Many of the rules for traditional IRAs also apply to your account in a:

  • SEP,
  • SIMPLE IRA plan, or
  • SARSEP

For more information on these types of plans, see the SEP, SIMPLE IRA plan and SARSEP FAQs.


Contributions
Distributions (Withdrawals)
Loans
Required minimum distributions
Qualified charitable distributions
Rollovers and Roth conversions 
Recharacterization of IRA Contributions
Investments


Contributions

How much can I contribute to an IRA?

The annual contribution limit for 2019, 2020, and 2021 is $6,000, or $7,000 if you're age 50 or older. The annual contribution limit for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 is $5,500, or $6,500 if you're age 50 or older. Your Roth IRA contributions may also be limited based on your filing status and income. See IRA Contribution Limits.

Is my IRA contribution deductible on my tax return?

If neither you nor your spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work, your deduction is allowed in full.

For contributions to a traditional IRA, the amount you can deduct may be limited if you or your spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work and your income exceeds certain levels.

Roth IRA contributions aren't deductible.

Can I contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA if I'm covered by a retirement plan at work?

Yes, you can contribute to a traditional and/or Roth IRA even if you participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan (including a SEP or SIMPLE IRA plan). See the discussion of IRA Contribution Limits. If you or your spouse is covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan and your income exceeds certain levels, you may not be able to deduct your entire contribution. See the discussion of IRA deduction limits.

I want to set up an IRA for my spouse. How much can I contribute?

If you file a joint return and have taxable compensation, you and your spouse can both contribute to your own separate IRAs.

Your total contributions to both your IRA and your spouse's IRA may not exceed your joint taxable income or the annual contribution limit on IRAs times two, whichever is less. It doesn't matter which spouse earned the income.

Roth IRAs and IRA deductions have other income limits. See IRA Contribution Limits and IRA deduction limits.

Do I report my nondeductible Roth IRA contributions on Form 8606?

Do not use Form 8606, Nondeductible IRAs PDF PDF, Nondeductible IRAs, to report nondeductible Roth IRA contributions.

However, you should use Form 8606 to report amounts that you converted from a traditional IRA, a SEP, or Simple IRA to a Roth IRA.

Return to Top


Distributions (Withdrawals)

Distributions while still working

Can I take money from my traditional IRA, or my SEP or SIMPLE IRA, while I am still working?

You can take distributions from your IRA (including your SEP-IRA or SIMPLE-IRA) at any time. There is no need to show a hardship to take a distribution. However, your distribution will be includible in your taxable income and it may be subject to a 10% additional tax if you're under age 59 1/2. The additional tax is 25% if you take a distribution from your SIMPLE-IRA in the first 2 years you participate in the SIMPLE IRA plan. There is no exception to the 10% additional tax specifically for hardships. See chart of exceptions to the 10% additional tax.

Do I request the distribution check directly from my employer or from the financial institution where contributions to my SEP or SIMPLE IRA are invested?

You will need to contact the financial institution holding your IRA assets.

If I withdraw money from my IRA before I am age 59 1/2, which forms do I need to fill out?

Regardless of your age, you will need to file a Form 1040 and show the amount of the IRA withdrawal. Since you took the withdrawal before you reached age 59 1/2, unless you met one of the exceptions, you will need to pay an additional 10% tax on early distributions on your Form 1040. You may need to complete and attach a Form 5329, Additional Taxes on Qualified Plans (Including IRAs) and Other Tax-Favored Accounts PDF PDF, to the tax return. Certain distributions from Roth IRAs are not taxable.

Can I deduct the 10% additional early withdrawal tax as a penalty on early withdrawal of savings?

No, the additional 10% tax on early distributions from qualified retirement plans does not qualify as a penalty for withdrawal of savings.

Will I have to pay the 10% additional tax on early distributions if I am 47 years old and ordered by a divorce court to take money out of my traditional IRA to pay my former spouse?

Yes. Unless you qualify for an exception, you must still pay the 10% additional tax for taking an early distribution from your traditional IRA even if you take it to satisfy a divorce court order (Internal Revenue Code section 72(t)). The 10% additional tax is charged on the early distribution amount you must include in your income and is in addition to any regular income tax from including this amount in income. Unlike distributions made to a former spouse from a qualified retirement plan under a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, there is no comparable exception.

The only divorce-related exception for IRAs is if you transfer your interest in the IRA to a spouse or former spouse, and the transfer is under a divorce or separation instrument (see IRC section 408(d)(6)). However, the transfer must be done by:

  • changing the name on the IRA from your name to that of your former spouse (if transferring your entire interest in that IRA), or
  • a trustee-to-trustee transfer from your IRA to one established by your former spouse. Note: an indirect rollover doesn't qualify as a transfer to your former spouse even if the distributed amount is deposited into your former spouse's IRA within 60-days.

See Retirement Topics - Divorce

Return to Top


Required minimum distributions

How much must I take out of my IRA at age 70 1/2?

Required minimum distributions (RMDs) must be taken each year beginning with the year you turn age 72 (70 ½ if you turn 70 ½ in 2019). The RMD for each year is calculated by dividing the IRA account balance as of December 31 of the prior year by the applicable distribution period or life expectancy. Use the Tables in Appendix B of Publication 590-B, Distributions from Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). RMDs are not required for your Roth IRA.

See the discussion of required minimum distributions and worksheets to calculate the required amount.

I am over age 70 ½. Must I receive required minimum distributions from a SEP-IRA or SIMPLE-IRA if I am still working?

Both business owners and employees over age 70 1/2 must take required minimum distributions from a SEP-IRA or SIMPLE-IRA. There is no exception for non-owners who have not retired.

The SECURE Act made major changes to the RMD rules. For plan participants and IRA owners who reach the age of 70 ½ in 2019, the prior rule applies and the first RMD must start by April 1, 2020. For plan participants and IRA owners who reach age 70 ½ in 2020, the first RMD must start by April 1 of the year after the plan participant or IRA owner reaches 72.

Return to Top


Qualified charitable distributions

What is a qualified charitable distribution?

Generally, a qualified charitable distribution is an otherwise taxable distribution from an IRA (other than an ongoing SEP or SIMPLE IRA) owned by an individual who is age 70½ or over that is paid directly from the IRA to a qualified charity. See Publication 590-B, Distributions from Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs) for additional information.

Can a qualified charitable distribution satisfy my required minimum distribution from an IRA?

Yes, your qualified charitable distributions can satisfy all or part the amount of your required minimum distribution from your IRA. For example, if your 2018 required minimum distribution was $10,000, and you made a $5,000 qualified charitable distribution for 2018, you would have had to withdraw another $5,000 to satisfy your 2018 required minimum distribution.

How are qualified charitable distributions reported on Form 1099-R?

Charitable distributions are reported on Form 1099-R for the calendar year the distribution is made.

How do I report a qualified charitable distribution on my income tax return?

To report a qualified charitable distribution on your Form 1040 tax return, you generally report the full amount of the charitable distribution on the line for IRA distributions. On the line for the taxable amount, enter zero if the full amount was a qualified charitable distribution. Enter "QCD" next to this line. See the Form 1040 instructions for additional information.

You must also file Form 8606, Nondeductible IRAs, if:

  • you made the qualified charitable distribution from a traditional IRA in which you had basis and received a distribution from the IRA during the same year, other than the qualified charitable distribution; or
  • the qualified charitable distribution was made from a Roth IRA.

Return to Top


Rollovers and Roth Conversions

Can I roll over my IRA into my retirement plan at work?

You can roll over your IRA into a qualified retirement plan (for example, a 401(k) plan), assuming the retirement plan has language allowing it to accept this type of rollover. Roth IRAs can only be rolled over to another Roth IRA.

Can I roll over my workplace retirement plan account into an IRA?

Almost any type of plan distribution can be rolled over into an IRA except:

For details, see rollovers of retirement plan distributions. Distributions from a designated Roth account can only be rolled over to another designated Roth account or to a Roth IRA.

How long do I have to roll over a distribution from a retirement plan to an IRA?

You must complete the rollover by the 60th day following the day on which you receive the distribution. You may be eligible for an automatic waiver of the 60-day rollover requirement if a financial institution caused the error and other conditions are met. See Publication 590-A, Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs) and Retirement Plans FAQs relating to Waivers of the 60-Day Rollover Requirement.

Can I avoid the additional tax on early withdrawals if I roll over a 401(k) distribution to an IRA and then withdraw that money to use as a down payment on a house?

You can avoid the 10% additional tax on early withdrawals if:

  • You receive a distribution from a 401(k) plan that is eligible to be rolled over into an IRA
  • You meet all of the qualifications for an IRA distribution for a first-time homebuyer

See Tax on Early Distributions for more information.

How do I convert my traditional IRA to a Roth IRA?

You can convert your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA by:

  • Rollover – You receive a distribution from a traditional IRA and contribute it to a Roth IRA within 60 days after the distribution (the distribution check is payable to you);
  • Trustee-to-trustee transfer – You tell the financial institution holding your traditional IRA assets to transfer an amount directly to the trustee of your Roth IRA at a different financial institution (the distributing trustee may achieve this by issuing you a check payable to the new trustee);
  • Same trustee transfer – If your traditional and Roth IRAs are maintained at the same financial institution, you can tell the trustee to transfer an amount from your traditional IRA to your Roth IRA.

A conversion to a Roth IRA results in taxation of any untaxed amounts in the traditional IRA. The conversion is reported on Form 8606 PDF PDF, Nondeductible IRAs. See Publication 590-A, Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), for more information.

Return to Top


Recharacterization of IRA Contributions

What is a recharacterization of a contribution to a traditional or Roth IRA?

A recharacterization allows you to treat a regular contribution made to a Roth IRA or to a traditional IRA as having been made to the other type of IRA. A regular contribution is the annual contribution you're allowed to make to a traditional or Roth IRA: up to $6,000 for 2020-2021, $7,000 if you're 50 or older (see IRA Contribution Limits for details). It does not include a conversion or any other rollover.

How do I recharacterize a regular IRA contribution?

To recharacterize a regular IRA contribution, you tell the trustee of the financial institution holding your IRA to transfer the amount of the contribution plus earnings to a different type of IRA (either a Roth or traditional) in a trustee-to-trustee transfer or to a different type of IRA with the same trustee. If this is done by the due date for filing your tax return (including extensions), you can treat the contribution as made to the second IRA for that year (effectively ignoring the contribution to the first IRA).

Can I recharacterize a rollover or conversion to a Roth IRA?

Effective January 1, 2018, pursuant to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (Pub. L. No. 115-97), a conversion from a traditional IRA, SEP or SIMPLE to a Roth IRA cannot be recharacterized. The new law also prohibits recharacterizing amounts rolled over to a Roth IRA from other retirement plans, such as 401(k) or 403(b) plans.

How does the effective date apply to a Roth IRA conversion made in 2017?

A Roth IRA conversion made in 2017 may be recharacterized as a contribution to a traditional IRA if the recharacterization is made by October 15, 2018. A Roth IRA conversion made on or after January 1, 2018, cannot be recharacterized. For details, see "Recharacterizations" in Publication 590-A, Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs).

Disclaimer

This FAQ is not included in the Internal Revenue Bulletin, and therefore may not be relied upon as legal authority. This means that the information cannot be used to support a legal argument in a court case.

Return to Top


Investments

What types of investments can I make with my IRA?

The law does not permit IRA funds to be invested in life insurance or collectibles.

If you invest your IRA in collectibles, the amount invested is considered distributed in the year invested and you may have to pay a 10% additional tax on early distributions.

Here are some examples of collectibles:

  • Artwork,
  • Rugs,
  • Antiques,
  • Metals - with exceptions for certain kinds of bullion,
  • Gems,
  • Stamps,
  • Coins - (but there are exceptions for certain coins),
  • Alcoholic beverages, and
  • Certain other tangible personal property.

Check Publication 590-A, Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), for more information on collectibles.

IRA trustees are permitted to impose additional restrictions on investments. For example, because of administrative burdens, many IRA trustees do not permit IRA owners to invest IRA funds in real estate. IRA law does not prohibit investing in real estate, but trustees are not required to offer real estate as an option.

If my IRA invests in gold or other bullion, can I store the bullion in my home?

Gold and other bullion are "collectibles" under the IRA statutes, and the law discourages the holding of collectibles in IRAs. There is an exception for certain highly refined bullion provided it is in the physical possession of a bank or an IRS-approved nonbank trustee. This rule also applies to an indirect acquisition, such as having an IRA-owned Limited Liability Company (LLC) buy the bullion. IRA investments in other unconventional assets, such as closely held companies and real estate, run the risk of disqualifying the IRA because of the prohibited transaction rules against self-dealing.

Are the basic investment rules different for SEPs and SIMPLE IRA plans?

The basic investment vehicle for each of these plans is an IRA, and the investment restrictions apply equally to all types of IRAs.

Can I deduct losses in my IRA on my income tax return?

No, do not take IRA losses or gains into account on your tax return while the IRA is still open. See Publication 590-A, Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), for more information on losses in IRAs.

Return to Top


Have a question about retirement plans? Contact us.