New rules in 2010 for Roth IRA conversions

Beginning in 2010, the rules governing Roth IRA conversions will undergo a significant change.

Traditional IRA to Roth IRA conversions will be available to everyone, creating a financial planning opportunity that didn’t exist previously. Under the 2009 rules, taxpayers with income of more than $100,000 cannot convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Tax legislation enacted in 2006 changed the rules and ends the $100,000 income limit, effective January 1, 2010.

The Roth IRA has been a popular investment vehicle, with its ability to give taxpayers tax-free distributions once the account has been in existence for five years and the taxpayer has reached age 59½. Another Roth benefit is the lack of required minimum distributions once the owner reaches age
70½.

  • The conversion to a Roth does have a cost. When you convert a traditional deductible IRA to a Roth, you must include the entire amount converted in your taxable income.

If you do a conversion in 2010, you are allowed to report half of the income on your 2011 tax return and the remaining half on your 2012 tax return. You can also choose to pay the taxes due on the conversion on your 2010 return. While prepaying seems counterintuitive, remember that present federal tax rates are set to expire December 31, 2010. Postponing income into future years could mean a bigger tax bill.

The new conversion rules are particularly advantageous to those upper-income taxpayers who could never participate in a Roth. Now taxpayers in high tax brackets will have access to Roth IRAs. One possible strategy is to set up a traditional IRA with nondeductible contributions in 2009 and
then convert it to a Roth in 2010.

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of a conversion in your individual situation. Please give us a call if you would like to discuss the best strategy for you.

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