Suppose you converted your IRA to a Roth IRA just before the bottom fell out of the stock market last year. Because the tax liability for the conversion is based on the value of the account on the last day of the prior year – Dec. 31, 2007 — you would have paid tax on an inflated value. So you may have opted to recharacterize your Roth into a traditional IRA.
But now you see signs of a market rebound. And you’d like to take advantage of the Roth IRA setup for all the same reasons that attracted you to it in the first place.
In this case, you might “reconvert” your IRA. In other words, you can convert your recharacterized traditional IRA back into a Roth IRA. This is essentially treated as a new conversion for tax purposes.
With a Roth IRA in existence at least five years, qualified distributions are completely exempt from federal income tax. A qualified distribution is one that is paid after reaching age 59 1/2, received on account of death or disability or used for first-time homebuyer expenses (up to a lifetime limit of $10,000). In contrast, traditional IRA distributions are taxed at ordinary income rates as high as 35% — probably even higher in future years.
However, the IRS doesn’t allow you to keep flip-flopping back and forth between the two types of IRAs. You must meet specific time restrictions for a reconversion. Specifically, a traditional IRA can’t be reconverted to a Roth before the later of:
1. The beginning of the tax year following the tax year of the conversion
2. The end of the 30-day period beginning on the day of the recharacterization.
This rule applies regardless of whether the recharacterization falls into the year of the conversion or the following year.
This is an important decision for taxpayers rapidly approaching retirement. We can help you analyze your personal needs. Call us to arrange a consultation.