More Wealthier Individuals Should Be Making Non-deductible Traditional
IRA Contributions - They Just Need Some Help and You Can Provide It.

Wealthier individuals should be rushing to their IRA custodian/trustee to make a non-deductible IRA contribution. This is certainly true if they are a 401(k) participant.

Many individuals should be making non-deductible traditional IRA contributions and they don’t do so because they (and their advisors) many times don’t understand the benefits, including how the related tax rules apply. Every person should contribute as much as possible to a Roth IRA. Why? There are very few times under US income tax laws where Income is not taxed. That is, no taxes are owed with respect to Roth IRA funds if the Roth owner has met a 5-year rule and is age 59½ or older or the Roth owner is a beneficiary who has inherited the Roth IRA and the 5-year rule has been met.

The federal tax laws have been expressly written to make it impossible for a person with a high income to make an annual Roth IRA contribution. Some people (i.e. many Democrats) don’t want “wealthier” individuals to gain the benefit of contributing funds to a Roth IRA and earning tax free income. They want them to pay more income taxes. A person who had tax filing status of single was ineligible to make a 2015 Roth IRA contribution if his or her MAGI (modified adjusted gross income) was $132,000 or more. A person who had filing status of married filing jointly was ineligible to make a 2016 Roth IRA contribution if the couple’s MAGI was $193,000 or more. A person who had filing status of married filing separately was ineligible to make a 2016 Roth IRA contribution if his or her MAGI was $10,000 or more.

For discussion and illustration purposes, we will assume that Jane Doe has the following situation. She is age 54. She is married. Her husband, Mark Doe, is a bank president. He is age 57. Their joint income is sufficiently high that neither one of them is eligible to make an annual Roth IRA contribution. Their joint income is sufficiently high that neither one of them is eligible to made a deductible traditional IRA annual contribution.

This article is going to discuss the question, “should these two each make a non-deductible traditional IRA contribution?” For the reasons discussed below, both should make a maximum non-deductible traditional IRA contribution until each is no longer eligible to make a traditional IRA contribution (i.e. the year a person attains age 70½).

On March 15, 2016, Jane contributed $6,500 to a traditional IRA she had established in 1984. She designated her contribution as being for 2015. The IRA balance at the time of contribution was $8,500. With the addition of her $6,500 contribution the IRA balance became $15,000. Since then the account has earned $40 of interest. It is now assumed that Jane has no other IRA funds in any traditional, SEP or SIMPLE IRAs. The IRA taxation rules require in applying the taxation rules that all non-Roth IRA funds be
aggregated. One cannot avoid the pro-rata taxation rule by setting up separate IRAs or having separate time deposits.

The couple’s tax preparer has recently informed Jane that her contribution is non-deductible as her husband participates in a 401(k) plan and their MAGI is sufficiently high that they are not permitted to claim any tax deduction for her $6,500 contribution. What tax options are available to her? What options are unavailable to her?

  1. She may not use the recharacterization rules to make her traditional IRA contribution a Roth IRA contribution as their 2015 MAGI is too high.
  2. There is no IRS guidance allowing the IRA custodian to switch the year for which the IRA contribution was made from 2015 to 2016.
  3. The IRS has issued rules allowing her to withdraw her 2015 IRA contribution with no adverse tax consequences as long as she does so by 10-15-16, no deduction is claimed on the 2015 tax return and the related income is withdrawn. If she withdraws her $6,500 contribution she is required to withdraw the related income and it is taxable for 2016 since the contribution was made in 2016. The related income is a pro-rata amount of the $40 determined as follows: 6500.15000 x $40 = $17.33. Since she is younger than age 59½ she does owe the 10% additional tax on this $17.33. The bank as the IRA custodian will prepare a 2016 Form 1099-R inserting the codes (81) in box 7, box 1 would show $6,517.33 and box 2a would show $17.33.
  4. In 2016 she is eligible to make a Roth IRA conversion of any amount in the range of $.01 to $15,040. If she would convert $15,040 into her Roth IRA she/they would include in income on their 2016 tax return the amount of $8,540. She as many taxpayers does not want to include the $8,540 in her/their income and pay tax on it. Jane as many taxpayers would like to convert only her non-deductible contribution of $6,500. This would allow her to pay no taxes since she would not be converting any of the $8,540. The tax rules require use of the standard pro-rata taxation rule when an IRA has taxable funds and nontaxable funds. If she converts $6,500, a portion would be taxable and a portion would not be. The taxable portion is: $6,500 x $8,540/$15,040 ($3,690.82) and the non-taxable portion is $6,500 x $65,00/15,040 ($2,809.18) . Jane made a non-deductible IRA contribution for 2015. She is required to file Form 8606 and attach to the couple’s Form 1040. If it was not filed with the original return, an amended tax return should be filed and the 2015 Form 8606 attached. She is not relieved of this duty because she withdraws the $6,500 or converts it. A $50 penalty applies to a person who fails to file Form 8606 unless she could show a reasonable cause why she did not file it. A person must pay a $100 penalty if a person overstates the amount of non-deductible contributions. Note that Jane will also be required to file a 2016 Form 8606 regardless if she withdraws a portion or all of the $6,500.

Having to include in income the amount of $8,540 and pay tax on this amount should not influence Jane or any other wealthy person to not make non-deductible contributions. But it does. Tax on $8,540 should not be that material to a couple who are ineligible to make annual Roth IRA contributions. From a practical standpoint, Jane could convert her traditional IRA over a 2-4 year time period to lessen the amount of income which would be taxed each year.

The best of all “planning” situations would be if Jane would either work for an employer that had a 401(k) plan written to accept rollovers from traditional IRAs or if she could work for the bank and become eligible under the bank’s 401(k) plan. Why? If Jane was a participant of a 401(k) plan, the tax rules have been so written that if she would rollover a portion of the $15,040, the amount rolled over “first” is the taxable portion. The prorate rule does not apply in this situation. If Jane only rolls over $8,540, this means that the $6,500 remaining in the IRA are non-taxable. She may then convert such amount to a Roth IRA. This is her goal, this any person’s goal.

Jane wants to make as many non-deductible IRA contributions (currently $6,500 but his amount which change as it is indexed for inflation) as she can between ages 54-70½ because she should convert all such funds into a Roth IRA. What about her husband, Mark? He too wants to make the maximum amount of non-deductible IRA contributions from ages 57-70½ and at some point convert such contributions to a Roth IRA. The sooner the conversion can be completed the better as the earnings realized after the conversion will be tax free if the qualified distribution rules are met.

Most likely Mark participates in a 40(k) plan which will allow him to move ‘taxable IRA money into his 401(k) account. If not, he probably has the ability to rewrite the plan so he would have this right. The 401(k) plan in which he participates may allow him to make Designated Roth deferrals and he exercises that right to the maximum. This would be $24,000 for 2016 ($18,000 + $6,000). Good for him. But why not contribute an additional $6,500 to his traditional IRA and convert it? Contributing $6500 for 13 or 14 years would result in an additional $84,500 or $91,000 in a Roth IRA. Those individuals attaining age 70 between July and December 31st are eligible to make a contribution for their "70" year whereas those who attain age 70 and 70½ are ineligible.

Be aware that under existing laws Roth IRA funds are ineligible to be rolled over into a 401(k) plan. This is true even for 401(k) plans having Designated Roth features.

Mark too should want to make as many non-deductible traditional IRA contributions as he is eligible for until his 70½ year.

In summary, a bank president and his/her spouse want to make as many non-deductible traditional IRA contributions as possible prior to his/her 70½ year. With some pre-planning, it will be possible to convert these to be Roth IRA conversion contributions.



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