A Roth IRA
is a special type of retirement plan under US law that is generally not taxed, provided certain conditions are met. The tax law of the United States allows a tax reduction on a limited amount of saving for retirement. The Roth IRA is named for its chief legislative sponsor, Senator William Roth
William Victor "Bill" Roth, Jr. was an American lawyer and politician from Wilmington in New Castle County, Delaware. He was a veteran of World War II and a member of the Republican Party, who served as U.S. Representative and U.S...
of Delaware. The Roth IRA's principal difference from most other tax advantaged retirement plans is that, rather than granting a tax break for money placed into the plan, the tax break is granted on the money withdrawn from the plan during retirement.
Established by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997
The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 reduced several federal taxes in the United States.Subject to certain phase-in rules, the top capital gains rate fell from 28% to 20%. The 15% bracket was lowered to 10%....
(Public Law 105-34), a Roth IRA can be an individual retirement account
containing investments in securities, usually common stock
Common stock is a form of corporate equity ownership, a type of security. It is called "common" to distinguish it from preferred stock. In the event of bankruptcy, common stock investors receive their funds after preferred stock holders, bondholders, creditors, etc...
s and bond
In finance, a bond is a debt security, in which the authorized issuer owes the holders a debt and, depending on the terms of the bond, is obliged to pay interest to use and/or to repay the principal at a later date, termed maturity...
s, often through mutual fund
A mutual fund is a professionally managed type of collective investment scheme that pools money from many investors to buy stocks, bonds, short-term money market instruments, and/or other securities.- Overview :...
s (although other investments, including derivatives, notes, certificates of deposit, and real estate are possible). A Roth IRA can also be an individual retirement annuity
In the United States an annuity contract is created when an insured party, usually an individual, pays a life insurance company a single premium that will later be distributed back to the insured party over time...
, which is an annuity contract or an endowment contract purchased from a life insurance company. As with all IRAs, the Internal Revenue Service
The Internal Revenue Service is the revenue service of the United States federal government. The agency is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury, and is under the immediate direction of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue...
mandates specific eligibility and filing status requirements. A Roth IRA's main advantages are its tax structure and the additional flexibility that this tax structure provides. Also, there are fewer restrictions on the investments that can be made in the plan than many other tax advantaged plans, and this adds somewhat to the popularity, though the investment options available depends on the trustee (or the place where the plan is established).
The total contributions allowed per year to all IRAs is the lesser of one's taxable compensation (which is not the same as adjusted gross income
For United States individual income tax, taxable income is adjusted gross income less allowances for personal exemptions and itemized deductions. Adjusted gross income is total gross income minus specific items laid out in the tax code...
) and the limit amounts as seen below (this total may be split up between any number of traditional and Roth IRAs. In the case of a married couple, each spouse may contribute the amount listed):
!|Age 49 and Below
!|Age 50 and Above
| style="text-align: center" | 1998–2001
| style="text-align: center" | 2002–2004
| style="text-align: center" | 2005
For example, if one is single, aged 49 or under, and earn $10,000, one can contribute a maximum of $5,000 in 2008. However, if one is single and earns $2,000, one can contribute only a maximum of $2,000 in 2008 ($2,000 is the lesser of $2,000 and $5,000).
Starting in 2009, contribution limits will be assessed for a potential increase based on inflation, though the 2009 contribution limits have remained unchanged. Nor will the funds divide.
Differences from a traditional IRA
In contrast to a traditional IRA
Established by the Tax Reform Act of 1986, . A Traditional IRA is an individual retirement account in the United States...
, contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax-deductible. Withdrawals are generally tax-free, but not always and not without certain stipulations (i.e., tax free when the plan has been opened for at least 5 years for principal withdrawals and the owner's age is at least 59½ for withdrawals on the growth portion above principal). An advantage of the Roth IRA over a traditional IRA is that there are fewer withdrawal restrictions and requirements. Transactions inside an account (including capital gains, dividends, and interest) do not incur a current tax liability.
- Direct contributions to a Roth IRA may be withdrawn tax free at any time. Rollover
In foreign exchange trading a rollover is the action taking place at end of day, where all open positions with value date equals SPOT, will be rolled over to the next business day...
, converted (before age 59½) contributions held in a Roth IRA may be withdrawn tax and penalty free after the "seasoning" period (currently 5 years). Earnings may be withdrawn tax and penalty free after the seasoning period if the condition of age 59½ (or other qualifying condition) is also met. This differs from a traditional IRA where all withdrawals are taxed as Ordinary Income
Under the United States Internal Revenue Code, the type of income is defined by its character. Ordinary income is usually characterized as income other than capital gain...
, and a penalty applies for withdrawals before age 59½. In contrast, capital gains on stocks or other securities held in a regular taxable account for at least a year would be taxed at the lower long-term capital gain rate, which is currently 15%. This potentially higher tax rate for withdrawals of capital gains from a traditional IRA is a quid pro quo
Quid pro quo most often means a more-or-less equal exchange or substitution of goods or services. English speakers often use the term to mean "a favour for a favour" and the phrases with almost identical meaning include: "give and take", "tit for tat", "this for that", and "you scratch my back,...
for the deduction taken against ordinary income when putting money into the Roth IRA.
- If there is money in the Roth IRA due to conversion from a traditional IRA, the Roth IRA owner may withdraw up to the total of the converted amount without penalty, as long as the "seasoning" period (currently five years) has passed on the converted funds.
- Up to a lifetime maximum $10,000 in earnings withdrawals are considered qualified (tax-free) if the money is used to acquire a principal residence for a first time buyer. This house must be acquired by the Roth IRA owner, their spouse, or their lineal ancestors and descendants. The owner or qualified relative who receives such a distribution must not have owned a home in the previous 24 months.
- Contributions may be made to a Roth IRA even if the owner participates in a qualified retirement plan such as a 401(k). (Contributions may be made to a traditional IRA in this circumstance, but they may not be tax deductible.)
- If a Roth IRA owner dies, and his/her spouse becomes the sole beneficiary of that Roth IRA while also owning a separate Roth IRA, the spouse is permitted to combine the two Roth IRAs into a single plan without penalty.
- If the Roth IRA owner expects that the tax rate applicable to withdrawals from a traditional IRA in retirement will be higher than the tax rate applicable to the funds earned to make the Roth IRA contributions before retirement, then there may be a tax advantage to making contributions to a Roth IRA over a traditional IRA or similar vehicle while working. There is no current tax deduction, but money going into the Roth IRA is taxed at the taxpayer's current marginal tax rate, and will not be taxed at the expected higher future effective tax rate when it comes out of the Roth IRA.
- Assets in the Roth IRA can be passed on to heirs.
- The Roth IRA does not require distributions based on age. All other tax-deferred retirement plans, including the related Roth 401(k)
The Roth 401 is a type of retirement savings plan. It was authorized by the United States Congress under the Internal Revenue Code, section 402A, and represents a unique combination of features of the Roth IRA and a traditional 401 plan. As of January 1, 2006 U.S...
, require withdrawals to begin by April 1 of the calendar year after the owner reaches age 70½. If one does not need the money and wants to leave it to their heirs, this is a great way to accumulate income tax free. Beneficiaries who inherited Roth IRAs are subject to the minimum distribution rules.
- Roth IRAs have a higher "effective" contribution limit than traditional IRAs, since the nominal contribution limit is the same for both traditional and Roth IRAs, but the post-tax contribution in a Roth IRA is equivalent to a larger pre-tax contribution in a traditional IRA that will be taxed upon withdrawal. For example, a contribution of the 2008 limit of $5,000 to a Roth IRA may be equivalent to a traditional IRA contribution of $6667 (assuming a 25% tax rate at both contribution and withdrawal). In 2008, one cannot contribute $6667 to a traditional IRA due to the contribution limit, so the post-tax Roth contribution may be larger.
- On estates large enough to be subject to estate taxes, a Roth IRA can reduce estate taxes since tax dollars have already been subtracted. A traditional IRA is valued at the pre-tax level for estate tax purposes.
- Contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible. By contrast, contributions to a traditional IRA are tax deductible (within income limits). Therefore, someone who contributes to a traditional IRA instead of a Roth IRA gets an immediate tax savings equal to the amount of the contribution multiplied by their marginal tax rate while someone who contributes to a Roth IRA does not realize this immediate tax reduction. Also, by contrast, contributions to most employer sponsored retirement plans (such as a 401(k), 403(b), SIMPLE IRA or SEP IRA) are tax deductible with no income limits because they reduce a taxpayer's adjusted gross income.
- Eligibility to contribute to a Roth IRA phases out at certain income limits. By contrast, contributions to most tax deductible employer sponsored retirement plans have no income limit.
- Contributions to a Roth IRA do not reduce a taxpayer's adjusted gross income (AGI). By contrast, contributions to a traditional IRA or most employer sponsored retirement plans reduce a taxpayer's AGI. One of the key benefits of reducing one's AGI (aside from the obvious benefit of reducing taxable income) is that a taxpayer who is close to the threshold income of qualifying for some tax credits or tax deductions may be able to reduce their AGI below the threshold at which he or she may become eligible to claim certain tax credits or tax deductions that may otherwise be phased out at the higher AGI had the taxpayer instead contributed to a Roth IRA. Likewise, the amount of those tax credits or tax deductions may be increased as the taxpayer slides down the phaseout scale. Examples include the child tax credit, or the earned income credit
The United States federal earned income tax credit or earned income credit is a refundable tax credit primarily for individuals and families who have low to moderate earned income. Greater tax credit is given to those who also have qualifying children...
, or the student loan interest deduction.
- A taxpayer who chooses to make a Roth IRA contribution (instead of a traditional IRA contribution or tax deductible retirement account contribution) while in a moderate or high tax bracket will likely pay more income taxes on the earnings used to make the Roth IRA contribution as compared to the income taxes that would have been due to be paid on the funds that would have been later withdrawn from the traditional IRA, had the taxpayer made a traditional IRA contribution. This is because contributions to traditional IRAs or employer sponsored tax deductible retirement plans result in an immediate tax savings equal to the taxpayer's current marginal tax bracket multiplied by the amount of the contribution. It has been shown that many people have a lower income in retirement than during their working years, and thus end up in a lower tax bracket in retirement, and this is another reason why withdrawals from a traditional IRA or tax deferred retirement plan in retirement are likely to result in a lower tax bill. The higher the taxpayer's marginal tax rate, the greater the disadvantage.
- A taxpayer who pays state income taxes and who contributes to a Roth IRA (instead of a traditional IRA or a tax deductible employer sponsored retirement plan) will have to pay state income taxes on the amount contributed to the Roth IRA in the year the money is earned. However, if the taxpayer retires to a state with a lower income tax rate, or no income taxes, then the taxpayer will have given up the opportunity to avoid paying state income taxes altogether on the amount of the Roth IRA contribution by instead contributing to a traditional IRA or a tax deductible employer sponsored retirement plan, because when the contributions are withdrawn from the traditional IRA or tax deductible plan in retirement, the taxpayer will then be a resident of the low or no income tax state, and will have avoided paying the state income tax altogether as a result of moving to a different state before the income tax became due.
- The perceived tax benefit may never be realized, i.e., one might not live to retirement or much beyond, in which case, the tax structure of a Roth only serves to reduce an estate that may not have been subject to tax. One must live until one's Roth IRA contributions have been withdrawn and exhausted to fully realize the tax benefit. Whereas, with a traditional IRA, tax might never be collected at all, i.e., if one dies prior to retirement with an estate below the tax threshold, or goes into retirement with income below the tax threshold (To benefit from this exemption, the beneficiary must be named in the appropriate IRA beneficiary form. A beneficiary inheriting the IRA solely through a will will not be eligible for the estate tax exemption. Additionally, the beneficiary will be subject to income tax unless the inheritance is a Roth IRA). Heirs will have to pay taxes on withdrawals from traditional IRA assets they inherit, and must continue to take mandatory distributions (although it will be based on their life expectancy). It is also possible that tax laws may change by the time one reaches retirement age.
- Congress may change the rules that currently allow for tax free withdrawal of Roth IRA contributions. Therefore, someone who contributes to a traditional IRA is guaranteed to realize an immediate tax benefit, whereas someone who contributes to a Roth IRA must wait for a number of years before realizing the tax benefit, and that person assumes the risk that the rules might be changed during the interim. On the other hand, taxing earnings on an account which were promised to be untaxed may be seen as a violation of contract – individuals contributing to a Roth IRA now may in fact be saving themselves from new, possibly higher income tax obligations in the future.
Double taxation is the systematic imposition of two or more taxes on the same income , asset , or financial transaction . It refers to taxation by two or more countries of the same income, asset or transaction, for example income paid by an entity of one country to a resident of a different country...
may still occur within these tax shelter
Tax shelters are any method of reducing taxable income resulting in a reduction of the payments to tax collecting entities, including state and federal governments...
ed investment plans. For example, foreign dividends may be taxed at their point of origin, and the IRA does not recognize this tax as a creditable deduction. There is some controversy over whether this violates existing Joint Tax Treaties, such as the Convention Between Canada and the United States of America With Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital
For Canadians with US Roth IRAs: A new rule (2008) provides that Roth IRAs (as defined in section 408A of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code) and similar plans are considered to be pensions. Accordingly, distributions from a Roth IRA (as well as other similar plans) to a resident of Canada will generally be exempt from Canadian tax to the extent that they would have been exempt from U.S. tax if paid to a resident of the U.S. Additionally, a resident of Canada may elect to defer any taxation in Canada with respect to income accrued in a Roth IRA but not distributed by the Roth IRA, until and to the extent that a distribution is made from the Roth IRA or any plan substituted therefor. The effect of these rules is that, in most cases, no portion of the Roth IRA will be subject to taxation in Canada.
However, where an individual makes a contribution to a Roth IRA while they are a resident of Canada (other than rollover contributions from another Roth IRA), the Roth IRA will lose its status as a "pension" for purposes of the Treaty with respect to the accretions from the time such contribution is made. Income accretions from such time will be subject to tax in Canada in the year of accrual. In effect, the Roth IRA will be bifurcated into a "frozen" pension that will continue to enjoy the benefit of the exemption for pensions and a non-pension (essentially a savings account) that will not.
Congress has limited who can contribute to a Roth IRA based upon income. A taxpayer can contribute the maximum amount listed at the top of the page only if their Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) is below a certain level (the bottom of the range shown below). Otherwise, a phase-out of allowed contributions runs proportionally throughout the MAGI ranges shown below. Once MAGI hits the top of the range, no contribution is allowed at all; however, a minimum of $200 may be contributed as long as MAGI is below the top of the range (e.g. A single 40 year old with MAGI $119,999 may still contribute $200 to a Roth IRA vs. $30). Excess Roth IRA contributions may be recharacterized into Traditional IRA contributions as long as the combined contributions do not exceed that tax year's limit. The Roth IRA MAGI phase out ranges for 2010 are:
- Single filers: Up to $105,000 (to qualify for a full contribution); $105,000–$120,000 (to be eligible for a partial contribution)
- Joint filers: Up to $169,000 (to qualify for a full contribution); $169,000–$179,000 (to be eligible for a partial contribution)
- Married filing separately (if the couple lived together for any part of the year): $0 (to qualify for a full contribution); $0–$10,000 (to be eligible for a partial contribution).
The lower number represents the point at which the taxpayer is no longer allowed to contribute the maximum yearly contribution. The upper number is the point as of which the taxpayer is no longer allowed to contribute at all. Note that people who are married and living together, but who file separately, are only allowed to contribute a relatively small amount.
However, once a Roth IRA is established, the balance in the plan remains tax-sheltered, even if the taxpayer's income rises above the threshold. (The thresholds are just for annual eligibility to contribute, not for eligibility to maintain a Roth IRA.) This would be a wise move for retired people who have a comfortable asset base to pay the taxes.
To be eligible, one must meet the earned income minimum requirement. In order to make a contribution, one must have taxable compensation (not taxable income from investments). If one makes only $2,000 in taxable compensation, one's maximum IRA contribution is $2,000.
Contributions to both a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA are limited to the total amount allowed for either ($5,000 for tax year 2010 -- $6,000 if over 50 years of age).
Through 2009 only taxpayers with MAGI of less than $100,000 in the year of conversion and not married filing separately
Filing Status is an important factor when computing taxable income under the Federal Income tax in the United States. The federal tax filing status defines the type of tax return form an individual will use. Filing status is based on marital status and family situation...
were allowed to convert from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA (the converted amount is not included in MAGI). TIPRA 2005 eliminated the MAGI limit and filing status restriction on conversions starting in 2010. Thus regardless of income, contributions can have been made to a traditional IRA in previous years, and then rolled over in 2010 and beyond.
Direct contributions may be withdrawn at any time. Eligible (tax and penalty free) distributions of earnings must fulfill two requirements. First, the seasoning period of five years must have elapsed, and secondly a justification must exist such as retirement or disability. The simplest justification is reaching 59.5 years of age, at which point qualified withdrawals may be made in any amount on any schedule. Becoming disabled or being a "first time" home buyer can provide justification for limited qualified withdrawals. Finally, although one can take distributions from a Roth IRA under the substantially equal periodic payments (SEPP) rule without paying a 10% penalty, any interest earned in the IRA will be subject to tax—a substantial penalty which forfeits the primary tax benefits of the Roth IRA.
Inherited Roth IRAs
Although it has been mentioned in passing above, the tax treatment of inherited Roth IRAs is noteworthy. Transfers of Roth IRAs between spouses when one spouse dies, just like other IRAs, are tax-free and the spousal beneficiary is free to make contributions and otherwise control the account. For estate tax purposes, if a Roth IRA is part of a descendent's estate that is valued under the taxable inheritance minimum, no estate tax needs to be paid. If the estate is larger than that, the Roth IRA will be taxable to beneficiaries (other than surviving spouses).
Non-spouse beneficiaries are not allowed to make additional contributions to the inherited Roth IRA, or combine it with their own Roth IRA.
In addition, the beneficiary may elect to choose from one of two methods of distribution. The first option is to receive the entire distribution by December 31st of the fifth year following the year of the IRA owner’s death. The second option is to receive portions of the IRA as distributions over the life of the beneficiary, terminating upon the death of the beneficiary and passing on to a secondary beneficiary.
For income tax purposes, distributions from Roth IRAs to beneficiaries are not taxable if the Roth IRA was established for at least five years before the distribution occurs.
- 401(k) IRA matrix
This is a comparison between 401, Roth 401, and Traditional Individual Retirement Account and Roth Individual Retirement Account accounts, four different types of retirement savings vehicles that are common in the United States.-Comparison:...
– 401k & IRA comparisons (401k vs Roth 401k vs Traditional IRA vs Roth IRA)
- Coverdell Education Savings Account – Sometimes termed the "Roth IRA for Education", describes tax-sheltered savings accounts for college.
- Substantially equal periodic payments – an exception to the age 59.5 rule
- Tax Free Savings Account in Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...
- Individual Savings Account
An Individual Savings Account is a financial product available to residents in the United Kingdom. It is designed for the purpose of investment and savings with a favourable tax status. Money is contributed from after tax income and not subjected to income tax or capital gains tax within a holding...
in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...