What’s Changing with Self Directed IRAs?

Estimated reading time: 2 minutesLast updated on: April 13, 2021

While the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act threatened to make big changes with regard to retirement accounts, there were only a few small changes that actually made the final cut. Most of the investment rules and penalties stayed the same for the 2021 year. The changes that were made dealt with recharacterization rules, Roth account income limits, 401(k) contribution limits, Saver’s Credit income limits, and uses for 529 accounts.

Roth Recharacterizations

The biggest change in the Act was the limiting of plan recharacterizations. In the past, plan owners could convert their Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA as long as they qualified, and then revert back before the end of the year if they changed their mind. Sometimes assets lost value or the tax burden for the conversion ended up too much for the owner to bear, so they would convert their accounts back before the effects took place.

Plan owners will no longer be able to take advantage of this loophole starting with any Roth conversions made on or after January 1, 2018. For conversions that occurred prior to that date, plan owners may choose to recharacterize them back to a Traditional IRA on or before October 15, 2018.

Income Limits for Roth IRA

To contribute toward a Roth IRA, you must earn less than the maximum income limit for your category.

In 2021, there is also still eligibility limits for individuals to make contributions to a Roth IRA. Single taxpayers with a MAGI of $125,000 can make a full contribution, and those with a MAGI between $125,000 and $140,000 can make a lesser contribution. Married taxpayers can make full contributions where their MAGI is $181,000 (and lesser contributions for a MAGI between $198,000 and $208,000).

New Uses for 529 Plans

Parents and grandparents will be pleased that 529 plan funds, which traditionally have been set aside for college expenses, can now be used for K-12 expenses related to private, public, or religious schooling. There is a caveat, however. Plan owners can only use these funds for up to $10,000 in school-related expenses per year. Note that Coverdell ESAs had always allowed plan owners to use funds for K-12 schooling and there are no withdrawal limits. There are many more differences between 529s and Coverdell ESAs, however, so study these thoroughly before deciding on one or the other.

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