high to just make the contribution directly to the Roth account, the non-deductible IRA may be the right choice for you.  This way you’re effectively working around the income limitations of the Roth contribution ($179,000 for joint filers in 2011 or $122,000 for single or head of household filers).

You also have more funds available in your IRA account, which provides you with the ability to take advantage of economies of scale – certain mutual funds have higher minimum purchase amounts, for example.  Since the money is in an IRA you don’t have to track holding periods, non-qualified dividends versus qualified dividends, and your paperwork is reduced.

In addition, depending upon your state laws your money may be protected against creditors since it’s part of an IRA.

No, It’s a Bad Idea

If you’re not planning to convert this IRA to Roth, you’re effectively increasing the tax cost of your investment gains (under today’s law).  Since withdrawals of investment gains from your IRA are taxed at ordinary income tax rates (up to 35% under today’s rates), you’re effectively giving yourself a tax increase over the capital gains rate which is 15% at the maximum these days.

Instead of making a non-deductible contribution to your IRA, you could just make your investment in a taxable account.  Then within this account you could make investments geared toward long-term gains rather than income or dividends, therefore deferring tax until you sell the investment.  And when you do sell the investment it will be taxed at the currently much lower capital gains rate versus the ordinary income tax rate (which would be applied if you made your contribution in the IRA).


So – depending on what you’re planning to do with the account, a non-deductible contribution could be a good idea or a bad idea.  You will have to make that call.  Hopefully the information above will help you with your decision.

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