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Roth conversion basics

Posted by Cheryl Costa  September 23, 2008 10:10 AM

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What are the rules for converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA? Are there any strategies to avoid paying or reducing the immediate tax bite?

In order to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA in 2008 or 2009, your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) must not exceed $100,000.

These rules change in 2010 when the $100,000 limit is lifted and you will be able to do a conversion regardless of your income. Of course, any amount that you convert will be subject to income taxes. However, there is another "bonus" arriving in 2010 -- if you do a conversion in that year, it is assumed that you are not paying the taxes until you file your 2011 and 2012 returns. That means that actual payment will not occur until 2012 and 2013.

The surprising thing is that the government actually wants you to do it that way. If you want to pay the taxes due in the year of conversion, you need to specifically elect that treatment on your tax return. While it might seem that the government is being especially nice, many suspect an ulterior motive -- higher tax rates are expected to be in effect in those years. So, it just might make sense to do the conversion in 2010 and pay the taxes right away. If you think you might do a conversion in 2010, it might be a good idea to start saving money to cover the tax bill.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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D. Abraham Ringer is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner and a Financial Adviser with Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management in Boston. He is registered in MA, NH, NY and several other states to which his articles are directed. For more information please visit www.morganstanleyfa.com/ringer
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