Roth IRA Contribution Rules: A Comprehensive Guide

Roth IRA Contribution Rules: A Comprehensive Guide
Roth IRA Income and Contribution Limits
Filing Status 2022 MAGI Contribution Limit
Married filing jointly (or qualifying widow(er))  
  Less than $204,000 $6,000 ($7,000 if age 50 or older)
  $204,000 to $213,999 Begin to phase out
  $214,000 or more Ineligible for direct Roth IRA
Married filing separately (and you lived with your spouse at any time during the last year)  
  Less than $10,000 Begin to phase out
  $10,000 or more Ineligible for direct Roth IRA
Single, head of household, or married filing separately (and you didn’t live with your spouse at any time during the last year)  
  Less than $129,000 $6,000 ($7,000 if age 50 or older)
  $129,000 to $143,999 Begin to phase out
  $144,000 or more Ineligible for direct Roth IRA

Married filing separately and head of household filers can use the limits for single people if they have not lived with their spouse in the past year.

You may be able to get around income limits by converting a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA, which is called a backdoor Roth IRA.

Roth IRA Contribution Limits

Anyone of any age can contribute to a Roth IRA, but the annual contribution cannot exceed their earned income. Let’s say that Henry and Henrietta, a married couple filing jointly, have a combined MAGI of $175,000. Both earn $87,500 a year, and both have Roth IRAs. In 2022, they can each contribute the maximum amount of $6,000 to their accounts, for a total of $12,000.

Couples with highly disparate incomes might be tempted to add the higher-earning spouse’s name to a Roth account to increase the amount that they can contribute. Unfortunately, IRS rules prevent you from maintaining joint Roth IRAs—that’s why the word “individual” is in the account name. However, you may accomplish your goal of contributing larger sums if your spouse establishes their own IRA, whether they work or not.

How can this happen? To illustrate, let’s go back to our hypothetical couple. Let’s say that Henrietta is the primary breadwinner, pulling in $170,000 a year, while Henry runs the house, earning $5,000 annually. Henrietta can contribute to both her IRA and Henry’s, up to the $12,000 maximum. In this case, they each have their own IRAs, but one spouse funds both of them.

A couple must file a joint tax return for the spousal IRA to work, and the contributing partner must have enough earned income to cover both contributions.

Timing Your Roth IRA Contributions

Although you can own separate traditional and Roth IRAs, the dollar limit on annual contributions applies collectively to all of them. If an individual under age 50 deposits $2,500 in one IRA for tax year 2022, then that individual can only contribute $3,500 to another IRA in that tax year.

Contributions to a Roth IRA can be made up until tax filing day of the following year. Thus, contributions to a Roth IRA for 2022 can be made through the deadline for filing income tax returns, which is April 15, 2023. Obtaining an extension of time to file a tax return does not give you more time to make an annual contribution.

If you’re an early-bird filer and you received a tax refund, you can apply some or all of it to your contribution. You must instruct your Roth IRA trustee or custodian that you want the refund used in this way.

Conversion to a Roth IRA from a taxable retirement account, such as a 401(k) plan or a traditional IRA, has no impact on the contribution limit. However, making a conversion adds to MAGI and may trigger or increase a phaseout of your Roth IRA contribution amount. Also, rollovers from one Roth IRA to another are not taken into account for purposes of making annual contributions.

Tax Breaks for Roth IRA Contributions

The incentive for contributing to a Roth IRA is to build savings for the future—not to obtain a current tax deduction. Contributions to Roth IRAs are not deductible for the year when you make them; rather, they consist of after-tax money. That is why you don’t pay taxes on the funds when you withdraw them—your tax bill has been paid already.

However, you may be eligible for a tax credit of 10% to 50% on the amount contributed to a Roth IRA. Low- and moderate-income taxpayers may qualify for this tax break, called the Saver’s Credit. This retirement savings credit is up to $1,000, depending on your filing status, AGI, and Roth IRA contribution.

Here are the limits to qualify for the Saver’s Credit for the 2022 tax year:

  • Taxpayers who are married and filing jointly must have incomes of $68,000 or less.
  • All head of household filers must have incomes of $51,000 or less.
  • Single taxpayers must have incomes of $34,000 or less.

The amount of credit that you get depends on your income. For example, if you are a head of household whose AGI in the 2022 tax year shows income of $29,625, then contributing $2,000 (the maximum contribution that qualifies for the benefit) to an IRA (or employer-sponsored retirement plan) generates a $1,000 tax credit, which is the maximum 50% credit. The IRS provides a detailed chart of the Saver’s Credit.

The tax credit percentage is calculated using IRS Form 8880.

Roth IRA Withdrawal Rules

Unlike traditional IRAs, there are no required minimum distributions (RMDs) for Roth IRAs. You can take out your Roth IRA contributions at any time, for any reason, without owing any taxes or penalties.

Withdrawals on earnings work differently. In general, you can withdraw earnings without penalties or taxes as long as you are age 59½ or older and have owned the account for at least five years. This restriction is known as the five-year rule.

Your withdrawals may be subject to taxes and a 10% penalty, depending on your age and whether you meet the requirements of the five-year rule.

If you meet the five-year rule:

  • Younger than 59½: Earnings are subject to taxes and penalties. You may be able to avoid taxes and penalties if you use the money for a first-time home purchase or have a permanent disability. If you pass away, your beneficiary may be able to avoid taxes on the distribution.
  • 59½ or older: No taxes or penalties.

If you don’t meet the five-year rule:

  • Younger than 59½: Earnings are subject to taxes and penalties. You may be able to avoid the penalty (but not the taxes) if you use the money for specific purposes. They include first-time home purchases, qualified education expenses, unreimbursed medical expenses, and permanent disabilities. If you pass away, your beneficiary may be able to avoid penalties on the distribution.
  • 59½ or older: Earnings are subject to taxes but not penalties.

Special Changes in 2020

In 2020, the coronavirus stimulus bill (called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act) allowed those affected by the coronavirus pandemic a hardship distribution of up to $100,000 without the 10% early distribution penalty that those younger than 59½ normally owe.

Account owners also either had three years to pay the tax owed on withdrawals, instead of owing all of it in 2020—extending that period to 2022—or could repay the withdrawal and avoid owing any tax, even if the amount exceeded the annual contribution limit for that type of retirement account.

Changes in Roth IRA Rules

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 made some changes to the rules governing Roth IRAs. Previously, if you converted another tax-advantaged account (Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA, Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA, traditional IRA, 401(k) plan, or 403(b) plan) to a Roth IRA and then changed your mind, you could undo it in the form of a recharacterization.

That is no longer the case. If the conversion occurred after Oct. 15, 2018, it cannot be recharacterized back into a traditional IRA or back into its original form.

Record Keeping for Roth IRA Contributions

You do not have to report your Roth IRA contribution on your federal income tax return. However, it is highly advisable for you to keep track of it, along with your other tax records for each year. Doing so will help you demonstrate that you’ve met the five-year holding period for taking tax-free distributions of earnings from the account.

Each year that you make a Roth IRA contribution, the custodian or trustee will send you Form 5498, IRA Contribution Information. Box 10 of this form lists your Roth IRA contribution.

What Are the Rules for Putting Money in a Roth Individual Retirement Account (Roth IRA)?

Most people who earn income will qualify for the maximum contribution of $6,000 in 2022, or $7,000 for those ages 50 and older. If your income falls within the Roth individual retirement account (Roth IRA) phaseout range, you can make a partial contribution. You can’t contribute at all if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeds the limits.

Can You Contribute to a Roth IRA at Any Time?

Yes, you can open a Roth IRA at any age, as long as you have earned income (you can’t contribute more than your earned income). There are also no required minimum distributions (RMDs), so you can leave your Roth IRA to your heirs if you don’t need the money.

What Is the 5-Year Rule for Roth IRAs?

The Roth IRA five-year rule states that you cannot withdraw earnings tax free until at least five years since you first contributed to a Roth IRA. This rule applies to everyone who contributes to a Roth IRA, whether they’re 59½ or 105 years old.

The Bottom Line

While not tax deductible, contributions to a Roth IRA give you the opportunity to create a tax-free savings account. You can use this account in retirement or leave it as an inheritance for your heirs. Roth IRAs offer many of the advantages of regular IRAs, but with more flexibility. They work well for people who are more likely to need tax relief later rather than sooner. Opening one is easy, and many excellent Roth IRA providers handle these accounts.