Roth individual retirement accounts were created to provide additional tax benefits that traditional IRAs do not. Traditional IRAs are tax-deductible in the tax year the contribution is made. Contributions and investment gains accrue tax-free, but all withdrawals are taxable, no matter your age. Conversely, Roth IRA contributions are not tax-deductible. The Roth IRA’s major benefit is that all distributions taken after age 59 1/2 are tax-free. You can contribute to a Roth IRA as often as you like, up to the yearly maximum contribution amount allowed.
Before you can take advantage of a Roth IRA, you must ensure you are eligible. You are allowed to fund a Roth IRA if you have taxable compensation. If you are single, your income must be $107,000 or less, as of 2012. If you are married and file jointly, your combined income cannot exceed $169,000. However, you can contribute a portion of the maximum yearly contribution amount up to an income of $122,000 for singles and $179,000 for married filing jointly.
If you contribute solely to a Roth IRA, you can contribute a maximum amount of $5,000, as of the 2012 tax year. If you are age 50 or over, however, the IRS allows you to take advantage of a catch-up provision and contribute a maximum of $6,000 annually. If you contribute to a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA, the contribution limits apply for the total contributed to both. For example, if you are 40 years old and you contribute $2,000 to a traditional IRA, you can contribute a maximum of $3,000 to your Roth IRA.
Frequency of Contributions
You can contribute as often as you want, up to the maximum amount. Instead of a lump sum end-of-year contribution, some individuals set up automatic monthly or semi-monthly withdrawals from their checking or regular brokerage account into their Roth IRA accounts. If you contribute to a Roth IRA between January 1 and April 15, you have the option of claiming your contribution for the current or prior tax year.
You can contribute to a Roth IRA by converting a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA. A conversion does not impact the annual contribution limit and is treated completely separately. There are no limits on the number of conversions you can make annually. To manage the tax impact of the conversion, you can do partial conversions of your traditional IRA or you can convert it over a two-year period. For example, for conversions made in 2010, you could have paid all the taxes due in 2010 or in equal installments in 2011 and 2012.
You can roll over all or a portion of your employer’s defined contribution, deferred compensation and annuity plans including 401(k), 403(b), 457(b), profit-sharing, and stock bonus plans into a Roth IRA. A rollover from a one of these plans is treated, for tax purposes, like a conversion from a traditional IRA. The one-per-year rollover rule does not apply to funds contributed to Roth IRAs. The rule only applies to tax-free distributions, and Roth IRA rollovers are taxed when converted.
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