If you’ve been thinking about converting your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, this year may be an appropriate time to do so. Because federal income tax rates were reduced by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December 2017, converting your IRA may now be “cheaper” than in past years.
Anyone can convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA in 2018. There are no income limits or restrictions based on tax filing status. You generally have to include the amount you convert in your gross income for the year of conversion, but any nondeductible contributions you’ve made to your traditional IRA won’t be taxed when you convert. (You can also convert SEP IRAs, and SIMPLE IRAs that are at least two years old, to Roth IRAs.)
Converting is easy. You simply notify your existing IRA provider that you want to convert all or part of your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, and they’ll provide you with the necessary paperwork to complete. You can also transfer or roll your traditional IRA assets over to a new IRA provider and complete the conversion there.
If you prefer, you can instead contact the trustee/custodian of your traditional IRA, have the funds in your traditional IRA distributed to you, and then roll those funds over to your new Roth IRA within 60 days of the distribution. The income tax consequences are the same regardless of the method you choose.1
The conversion rules can also be used to contribute to a Roth IRA in 2018 if you wouldn’t otherwise be able to make a regular annual contribution because of the income limits. (In 2018, you can’t contribute to a Roth IRA if you earn $199,000 or more and are married filing jointly, or if you’re single and earn $135,000 or more.) You can simply make a nondeductible contribution to a traditional IRA and then convert that traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. (Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need to aggregate the value of all your traditional IRAs when you calculate the tax on the conversion.) You can contribute up to $5,500 to all IRAs combined in 2018, or $6,500 if you’re 50 or older.
1If you choose to receive the funds first and don’t transfer the entire amount, a 10% early withdrawal penalty may apply to amounts not converted.