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Posted on January 28, 2020

3 Roth Conversion Traps To Avoid After The SECURE Act

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By Jamie Hopkins

Roth conversions can be a powerful tax and retirement planning technique. The idea behind most Roth conversions is to take money from an IRA and convert it to a Roth IRA. Essentially, you’re paying taxes today instead of paying taxes in the future.

The Tax Cut and Jobs Act lowered taxes for many Americans and with the SECURE Act Roth IRAs became even more powerful as an estate planning vehicle to minimize taxes, so it’s a convenient time to take advantage of Roth conversions. However, Roth conversions can come with some issues. Before you engage in one, be aware of these common problems as it can be hard to undo the transaction.

Conversions After 72

IRAs and Roth IRAs are both retirement accounts. It’s easy to assume Roth Conversions are best suited for retirement, too. However, waiting too long to do conversions can actually make the entire process more challenging.

If you own an IRA, it’s subject to required minimum distribution rules once you turn 72, as long as you had not already reached age 70.5 by the end of 2019. The government wants you to start withdrawing money from your IRA each year and pay taxes on the tax-deferred money. However, Roth IRAs aren’t subject to RMDs at age 72.

If you don’t need the money from your RMD to support your retirement spending, you might think, “I should convert this to a Roth IRA so it can stay in a tax-deferred account longer.” Unfortunately, that won’t work. You can’t roll over or convert RMDs for a given year. So, if you owe a RMD in 2020, you need to take it and you cannot convert it to a Roth IRA.

Despite the fact you can’t convert an RMD, it doesn’t mean you can’t do Roth conversions after age 72. However, you need to make sure you get your RMD out before you do a conversion. Your first distributions from an IRA after 72 will be treated as RMD money first. This means, if you want to convert $10,000 from your IRA, but you also owe an $8,000 RMD for the year, you need to take the full $8,000 out before you do a conversion.

Full article on Forbes