BACK-DOOR ROTH IRAS AND ROTH 401KS: TODAY’S SLOTT REPORT MAILBAG

By Sarah Brenner, JD
Director of Retirement Education
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@theslottreport

Question:

Hi

Can we contribute backdoor Roth IRA money to my husband’s Roth IRA since I have existing traditional IRA accounts, but my husband has none? Thank you very much for answering my questions.

Pinan

Answer:

Hi Pinan,

Many high-income individuals use back-door Roth IRA conversions to fund Roth IRAs when their income is too high to contribute directly to a Roth IRA. There are no income limits on conversions, so what these individuals do is make nondeductible traditional IRA contributions and then convert these funds to a Roth IRA.

To use the back door Roth IRA conversion strategy, you must have earned income, and you are limited to the IRA contribution limit for the year. For 2024, the contribution limit for IRAs is $7,000 ($8,000 if you are age 50 or over).

When the funds are converted, a pro rata formula applies. So, if you have other taxable traditional IRA funds, then a portion of your conversion will be taxable even though the contribution was nondeductible. If your husband has no other IRA funds (including SEP and SIMPLE plans), then the pro rata formula would not apply when he does a back door Roth conversion. However, it would apply to you if you were to do a backdoor Roth. Each individual is looked at separately when applying this formula. One spouse’s pre-tax vs. non-deductible (after-tax) IRA dollars has no impact on the other spouse.

Question:

What if I put a small Roth distribution from a former employer plan into a traditional IRA at a bank that I had opened with a rollover from a previous employer. Is there a problem with that? If so, what should I do about it? It has only been a few months.

Sincerely

Candy

Answer:

Hi Candy,

This is a problem because Roth 401(k) funds are not eligible to be rolled over to a Traditional IRA. You have an excess contribution in your Traditional IRA. If you do not fix this, you will be subject to a 6% penalty on the ineligible dollars.

You can fix the excess and avoid the penalty by removing it, plus net income attributable, by October 15 of the year following the year of the contribution (or in your case, the erroneous rollover). Your other potential fix with the same deadline would be recharacterizing these funds to a Roth IRA. You will need to be sure that the custodian properly reports the transaction either as a correction of an excess contribution or recharacterization because special coding is required.

https://www.irahelp.com/slottreport/back-door-roth-iras-and-roth-401ks-todays-slott-report-mailbag

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