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Another ROTH conversion question....
Old 01-10-2015, 02:37 PM   #1
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Another ROTH conversion question....

I'm really trying to wrap my head around this but am having a hard time. I ER'd last year so this is the first year I won't have any W-2 income.
  • 65% of my portfolio is in a taxable account. The dividends and cap gain distributions it provides are more than enough to meet my needs, yet I still have plenty of room before I'm pushed out of the 15% tax bracket filing single head of household with a minor dependent.

  • 35% of my portolio is in an IRA that was the result of a 401K rollover last year.

  • I'll turn 55 next summer.

Given the above parameters:

Can I contribute to a ROTH using my taxable assets, convert some of my tax advantaged assets to a ROTH, or both?

If so, how much?


Thanks for any input, because I have this nagging feeling that I'm not taking advantage of something I should be.
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Old 01-10-2015, 02:58 PM   #2
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You would need earned income to make new contributions. Or you could convert and pay taxes from an existing Traditional IRA to a Roth. There is a five year wait to avoid the penalty on the converted amount, meaning you can remove the converted amount, even if you are under 59.5, if you wait 5 years.
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Old 01-10-2015, 03:04 PM   #3
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1. You can not contribute new money to a retirement plan as you had no earned income (W2 wages or self-employment profit).

2. You can no longer convert any part of a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA for 2014 as it would have needed to be completed by Dec 31, 2014.
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Old 01-10-2015, 03:06 PM   #4
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(btw, Roth is a person's name, not a "Retirees Owe Taxes, Ha!" acronym.)

You can convert as much as you want. People often split their conversions across multiple tax years so as to avoid pushing themselves into a higher bracket any one year. Keep in mind that if you anticipate having deductions in the future (medical, etc.) you may be able to use those to offset taxes due on tIRA withdrawals. Via that method if you have enough deductions, your tIRA withdrawals can be tax free.
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Old 01-10-2015, 03:13 PM   #5
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Thanks - so contributing to a ROTH in any amount using funds from my taxable account is out of the question as long as I have no W-2 income.

That leaves me with my existing IRA, which I can start moving funds out of and into a ROTH this year and won't pay any 2015 taxes on the conversion as long as I stay within the 15% tax bracket?

(I don't plan on needing those funds - IRA or ROTH - for at least 15 years).
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Old 01-10-2015, 03:24 PM   #6
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I'm in a similar situation: 53, 28% of assets in tIRA.

We've been doing Roth conversion for the last three years (plus some cg harvesting) in the 15% federal bracket. I expect to keep this up for a while.

As others have noted, you're past the deadline for 2014 - unlike new IRA contributions, you need to do your Roth conversion in the calendar year, not before the next April 15th.

I usually meet with my CPA in October/November to plan year end tax related stuff like Roth conversions and then make whatever moves we've decided on before year end.

Between SS and RMDs from tIRA's we expect to be in 25% federal bracket in another 17 years, so doing the Roth conversion thing seems worthwhile. If nothing else, Roth IRAs give us more flexibility in the future. Flexibility might be the main advantage depending how tax laws change by then.
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Old 01-10-2015, 03:27 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Looking4Ward View Post
That leaves me with my existing IRA, which I can start moving funds out of and into a ROTH this year and won't pay any 2015 taxes on the conversion as long as I stay within the 15% tax bracket?
um, no, you will pay taxes on the conversion amount. You said you're in the 15% federal bracket, so you'll pay 15% (plus state if applicable) on the amount. TANSTAAFL
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Old 01-10-2015, 03:38 PM   #8
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As others have noted, you're past the deadline for 2014 - unlike new IRA contributions, you need to do your Roth conversion in the calendar year, not before the next April 15th.
Yes - my intent is to start this year for 2015 tax purposes.

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um, no, you will pay taxes on the conversion amount. You said you're in the 15% federal bracket, so you'll pay 15% (plus state if applicable) on the amount. TANSTAAFL
See, that's where my misunderstanding comes in. I thought it was possible to avoid any taxes at all on the conversion.

For instance, I was just toying around with TaxCaster using a filing status of single, head of household, with one minor dependent and standard deductions.

I entered the following estimates with no W-2 income:

Qualified Dividends: $18K
Short term cap gains: $3K
Long term cap gains: $25K
IRA distributions: $21K (if I converted $21K from tIRA to Roth, correct?)

The "Total Income" comes to $67K
The "Taxable Income" comes to $50K
"Regular Taxes" is $793, but there is a child tax credit of $793.

TaxCaster shows total federal tax due of $0. This is using the 2014 version so the 2015 version will probably allow for slightly higher income, standard and personal deductions.

What am I missing?
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Old 01-10-2015, 03:49 PM   #9
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.........What am I missing?
In the 15% tax bracket, you don't pay capital gains, but you do pay deferred taxes on IRA money.
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Old 01-10-2015, 03:51 PM   #10
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In the 15% tax bracket, you don't pay capital gains, but you do pay deferred taxes on IRA money.
Ah! So my mistake is in entering the converted amount as an IRA Distribution and instead I should be entering it as Taxable Wage Income? When I do that, it's still showing $0 tax due.
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Old 01-10-2015, 04:16 PM   #11
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Ah! So my mistake is in entering the converted amount as an IRA Distribution and instead I should be entering it as Taxable Wage Income? When I do that, it's still showing $0 tax due.
Hmmm....no, it should be an IRA distribution which is different than an earned wage.
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Old 01-10-2015, 04:39 PM   #12
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Hmmm....no, it should be an IRA distribution which is different than an earned wage.
Hmmmm.....when I enter it that way it shows $0 tax due.

Is the part I'm not understanding is that a Roth conversion is always a taxable event, with the amount of the tax determined by the tax bracket, with the tax bracket being determined by including the amount of the Roth conversion?

For instance, the above example puts me at the very top of the 15% tax bracket when I include a $21,000 rollover from tIRA to Roth. So even though TaxCaster indicates $0 tax, I would actually have to pay $3150 in federal tax on the $21,000?
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Old 01-10-2015, 04:51 PM   #13
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I input your numbers into this tax site 1040 Tax Calculator and got taxes due of $0.

Congratulations!

BTW, the converted amount is taxed like an IRA distribution (not earned income). You had it right in post #8.

BTW again, I am not a CPA or tax person.
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Old 01-10-2015, 04:56 PM   #14
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Along the lines of my earlier post, you have enough deductions to cancel out that much conversion.
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Old 01-10-2015, 05:00 PM   #15
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I input your numbers into this tax site 1040 Tax Calculator and got taxes due of $0.

Congratulations!

BTW, the converted amount is taxed like an IRA distribution (not earned income). You had it right in post #8.

BTW again, I am not a CPA or tax person.
Awesome! So it appears it IS possible to convert portions of a tIRA to Roth and not have to pay any federal taxes.

Sweet - that $21K can grow to almost $65K in 15 years at an average 7.5% annual return. And no federal taxes would ever have to be paid? I'm definitely starting this year.
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Old 01-10-2015, 05:01 PM   #16
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Along the lines of my earlier post, you have enough deductions to cancel out that much conversion.
Thanks!

For some reason it was very hard for me to get my head around it - I suppose it just seemed to good to be true.
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Old 01-10-2015, 05:12 PM   #17
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Hmmmm.....when I enter it that way it shows $0 tax due.

Is the part I'm not understanding is that a Roth conversion is always a taxable event, with the amount of the tax determined by the tax bracket, with the tax bracket being determined by including the amount of the Roth conversion?

?
Some of the money may be taxed at 10%, then 15% depending upon other factors in your particular situation. As you found in Taxcaster, you would have a tax liability of $793, but you are also eligible for a child tax credit not to exceed $3000 or your tax liability. So the result is zero for this scenario. But the year your dependent child turns 17, your no longer eligible for the child tax credit and thus would owe, everything else staying the same, $793 in income tax for that year.
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Old 01-10-2015, 05:16 PM   #18
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No tax for LT capital gains and q dividends. So taxable income would be the 3k plus the 21k which then gets reduced by 9k standard deduction and 8k personal exemptions. So net taxable is 7k. Tax rate is 10% for taxable up to about 13k so tax would be $700. Then you get child tax credits reducing tax to 0.
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Old 01-10-2015, 05:29 PM   #19
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Thank you, everyone, for helping me understand this.

I wanted to add that I just opened a new Roth account and set up an initial transfer of $1K from my existing IRA to fund it. Took all of 3 minutes on the Vanguard site.

Now I've got a nice screen showing my taxable accounts, brokerage account, IRA account, and new ROTH account.

I'll wait and see how capital gains distributions and dividends work out this year before deciding how much to convert before the end of the year, but I'm sure glad I asked the question today!
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Old 01-11-2015, 03:27 PM   #20
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Not to complicate things too much, but you also have the ability to "recharacterize" your Roth conversions basically up until you file your taxes. This allows you to reduce your Roth conversion amount if your taxes look too high when you get the final numbers. I'm not sure how great that would work if you are kind of DCA'ing into your Roth account. Vanguard would have to figure out how to remove your excess conversion plus any gains from that amount.


On the other hand, if you only go into the 25% tax bracket by $100 it's not a big deal. But watch out for your Roth conversions costing you 15% in tax and pushing some of your capital gains above the 15% tax bracket, where they become taxable at 15%. At that point you are paying a marginal rate of 30% (15% on the Roth conversion and 15% on capital gains that you weren't paying before.) You won't want to do that.
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