Deducting an IRA Contribution on Your Tax Return

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Deducting an IRA Contribution on Your Tax Return

If you have a workplace retirement plan, you can still stash money in an IRA. You can even take a deduction for a traditional IRA contribution if your income is low enough.


QMy son, who is 23 years old and single, contributed the maximum $18,000 to his Roth 401(k) at work in 2016. His employer matched $9,000. Can he also make a tax-deductible contribution to an IRA?

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AIt's great that your son is maxing out his 401(k) at age 23! Anyone who participates in a 401(k) or other retirement plan at work can also contribute up to $5,500 to an IRA, and you have until April 18, 2017, to make a 2016 contribution. But a contribution to a traditional IRA may or may not be tax-deductible.

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Because your son is covered by a retirement plan at work, he can only deduct his traditional IRA contribution if his modified adjusted gross income for 2016 was less than $71,000 (because he's single), and the deductible amount starts to phase out if his income is $61,000 or higher. There is no maximum income limit for deducting traditional IRA contributions if you aren't covered by a 401(k) or other retirement plan at work.

People who are married and are covered by a retirement plan at work can deduct their traditional IRA contributions if their joint income was less than $118,000 in 2016 (with the deduction starting to phase out at $98,000). If you were not covered by a retirement plan at work but your spouse was, your IRA contributions can be tax-deductible if your joint income in 2016 was less than $194,000 (with the deduction amount starting to phase out at $184,000). There's no maximum income limit for making tax-deductible contributions if neither spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work. For more information, see the IRS's IRA Deduction Limits page.


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Even if your son is eligible to deduct traditional IRA contributions, he may want to contribute to a Roth IRA instead. He can’t deduct Roth IRA contributions (his Roth 401(k) contributions are also after taxes), but the money grows tax-free for retirement, and he can withdraw his contributions without penalty or taxes at any age. Because he's young and his income is likely to increase over time, pushing him into a higher tax bracket, the benefit of tax-free growth in the Roth IRA is likely to beat out the benefit of receiving a tax deduction for traditional IRA contributions now.

"Our studies have shown that, especially for younger investors, the Roth results in significantly more after-tax money during retirement than a traditional IRA," says Keith McGurrin, a certified financial planner with T. Rowe Price. "It is also true that if tax rates increase in the future, the Roth will be beneficial." Plus, Roths have no required minimum distributions after you turn 70 ½.

You can contribute the full $5,500 to a Roth IRA for 2016 if your modified adjusted gross income was less than $117,000 if single, or $184,000 if married filing jointly. The amount you may contribute gradually phases out until your income reaches $132,000 if single, or $194,000 if married filing jointly (the income limits increase slightly for 2017 contributions -- see What You Need to Know About Making IRA and 401(k) Contributions in 2017). For more information about the benefits of a Roth IRA and how to get started, see Why You Need a Roth IRA.

SEE ALSO: 9 Tax Breaks for the Middle Class

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