IRAs

Marriage and Roth IRA Contributions

Newlyweds can suddenly become ineligible for Roth IRAs once their incomes are combined, although couples may still invest in them indirectly.

Question: I'm getting married next month, and when we add up my income and my wife's, we'll earn more than the limit to contribute to a Roth IRA. But I'm below the income limit now, so can I contribute to a Roth before the wedding?

Answer: No. If you're married as of December 31, you're considered to be married for the full year for tax purposes -- no matter what the wedding date. That means you'll file your taxes as married – either jointly or separately -- for 2017. You'll also be subject to the joint income limits for Roth contributions for the full year. If you’re married filing jointly and your combined adjusted gross income is less than $186,000, then you both can contribute the full $5,500 to a Roth for the year (or $6,500 if you're age 50 or older). Once your joint income reaches $186,000 to $196,000, then you both can make reduced contributions. You can't contribute to a Roth at all if your joint income is more than $196,000. See IRS Publication 590-A, Individual Retirement Arrangements, for a worksheet to calculate your modified adjusted gross income for the Roth limits.

And you can't get around the Roth limits by filing taxes separately. The income limit is just $10,000 for married people filing separately if you lived with your spouse at any time during the year.

If you earn too much to contribute to a Roth, you can both put money instead in nondeductible traditional IRAs for 2017 and then convert them to Roths. But you could be taxed on a portion of the rollover if you have any other money in traditional IRAs (the tax-free portion of the conversion is based on the ratio of your nondeductible contributions to the total balance in all of your traditional IRAs). See Converting Nondeductible IRA Contributions to a Roth for more information.

If you had already contributed to the Roth for the year and now your income disqualifies you, you would still have time to undo the contribution. Otherwise, you would have to pay a 6% penalty on excess contributions. You could take the contributions (and any earnings on them) out of the Roth before the tax-filing deadline, or you could have your IRA administrator switch your 2017 Roth contributions (plus all earnings on that money) into a traditional IRA. If you made contributions to the Roth in earlier years, the administrator should calculate how much of the earnings in the account should be attributed to the 2017 contribution. You can keep the money from previous years' contributions in the account.

Most Popular

12 Costs of Owning a Cat
how to save money

12 Costs of Owning a Cat

Housecats may be known for their aloofness and low-maintenance attitude, but they're not cheap. Here's what you can expect to spend if you plan on ado…
October 16, 2020
26 Things Home Buyers Will Hate About Your House
real estate

26 Things Home Buyers Will Hate About Your House

As a home seller, you don't want to let the small -- or big -- fixes around your house that have added up over the years sabotage your bottom line dur…
October 16, 2020
11 Home Features Today's Buyers Want Most
home

11 Home Features Today's Buyers Want Most

Thinking about selling your house? Here are several home features potential buyers are coveting right now.
October 16, 2020

Recommended

Tax Extension Deadline: File Your 2019 Return by October 15 to Avoid Penalties
tax deadline

Tax Extension Deadline: File Your 2019 Return by October 15 to Avoid Penalties

If you chose to extend your tax return's due date, the tax extension deadline is October 15!
October 15, 2020
Roth IRA Contribution Limits for 2020
Roth IRAs

Roth IRA Contribution Limits for 2020

The Roth IRA contribution limit remains the same for 2020 as it was for 2019. Retirement savers 50 and older can contribute an extra amount. Income li…
October 1, 2020
The 25 Best Low-Fee Mutual Funds to Buy in 2020
mutual funds

The 25 Best Low-Fee Mutual Funds to Buy in 2020

The key to building wealth long-term is buying high-quality (but low-fee) mutual funds run by seasoned stock pickers who have skin in the game. Here a…
September 29, 2020
How To Buy a Roth IRA When You Make Too Much To Qualify For One
Roth IRAs

How To Buy a Roth IRA When You Make Too Much To Qualify For One

With their tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals, Roth IRAs are a great deal — if you qualify. If you don’t, well, there’s still a way to get into …
September 23, 2020