United States: Creating And Building A Roth IRA

As mentioned in a prior article, Roth IRAs are powerful estate, financial and tax planning devices. Given their power for wealth transfer planning, it is important to understand the rules that apply to how Roth IRAs are formed and funded. This article will address these two issues.

The first important concept is that Roth IRAs are funded on an after-tax basis. That is, contributions to Roth IRAs are not deductible against your income tax and so eventually the amounts contributed can be withdrawn without being subject to income tax either.

There are four basic ways to fund a Roth IRA:

  • Annual contributions.
  • Rollover from Roth 401(k) plan.
  • Conversion of funds from traditional IRA.
  • Surviving spouse's rollover of deceased spouse's Roth IRA.

* * * * * * * * * *

  1. Annual Contributions. The first approach to funding a Roth IRA is to make annual contributions. Only specified taxpayers are allowed to make contributions to Roth IRAs. Single taxpayers must have adjusted gross income of less than $131,000 (in 2015). Joint filers can make contributions, provided their adjusted gross income is under $193,000. In addition, the taxpayer must have earned income at least equal to the amount of the Roth IRA contribution. Finally, the annual contribution is limited to $5,500 for taxpayers who have not attained age 55 during the calendar year in which the contribution is made. For taxpayers who have attained age 55 in the calendar year, an additional $1,000 annual "catch-up" contribution is allowed, subject to the other limits described above.
  2. Rollover from Roth 401(k) Plan. Some qualified plan sponsors permit participants to open a Roth 401(k) account. The operation of Roth 401(k) accounts is beyond the scope of this article, but for those participants who have Roth 401(k) accounts, the funds in the Roth 401(k) accounts can be rolled over to a Roth IRA at the same time and under the same circumstances as the pretax assets in the regular 401(k) account can be rolled over to a traditional IRA. Generally speaking, these rollovers will occur at the participant's retirement or other separation from service from the employer.
  3. Conversion from Traditional IRA. The most typical approach for substantial funding of a Roth IRA relates to converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. The rules for converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA have changed over the years, but at this time, there are no limits on the age of the IRA owner who can convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, or the gross income of the owner in the year of the conversion. The only rule that applies is that the conversion will trigger ordinary income tax on the full amount that is converted from the traditional IRA to the Roth IRA, and therefore the person making the conversion must be prepared to pay that income tax liability. Although the owner of a traditional IRA can use funds from the traditional IRA to pay the income tax created by the conversion, financial planning generally suggests that optimal tax planning is achieved by using funds other than the traditional IRA to pay the income tax.

    Prior law created special rules to allow the income tax liability triggered by a Roth IRA conversion to be spread out over two years, or, in one case, over four years. These special tax rules no longer apply for Roth IRA conversions after 2010.

    Under certain circumstances, a taxpayer may wish to "undo" a Roth IRA conversion. For example, if the value of the assets that were moved from the traditional IRA to the Roth IRA substantially declined in value, the taxpayer may wish to "recharacterize" the funds back into the traditional IRA in order to avoid paying income tax on value that has "disappeared." A taxpayer can make a recharacterization of a converted Roth IRA provided the assets are moved back to the traditional IRA before the taxpayer files his or her income tax return (including extensions) for the year of the conversion. Only one conversion and recharacterization can be made for any calendar year. Recharacterizations can be made after the taxpayer's death provided that the decedent's income tax return has not been filed at the time of the recharacterization.
  4. Surviving Spouse's Rollover. If a Roth IRA owner dies and leaves the Roth IRA to his or her surviving spouse, the surviving spouse can roll over the Roth IRA into his or her existing Roth IRA, or can open a Roth IRA and roll over the funds into his or her Roth IRA. As mentioned in a prior article, the surviving spouse is not required to take any distributions from the Roth IRA, but is free to do so if desired.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Jennifer R. D'Amato
In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions