Roth IRAs have many advantages, but tax relief isn’t one of them, at least not immediately. Down the road, a Roth IRA can save you money. This type of individual retirement account isn’t deductible from your federal income taxes, unlike qualifying traditional IRAs or the Simplified Employee Pension plan IRAs.
You don’t have to pay taxes on the money withdrawn from Roth IRAs when you reach retirement age, which can be a powerful tool for lowering your tax bill. If you don’t need a fast deduction, consider the advantages Roth IRAs offer.
Roth IRA Tax Benefits
Unlike other types of IRAs and 401(k)s, Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax money, not pretax dollars. There is no Roth IRA contribution deduction. You’re giving up the instant gratification tax break for one that benefits you over the long haul. You may contribute up to $5,500 annually to your Roth IRA if you are under 50, and $6,500 annually after you pass the half-century mark, as long as you earned that much in income. If you open an IRA account to reduce taxes immediately, make sure it's a traditional IRA, where contributions are deductible, not a Roth account.
If you work past the age of 70 1/2, you can continue to contribute to a Roth IRA. That’s not the case with a traditional IRA. Unlike other IRAs, you can withdraw your Roth IRA savings at any time without penalty, although you have to pay a fee for withdrawing the earnings on your Roth IRA before age 59 1/2. Qualifying reasons that save you the fee include paying for family college expenses, paying for a first-time home purchase with up to $10,000, and paying for medical expenses that total more than 10 percent of your annual income.
Another plus for Roth IRAs is that you don’t have to tap them at all if you don’t need the money. That’s not the case with traditional and other forms of IRAs or 401(k)s. The IRS requires withdrawals to start from these accounts by the time you reach the age of 70 1/2. You pay taxes on the withdrawals at your normal tax rate, which is usually lower in retirement.
If you want to take withdrawals from your Roth IRA, you can start doing so at age 59 1/2, as long as you’ve had the account open for at least five years. Those distributions won’t cost you a dime in taxes, including the earnings in the account consisting of distributions and capital gains. There's no Roth IRA tax deduction, but you are potentially saving tax money by receiving these distributions, including earnings, tax free.
Exceptions to Roth IRA Contribution Rules
Not everyone can open a Roth IRA. Adjusted gross income limits apply. After a certain point, you're not longer eligible to contribute. These exact limitations change from year to year.
There is one exception to prompt tax savings on your Roth IRA, and it occurs if you qualify for and use the Retirement Saver’s Credit, available for relatively low income taxpayers.
If you don’t have a retirement plan at work, it makes sense to contribute money to a traditional IRA, since that money is also deductible. However, if you are covered by an employer’s retirement plan, you can contribute to a Roth IRA and take the saver’s credit.
2018 Tax Law Changes
Adjusted gross income limits on Roth IRA contributions are slightly higher in 2018 than in 2017.
For 2018, if you’re single, head of household or married filing separately, you can make a full Roth IRA contribution if your AGI is less than $120,000. You can still make a partial contribution if your AGI is between $120,000 and $135,000. If you are married filing jointly, you and your spouse can make full Roth IRA contributions if your AGI is under $189,000. If your AGI is between $189,000 and $199,000, you can each make a partial contribution.
And for 2018, single filers with an AGI of up to $19,000 and married people filing jointly with an AGI of $38,000 or less are eligible for the savers' credit on up to half of their retirement contributions for the year. Those with slightly higher AGIs may prove eligible for 10 or 20 percent of their retirement savings contribution.
Limits in 2017
For 2017, if you’re single, head of household or married filing separately, you can make a full Roth IRA contribution if your AGI is less than $118,000. You can still make a partial contribution if your AGI is between $118,000 and $133,000. If you are married filing jointly, you and your spouse can make full Roth IRA contributions if your AGI is under $186,000. If your AGI is between $186,000 and $196,000, you can each make a partial contribution.
For 2017, single filers with an AGI of up to $18,500 and married people filing jointly with an AGI of $37,000 or less are eligible for the savers' credit on up to half of their retirement contributions for the year. Those with slightly higher AGIs may prove eligible for 10 or 20 percent of their retirement savings contribution
- IRS: Amount of Roth IRA Contributions That You Can Make for 2017
- IRS: Roth IRAs
- The Motley Fool: How Much Will a Roth IRA Lower My Taxes?
- US News and World Report: How to Claim the Retirement Saver’s Credit
- RothIRA.com: 2018 Roth IRA Limits Announced
- IRS: Retirement Savings Contributions Credit (Saver’s Credit)