Thursday, May 18, 2006

Everyone can convert an IRA to a Roth in 2010

Roth IRA will save U.S. taxpayers Billions (collectively)
The President signed into law an extraordinary deal for high-income people with retirement savings accounts. By paying $1 in income taxes before the taxes are due, these investors may be able to avoid future taxes equivalent to $3.50.
The SAVINGS ARE A a one-time opportunity in 2010 for anyone to convert a conventional individual retirement account, where taxes are deferred until money is withdrawn, into a Roth IRA, where investment gains are tax-free. Conversions are now limited to people who make less than $100,000 a year.
Part of the tax savings arises from rules, set by Congress, that require people to withdraw money from traditional retirement accounts starting the year after the one in which they turn 70. For Roths, mandatory withdrawals apply only to heirs, permitting the magic of compound interest to swell the accounts' value for a much longer time for those willing to leave the money alone.
The estimated tax savings was based on current income tax rates. The savings would be greater if tax rates rose in the future, as Mr. Burman says they will because the government is spending more than it is taking in.
Some government officials also warned that people who converted to Roths might be worse off, especially if they withdrew their money quickly instead of allowing their Roth accounts to grow in value.
And some of the government officials warned that much of the tax advice on Roths that he saw promoted on the Internet was flawed. They noted that even technical violations of retirement savings rules could result in draconian tax penalties. ''This is a very tricky area,'' he said.
Roth IRA's are now available only to couples making less than $160,000 and single people making less than $110,000. But in 2010 anyone, regardless of income, would be permitted to roll over unlimited sums from IRA's into a Roth.
Everyone interviewed agreed that the smart strategy would be to pay the taxes from a source outside of the retirement account being converted to a Roth. That would preserve the amount of money available to generate tax-free returns.
To help people cover the tax on the conversion, the measure would permit the taxes to be paid in two installments, in 2011 and 2012. An almost identical deal was signed into law by President Clinton, permitting such conversions to Roths in 1998, but with the taxes paid in four annual installments.