An IRA is an Individual Retirement Account that provides several tax benefits. IRA accounts can be comprised of fixed income instruments, such as CDs/share certificates and bonds, and stocks and mutual funds, to name just a few options.
The Traditional IRA enables individuals to save money in a tax-deferred account. What that means is that the earnings from your IRA account will not be taxed until you begin taking money out of the account.
Traditional IRA Snapshot
- Contributions: Tax-deductible
- Earnings: Any earnings grow federal income tax-deferred
- Withdrawals: 10% early withdrawal penalty may apply for other withdrawals taken prior to age 59-1/2 if no exceptions apply. Penalty-free withdrawals for first home purchase and certain college expenses. Minimum required distributions starting at age 70-1/2
Each year, regardless of your income, you can invest up to the maximum annual contribution limit or 100% of your earned income, whichever is less. Unlike earnings on IRA accounts -- which are not taxed until withdrawn -- the IRA contribution itself may or may not be deductible from your taxable income. Tax deductibility of contributions depends on your income and if you or your spouse participate in a workplace retirement plan.
If neither you nor your spouse is an "active participant" in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you both may deduct your entire contribution, up to your applicable limit as established by the IRS. The W-2 Form you receive each year from your employer should indicate whether or not you're considered an active participant. Check with your employer if you're unclear about your status.
However, if either you or your spouse participates in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you may deduct your contribution only if your adjusted gross income falls within certain ranges.
Traditional IRA Eligibility Rules
You must be under the age of 70-1/2 at the end of the calendar year. After age 70-1/2, you're no longer eligible to contribute to a traditional IRA.
In order to contribute to a traditional IRA, you must have some form of compensation. Compensation includes wages, salaries, bonuses, and commissions. Compensation does not include deferred compensation, or payments such as interest income and stock dividends that you might have received during the year.
Traditional IRA Contribution Limits
How much you can contribute may change each tax year.
In 2014, those age 49 and under can contribute 100% of compensation up to $5,500. Those age 50 and older can contribute an additional $1,000.
To be eligible to make a contribution to a Roth IRA or a deductible contribution to a Traditional IRA, an individual's modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) must be less than a stated amount, depending on tax-filing status.
What are the income limits for contributions to a Traditional IRA?
If your adjusted gross income exceeds these limits, then you are no longer eligible to contribute to a Traditional IRA.
In 2014, the limits are:
- Single: $60,000 - $70,000
- Married, filing jointly: $96,000 - $116,000
- Married, filing separately: $0 - $10,000
- Non-active participant spouse (i.e. those with spouses who earn no income): $181,000 - $191,000