2010 Provides a unique opportunity for IRA owners.
In 2010, you have the opportunity to convert your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. The usual income limitations that stand in the way for converting will not apply. So, should you convert? Let’s look at why this may or may not be a good idea.
Here’s why a Roth IRA conversion may make sense for you
Consider this: a Roth IRA allows tax-free growth and tax-free income distributions at age 59½ or older and as long as you have held your Roth account for 5 years or longer. While your contributions to a Roth IRA do not allow a tax-deduction, the younger you are, the longer time frame you have for tax-free growth.
Now realize converting to a Roth IRA comes with a price tag. You will have to pay ordinary income taxes on the amount you convert. Whatever amount is converted is added to your income for the year. However, there may be a silver lining: With the market being down, most likely your account value may be the lowest it has been in years. This means by converting now you may pay lower taxes.
It is also worth noting that with all of the reckless government spending, there is a great chance that tax rates could increase in the years ahead. This is another reason why now may be as good time as ever to convert. If converting may send you into a higher tax bracket, you could consider doing a partial conversion (only converting a portion of your Traditional IRA to avoid going into the next bracket).
Even if you are older, a Roth still may make sense. Normally with an IRA, at age 70 ½ you are required to withdraw from your IRA through mandatory required distributions. However, with a Roth, there is no mandatory withdrawal rule allowing you more time to accumulate tax-free. Also, under the present tax laws, converting a traditional IRA to a Roth can lower the size of your taxable estate. This type of prudent estate planning could allow for decades of tax-free growth for those converted assets.
A few additional estate planning points: If you name your spouse as the beneficiary of your Roth IRA, your spouse can treat the inherited IRA as his or her own after you die and forego withdrawals. This allows those Roth IRA assets to keep compounding untaxed across the rest of your spouse’s lifetime.
Your spouse could then name a son or daughter as a beneficiary. This would allow your children the choice to make minimum withdrawals according to his or her life expectancy. All the while these assets continue growing completely tax-free.
Here’s why you may want to think twice about converting to a Roth
For starters, you will pay taxes now! The IRS treats a conversion from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA as a taxable event. You will have to pay taxes on the amount you convert. Do you have enough in savings to cover these taxes? If not, you do not, I repeat do not want to pay for the taxes out of your current IRA.
You may be tempted to use your current IRA assets to pay for the tax on the conversion. Here’s why that is not a good choice. First off, if you’re under 59½, you’re facing a 10% penalty on the amount you withdraw, and secondly they amount you take out to cover the taxes will lose the chance for tax-free compounding going forward.
Why wait until 2010?
For some who are under the $100,000 adjusted gross income level, you may consider converting in 2009. Here are a few reasons this may make some sense:
- In 2009, any withdrawals from a traditional IRA can be used to fund a Roth IRA. In years past, mandatory withdrawals from a traditional IRA typically couldn’t be deposited into a Roth IRA. But the federal government has suspended mandatory IRA withdrawals for 2009. Any IRA withdrawals made in 2009 are thereby elective withdrawals. So, if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is $100,000 or less, you have an option to fund a Roth IRA with a withdrawal from a traditional IRA – at least through the end of 2009.
- In 2009, you can fund a Roth IRA with after-tax contributions to a 401(k), 403(b) or 457 retirement savings plan. This year, you can take those contributions and convert them to a Roth IRA tax-free, provided your AGI is $100,000 or less. More good news: there is no limit to the conversion amount.
But don’t ignore the potential tax break for those who convert in 2010
If you do a Roth conversion during 2010, you can choose to divide the taxes on the conversion between your 2011 and 2012 federal returns. This does not apply if you convert in 2009.
Before converting from a traditional IRA to a Roth, be sure to consult your tax advisor. This is a very good idea before you arrange any rollover, trustee-to-trustee transfer, or same-trustee transfer of your IRA assets. In any year, you should fully understand the potential tax impact of a Roth conversion on your finances and your estate. Also, remember that while the income limit on Roth IRA conversions will go away in 2010, the income limits on Roth IRA contributions still apply next year and for the foreseeable future.
This article was written by Jay Peroni.
Below is another article Written by Jason Topp on the subject…
To Roth or Not To Roth – That is the Question
So 2010 is upon us and there is a lot of controversy regarding whether folks should convert their Traditional IRAs to a Roth IRA. Some of you might be wondering what exactly is a Roth IRA, well, here’s the basics:
A Roth is funded with after-tax contributions; the money grows tax-deferred; and withdrawals are TAX FREE!
In other words, you use money you’ve already paid taxes on to fund the Roth, and provided you meet certain qualifications you never have to pay taxes on that money again!
What is a Roth IRA Conversion?
A Roth IRA conversion then is taking money from a Traditional IRA, pulling it out and putting it into a Roth IRA where it will grow tax free.
Sounds good right?
Well, the problem is that whenever you do this you have to pay taxes on the amount you withdraw from your Traditional IRA.
So, let’s say you are converting $5,000 from your Traditional IRA — you would have to tack on 5G’s to your income for the year and pay tax at whatever rate you are at. It’s as if you earned an additional $5,000 of income for the year.
As many of you already know, one big change for 2010 is that anyone can convert to a Roth regardless of income level. Previously, if you made over $100,000 you could not convert to a Roth.
If you convert your IRA to a Roth in 2010, you now have a choice to pay all of your taxes in 2010 or average the taxes owed on the conversion over two years (i.e. pay in 2011 and 2012). Uncle Sam is giving you a choice on when you pay your taxes.
Don’t forget though that 2010 is the last year for the current low income tax rates. The current law plans for higher tax rates in 2011 — so, if you chose to average your tax payments over the two year period in 2011 and 2012, you might get hit with higher tax rates. That Uncle Sam – he’s always got an angle doesn’t he?
Should You Roth It?
Back to the question at hand. Should you convert to a Roth IRA or not?
Usually the answer to such questions is “it depends”. This might be a great year to convert your money to a Roth and potentially pay lower taxes than you would normally if you are in a lower bracket due to retirement or a layoff and you’ve got some cash on hand to cover your taxes!
This is important because if you are under 59 1/2 and use your IRA to pay the taxes on the conversion you’ll get whacked with a 10% penatly on top of the taxes!
Also, although the markets have rebounded significantly, account balances are still off their 2007 highs. If you convert when accounts are lower, it will result in less overall tax paid plust all the earnings and growth will be tax free!
Factors to Consider
- Do you have money to cover your tax liability? Having cash on hand to cover your taxes will help soften the blow.
- Will the money you convert push you into a higher tax bracket? If so, you probably don’t want to do it.
- Do you have non-deductible contributions in your IRA? No taxes are due on the non-deductible portion. *There are some additional factors to consider here that go beyond the scope of this post.
- Are you planning on applying for financial aid for yourself, your spouse or your child? Better think twice about the conversion – conversion income counts on your application.
Consider these factors and your overall situation to determine whether the Roth IRA conversion makes sense for you in 2010.
Where to go to Convert your IRA to a Roth
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What do you think? Will you be converting to a Roth this year?