Monday, February 15, 2010

How Do I ... Convert a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA?

People are buzzing about Roth Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). Unlike traditional IRAs, "qualified" distributions from a Roth IRA are tax-free, provided they are held for five years and are made after age 59 1/2, death or disability. You can establish a Roth IRA just as you would a traditional IRA. You can also convert assets in a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.

Before 2010, only taxpayers with adjusted gross income of $100,000 or less were eligible to convert their traditional IRA (provided they were not married taxpayers filing separate returns). Beginning in 2010, anyone can convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, regardless of income level or filing status.

Comment: While you can only contribute a maximum of $5,000 to a Roth IRA for 2010 (plus a $1,000 catch-up contribution if you are over age 50), you can convert an unlimited amount from a traditional IRA.

Conversion is treated as a taxable distribution of assets from the traditional IRA to the IRA holder, although it is not subject to the 10 percent tax on early distributions. While paying taxes on conversion is undesirable, the advantages of holding assets in a Roth IRA usually outweigh this disadvantage, especially if you will not be retiring soon. Furthermore, if you convert assets in 2010, you have the option of including them in income in 2011 and 2012 (50 percent each year) instead of 2010.

For more details, including four ways to convert a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, please visit the newsletter section of our website at

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