How is an IRA Taxed?

No matter what type of IRA you choose, you will eventually pay taxes on it. The question becomes, do you want to pay taxes up front or on the back-end at retirement? If you would rather pay taxes now (for example: you think your tax rate will be lower now than in the future), then a Roth IRA is the way to go. There are income restrictions for qualifying for a Roth, however you can get around this by rolling over funds from a Traditional into a Roth account. If you would rather pay taxes on your distributions upon retirement and enjoy a tax write-off now, then Traditional IRAs are right up your alley. This, of course, is the most simplified explanation. And we all know taxes are a bit more complicated when further investigated.

How Are Roth IRAs Taxed?

With Roth IRAs you don’t get a tax write-off when you make contributions, and you will owe taxes on your contributions based on your income and tax bracket at the time of the contribution. If you qualify for the Saver’s Credit, the amount you owe in taxes may be reduced.

One of the greatest benefits of a Roth IRA is that you do get to pull funds out tax-free under the right conditions. As long as a Roth IRA has been open for 5 years or you are over 59 ½, whichever comes later, you can take distributions on your earnings tax-free. Qualified home purchases and disability requirements also qualify for tax-free status.

If you haven’t had the account for at least 5 years or haven’t reached age 59 ½ yet, you may have to pay a penalty in addition to tax on certain distributions. Distributions on contributions are always penalty free, but not always tax free. Distributions on earnings may be subject to both tax and penalty depending on the circumstances. To learn more about Roth IRA withdrawals, click here.

How Are Traditional IRAs Taxed?

With Traditional IRAs, you can write off your yearly contributions if you meet certain income requirements, but you will owe taxes upon distribution at retirement based on your tax bracket at the time. Traditional IRAs require savers to start taking minimum distributions at age 70 ½ that are based on how much is in the account and your age.

You may also be taxed and fined on Traditional IRA distributions if you withdraw funds before age 59 ½. Just like with Roth IRAs, there are extreme exceptions to this rule. However, one should consider all of the costs, including loss of compounded interest and taxes, before withdrawing early.

To pay taxes required on any qualifying distributions, you will just need to include your contributions and distributions on your yearly tax filing paperwork and use this to figure the amount owed. A tax professional can help you through the process if you are unsure.

One last note on retirement account taxes: You can make a distribution that moves you into a higher tax bracket. If it’s an RMD for a Traditional IRA, you may not have a choice. However, you may want to perform some calculations first to ensure you’re not paying more in taxes than you need to. Always consult your financial advisor before taking any out-of-the-norm distributions.