The primary difference between a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA is that individuals cannot deduct contributions to Roth IRAs from their taxes. In other words, the contributions are made with after-tax dollars. The big advantage of a Roth IRA is that participants do not have to pay annual taxes on the earnings made in the account and the contributions can be withdrawn tax-free. Earnings can be withdrawn tax-free beginning five years after the year for which the first contribution was made to the Roth IRA and if the taxpayer is 59 1/2 years or older. Earnings that do not meet these requirements will be subject to penalty and taxation. The following rules hold for Roth IRAs:
- • One cannot deduct contributions to a Roth IRA from income for tax purposes.
- • Contributions are limited to earned income.
- • Contributions are limited to $5,500 with a $1,000 catch-up for individuals over age 50 (additional $5,500 to a spousal Roth IRA for a non-working spouse).
- • Contributions can be withdrawn tax-free without penalty at any time.
- • Participants with income exceeding certain levels may not be eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA. In 2015, for example, married couples filing a joint tax return were ineligible if they made more than $193,000. (Traditional IRAs and most other qualified retirement plans do not have restrictions on income levels.)
- • There are no minimum age requirements to set up a Roth IRA.
Individuals who are contributing to both a traditional and a Roth IRA cannot contribute more than $5,500 across both accounts.
A big advantage of Roth IRAs is that they are not subject to required minimum distributions during the life of the owner. And if the spouse is the sole beneficiary, the Roth IRA can be automatically rolled over to the surviving spouse and will continue with no RMDs during the spouse’s lifetime.
Note: Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars, so if your clien