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Is It Really Allowed – Making a Non-Deductible IRA Contribution Followed By a Roth Conversion?

Understanding the Roth Conversion of previous non-deductible IRA contributions. Also known as the Back Door Roth contribution.

Be Careful When Converting

When converting from a 401(k), traditional IRA, 403(b), SIMPLE IRA, SEP or 457(b) to a Roth IRA there are some important tax considerations to keep in mind. First, converting from a tax deferred plan to a tax free plan it’s not always the best idea. Generally, it’s going to make sense to convert if the tax payer believes that he or she will be in a higher income tax bracket in retirement. For example, John, age 28 has a 401(k) and recently left his employer. He’s currently in the 15% bracket but expects to be in the 28% bracket or higher in retirement. It may make sense for John to convert his 401(k) to his Roth IRA. This makes sense for John because when he converts from a pre-tax, employer sponsored plan like the 401(k) it’s money that has not yet been taxed. If he converts while in the 15% […]

The Difference Between IRA Contributions and Rollovers

Often there is confusion about what constitutes a “contribution” and a “rollover” into an IRA.  This post is intended to clear up the difference. While both activities are technically contributions, there’s a major difference between the two.  The most significant of the differences is that with a regular annual contribution there are several limits imposed that can be quite restrictive. Annual Contribution Limits For an annual contribution to a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA, you are limited to the lesser of $5,000 or your actual earned income for the year.  If you have no earned income, you’re not allowed to make an annual contribution to an IRA.  Above that amount, if you happen to be 50 years old or better, you can add $1,000 more to your annual contribution (2012 figures). Astute readers will point out that there is the option for a spouse to make a spousal IRA […]

Ideal Roth Conversion Candidate – Protecting Non-Taxation of SS Benefits

This is the second in a series of posts about Ideal Roth Conversion Candidates.  See the first post, Low or Zero Tax, at this link. One of the planning options that most all folks have available to them is the Roth IRA Conversion.  For the uninitiated, a Roth IRA Conversion is a transaction where you move money from a Traditional IRA or a Qualified Retirement Plan (QRP) such as a 401(k) into a Roth IRA.  With this transaction, if any of the funds in the original account was pre-tax, that amount would be included in income as potentially taxable in the year of the Conversion. As you might expect, making a decision like this can result in a considerable tax impact, depending on the individual circumstances.  A Roth IRA Conversion may make a great deal of sense for one individual, while another may decide that the Conversion cost is too […]

A Tax-Free Roth Conversion Question of Timing

Fern Overgrowth (Photo credit: MightyBoyBrian) We’ve discussed here in the past about how it is (at least under present law) a perfectly legal maneuver to make a non-deductible contribution to a traditional IRA and then at some point later convert the same contribution to your Roth IRA (see Is it Really Allowed? for more).  If you have no other IRA accounts, this conversion to Roth can be a tax-free event, especially if there has been no growth or gains in the investments in the account. However (and there’s always a however in life) I recently came across a situation that was sent to me by a reader, where he wanted to do such a conversion, but he also wanted to rollover some money from his 401(k) plan into an IRA.  The question is in the timing – understandably, if he does the conversion from the traditional IRA to the Roth […]

Ordering Rules for Roth IRA Distributions

Tax (Photo credit: 401K) Did you know that there is a specific order for distributions from your Roth IRA? The Internal Revenue Service has set up a group of rules to determine the order of money, by source, as it is distributed from your account.  This holds for any distribution from a Roth account. Ordering rules First, over-contributions or return of your annual contribution for the tax year.  This means that if you’ve made a contribution to the Roth IRA in the tax year, the first money that you withdraw from the account will be the money that you contributed that year.  If you over-contributed to your account a prior year. Growth on this over-contribution or annual contribution needs to be removed at this time as well, with tax and penalty paid as required. Second, regular annual contributions to the account.  The next money that comes out is the total […]

Converting an Inherited 401(k) to Roth

Image via Wikipedia One of the provisions that is available to the individual who inherits a 401(k) or other Qualified Retirement Plan (QRP) is the ability to convert the fund to a Roth IRA. This gives the beneficiary of the original QRP the option of having all of the tax paid up front on the account, and then all growth in the account in the future is tax free, as with all Roth IRA accounts. What’s a bit different about this kind of conversion is that, since it came from an inherited account, the beneficiary must take distribution of the account over his or her lifetime, according to the single life table.  This means that, in order for this maneuver to be beneficial, the heir should be relatively young, such that there will be time for a lengthy growth period for the account – making the tax-free nature of the […]

Roth Conversion/Recharacterization Strategy

Image via Wikipedia 1/1/2018 Note: Recharacterization of Roth conversion is no longer allowed as of tax year 2018. The last tax year that you could recharacterize Roth conversions is 2017. See Roth Recharacterization is No Longer Allowed for more details. If you have an IRA you probably know about the concept of a Roth IRA conversion – where you take distribution of a portion of your IRA and directly transfer that money into your a Roth IRA, paying tax as you go.  Then the Roth IRA can continue to grow tax-free (as Roth IRAs do) and you’ll never owe tax on your qualified distributions from the Roth IRA. In addition, if the investments you’ve made in the Roth IRA have lost money, before October 15 of the following year you have the opportunity to recharacterize your Roth conversion.  If you didn’t recharacterize, you’d be paying tax on a conversion amount […]

NonDeductible IRA Contributions: Good or Bad Idea?

Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr 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 […]

Re-Converting Your IRA

Image by accent on eclectic via Flickr Okay, so we’ve covered Roth Conversions – where you distribute the funds from your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.  Then we covered Recharacterizations – where you can “undo” the conversion by moving all or part of the converted funds and the earnings associated with it back into a traditional IRA.  The end result is that, for those funds converted and recharacterized, from the eyes of the IRS, nothing happened to the account (except that you may have put the money back into a different IRA). So, if you went through a Roth Conversion and then Recharacterized it, the assumption is that you wish to eventually re-convert those funds to a Roth account.  When are you allowed to do this? There are two limits on the Re-Conversion of funds to a Roth account once they’ve been through the Conversion/Recharacterization wringer: This first limit […]