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Rules on Roth conversions and required minimum distributions

A Roth IRA can enhance your retirement security.

A Roth IRA can enhance your retirement security. Credit: iStock

Every year, I do a Roth conversion. I transfer money from my traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, and pay taxes on the converted amount. What's the last possible date I can do this before my Required Minimum Distribution [known as RMD] kicks in? My birthday is July 12, 1945, so I was 69½ on Jan. 12.

 

Your last date for a pre-RMD Roth conversion is Dec. 31, 2015. But you can do post-RMD Roth conversions. You just can't convert the RMD.

Let's say you have a $300,000 IRA. Your first RMD will be $11,320.75 (see my calculation below). After you withdraw the RMD of $11,320.75, you can convert an additional amount to a Roth, says Barry C. Picker, a Brooklyn tax accountant. Let's say you convert $20,000, paying the tax on the conversion from a non-retirement account. Your traditional IRA balance, reduced by the $11,320.75 RMD and the $20,000 conversion, is now $268,679.25. And you have a $20,000 Roth IRA.

To determine your first RMD, you divide your IRA balance on Dec. 31 of the year before you turned 70½ — in your case, that will be the balance on Dec. 31, 2015 — by your life expectancy factor, which is listed in the "Uniform Lifetime" table in IRS Publication 590.

If your birthday is between Jan. 1 and June 30, calculate your first RMD using the Uniform Lifetime table's life expectancy factor for age 70. If your birthday is between July 1 and Dec. 31, you must use the life expectancy factor for age 71. Your birthday is July 12. The life expectancy factor for age 71 is 26.5. The hypothetical $300,000 IRA balance divided by 26.5 is $11,320.75.

The bottom line There's no age limit on Roth conversions.

Websites with more information nwsdy.li/Rothrules and nwsdy.li/RMDcalculate

CORRECTION: You don’t need to have earned income to convert money from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. An earlier version of this column misstated a Roth Ira conversion rule.

TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to Ask the Expert /Act 2, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747-4226, or email act2@newsday.com. Include your name, address and phone number. Questions can be answered only in this column. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your own advisers for your specific needs.

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