Make Sure You Understand These Rules Before Converting Your 401 Funds To A Roth Ira
A 401 is a smart place to keep your retirement savings, especially if your company offers a matching contribution. But as some people look toward retirement, they find the Roth IRA’s tax-free distributions more appealing. Contributing funds to a Roth IRA is always an option, but you could also do a 401 to Roth IRA conversion with your existing savings.
This lets you reclassify your 401 funds as Roth savings by paying taxes on the amount you’d like to convert. Here’s a closer look at how 401 to Roth IRA conversions work and how to decide if they’re right for you.
Generally A Roth Ira Conversion Makes Sense If You:
- Wont need the converted Roth funds for at least five years.
- Expect to be in the same or a higher tax bracket during retirement.
- Can pay the conversion taxes without using the retirement funds themselves.
- May not need the funds for retirement and may want to transfer them to your beneficiaries.
A Roth IRA conversion may not be appropriate if you:
- Are not sure what your tax situation will be like this year because once you convert you cannot recharacterize or “undo” the conversion.
- Have to deplete other assets to pay the taxes due on the conversion.
- Are pushed into a higher tax bracket due to the amount you convert.
- Will be in a lower tax bracket in retirement.
- Will be relocating to a state with no or lower state income tax.
- Are wanting to convert your RMD because RMDs cannot be converted. You must first satisfy your RMD and then complete a Roth conversion.
Pick An Ira Account Type
There are two main types of IRAs that you can transfer 401 funds to: a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. As we mention above, most people roll over their money into an account that has the same tax benefits as the one theyre transferring from.
For instance, lets say you have a traditional 401 account that allows you to contribute money and deduct it from your taxable income, all while staving off income taxes until you withdraw in retirement. In order to maintain this tax-deferred status, youll need to roll your 401 asset over into a traditional IRA. You still have the option of rolling over to a Roth IRA, though thatll mean youll pay taxes on that money for the current year.
On the flip side, those with a Roth 401 gain the perk of tax-free growth since the money they contribute has already had taxes paid on it. Because of this, the IRS does not allow Roth 401 account holders to roll funds over to anything but a Roth IRA or another Roth 401.
Only you can choose which type of IRA is best for your situation. If you can figure out whether your tax rate is higher now than it will be in retirement, then that should lead you in the right direction. You could also speak with a financial advisor if you have further questions.
Don’t Miss: How To Find 401k From Previous Employer
You Think Your Tax Rate Is Going To Go Up
If you believe your current tax rate is lower than it might be in the future, you may want to convert your investments into a Roth IRA, pay your fair share of taxes now, and then let that money grow tax-free until you need it.
Converting a pre-tax 401 into a post-tax Roth IRA will trigger a tax bill, but a financial professional might recommend it anyway. Its a way to hedge against the risk of taxes going up in the future, says Hernandez. In a general sense, if youre still in the early stages of your earning career, it makes sense to go ahead and pay the taxes upfront and do the Roth contributions.
Of course, no one knows for sure what their tax rate will look like in the future. Thats why many experts recommend diversifying your long-term investments into different buckets: some in a tax-deferred account like a 401, and others in a post-tax account like a Roth IRA. If all your money is one bucket, a conversion could make sense.
A Roth 401 Rolled Into A Roth Ira
Roth IRA contributions can be withdrawn at any time, tax-free and penalty-free, regardless of age. However, the rules for distributions of earnings vary. A qualified distribution from a Roth IRA is one that meets the five-year rule and is also made after age 59½, after death, or as the result of a disability or a first-time home purchase. These qualified distributions are free of both taxes and penalties.
If these conditions are not met, withdrawals from the account will be subject to both selective income taxes and a penalty. “If you do make a non-qualified distribution, income taxes will be levied pro-rata on earnings on your contributions, and a 10% penalty may apply to part of the distribution,” said , founder and president of Index Fund Advisors Inc., Irvine, Calif., and author of “Index Funds: The 12-Step Recovery Program for Active Investors.”
Funds from a Roth 401 rolled into another such account are subject to favorable treatment with respect to the five-year holding period. However, the same treatment does not apply to the timing of a Roth 401 that’s rolled over to a new Roth IRA. On the other hand, if you already have a Roth IRA account, the holding period for that account applies to all of its funds, including those rolled over from a Roth 401 account.
Don’t Miss: How To Collect My 401k
You Want To Avoid Required Minimum Distributions
Heres another rule that applies to a 401 but not a Roth IRA: required minimum distributions, or RMDs.
The IRS requires all 401 owners to withdraw a minimum amount from their accounts each year beginning in the year they turn 72. The exact amount depends on your balance, your age, and a life-expectancy variable determined by the IRS.
With a Roth IRA, that money has already been taxed, so RMDs are not required.
How A 401 To Roth Ira Conversion Works
Converting a 401 to a Roth IRA is essentially the same process as rolling your 401 funds over to a traditional IRA, but there’s the extra step of paying taxes on your converted funds, as most 401s are taxed differently from Roth IRAs.
First, make sure you’re allowed to do a 401 to Roth IRA conversion. Many companies will allow only former employees to do rollovers or conversions, but a few may permit current employees to roll some of their savings over to an IRA as well. You should also check to see whether you’re allowed to roll over your 401 funds directly to a Roth IRA. Some plans permit you to roll your 401 savings only into a traditional IRA. Then you can open a Roth IRA and do your conversion.
Second, you must decide how much you’d like to convert. You can convert the full value of your plan, or you may be able to convert just a portion if your plan allows it. If you can’t do a partial conversion but don’t want to convert everything to Roth savings, you can always roll part of your savings into a Roth IRA and the other part into a traditional IRA.
There aren’t any limits on how much you can convert to a Roth IRA in a single year, but most people try to keep themselves from jumping up to the next tax bracket, which we will discuss below.
You May Like: How Much Money Can You Put In 401k Per Year
Roth 401 To Roth Ira Conversions
If your 401 plan was a Roth account, then it can only be rolled over to a Roth IRA. The rollover process is straightforward. The transferred funds have the same tax basis, composed of after-tax dollars. This is not, to use IRS parlance, a taxable event.
You should check how to handle any employer matching contributions, because those will be in a companion regular 401 account and taxes may be due on them. You can establish a new Roth IRA for your 401 funds or roll them over into an existing Roth.
Rollover Traditional And Roth Iras: Money In Money Out
By: Eva Sadej
IRAs are special brokerage accounts designed to allow individuals to save money for their retirement and manage their portfolios. There are two types of IRAs: Traditional or Roth. There are also two types of contributions to an IRA: rollover contributions and direct contributions. These contributions can either be tax-deferred or not. This can get a bit complex since taxes and the IRS are involved, so lets go over the similarities and differences.
To begin with, rollover contributions come from an investors 401, 403, or other retirement plan. There isnt technically such a thing as a Rollover IRA its actually a type of tax-free distribution from one retirement plan to another. However many brokerage houses will designate new IRAs that are created from a rollover so that the IRS knows that the new account contains assets that were transferred from another 401k, 403b, IRA or other qualified plan. Because rollover contributions come from an existing tax-advantaged retirement plan, the rollover contribution isnt typically taxed or subject to the annual limitations of direct contributions.
So dont let the word Rollover throw you. When you roll over, you can choose to roll over into one of the two types of IRAs: Traditional IRAs or Roth IRAs. and 403 plans are tax deferred, not tax exempt, a distinction well get into more detail below.)
Also Check: Is There A Limit On 401k Contributions
Know The Rules For Roth 401 Rollovers
Eric is currently a duly licensed Independent Insurance Broker licensed in Life, Health, Property, and Casualty insurance. He has worked more than 13 years in both public and private accounting jobs and more than four years licensed as an insurance producer. His background in tax accounting has served as a solid base supporting his current book of business.
If you have moved jobs while holding a traditional 401, you are probably familiar with the rollover options for these ubiquitous retirement accounts. You may be less sure, though, of your options when you leave an employer with whom you hold a Roth 401, the newer and less prevalent cousin of the traditional 401.
The main difference between the traditional 401 and the Roth 401 is that the former is funded with pretax dollars while Roth contributions are in post-tax dollars so there is no tax hit from a qualified withdrawal made in the future.
If your job is at stake, or you are considering a career move, here are your options regarding your Roth 401 account when changing employers.
Rolling Over Your Old 401 To A New Employer
Many companies offer 401 plans, so people often end up having multiple 401s over their years in the workforce. If youd rather keep your funds in a single 401 or dont want to open an IRA, you might have the option of transferring assets from your old 401 to your new one at your current job. If not, youll need to keep an eye on how each is performing individually.
The process for this is as simple as talking to both your current and past plan providers to make sure they will both accept a transfer of assets. While the providers can offer more specific instructions, youll likely use one of the methods above to complete the rollover.
Note that not all plan providers will accept employees past 401 funds as a rollover. This is because they may not be willing to add more assets to the plan, which could overwhelm it.
Don’t Miss: How To Access Your 401k Account
How Do I Prove Ira Rollover To Irs
Reporting your rollover is relatively quick and easy all you need is your 1099-R and 1040 forms.
What About The Roth 401k
If your employer offers a Roth 401k and you were savvy enough to take part, the path to a rollover will be much easier. When youre converting one Roth product to another, there is simply no need for a conversion. You would simply roll the Roth 401 directly into the Roth IRA with the help of your plan provider.
Roll Your 401 by Following These Steps
Read Also: Can I Roll My 401k Into A Brokerage Account
Converting A Traditional 401 To A Roth Ira
Youll owe some taxes in the year when you make the rollover because of the crucial differences between a traditional 401 and a Roth IRA:
- A traditional 401 is funded with the salary from your pretax income. It comes right off the top of your gross income. You pay no taxes on the money that you contribute or the profit that it earns until you withdraw the money, presumably after you retire. You will then owe taxes on withdrawals.
- A Roth IRA is funded with post-tax dollars. You pay the income taxes up front before it is deposited in your account. You wont owe taxes on that money or on the profit that it earns when you withdraw it.
So, when you roll over a traditional 401 to a Roth IRA, youll owe income taxes on that money in the year when you make the switch.
The total amount transferred will be taxed at your ordinary income rate, just like your salary. Tax brackets for 2021 range from 10% to 37% and remain the same for 2022.
There Are Tax Consequences For 401 Rollovers To A Roth Ira
If you roll your 401 into a Roth IRA, you will have to pay taxes on that money. Unlike a pre-tax 401 and traditional IRA accounts, a Roth IRA is a post-tax account. This means that you pay taxes on the funds before you put them in the Roth IRA. A big advantage of the Roth IRA over the traditional IRA is that you can make withdrawals without paying additional taxes since the money has already been taxed.
- Roll over a traditional 401 into a traditional IRA, tax-free.
- Roll over a Roth 401 into a Roth IRA, tax-free.
- Roll over a traditional 401 into a Roth IRAthis would be considered a Roth conversion, so youd owe taxes. Note: A Roth conversion that happens at the same time as your rollover may not be eligible for all plans. We can usually complete the Roth conversion once your pre-tax assets arrive into your Vanguard IRA account, though.
Don’t Miss: Can You Roll Over A 403b Into A 401k
Tax Consequences When Rolling A 401 Into A Roth Ira
There are two main types of 401 plans available. Traditional 401 plans allow you to deposit pre-tax money into your retirement account. Youll need to pay taxes on these funds when you withdraw them.
Roth 401 plans, meanwhile, consist of after-tax money you contribute to your account. As a result, you wont owe any additional money when it comes time to withdraw. The same is true for a Roth IRA.
This means that there are tax consequences if you rollover a 401 to Roth IRA. Because a standard 401 is funded with before-tax dollars, you will need to pay taxes on those funds in order to move that money into an after-tax funded Roth IRA account.
Not everyone is eligible for a Roth IRA there are income limits to prevent high earners from avoiding tax. However, its still possible for high earners to create one, called a backdoor Roth IRA, by converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.
What Is An Ira Rollover
A rollover is simply the act of taking the money from one tax-exempt retirement account and moving it to a different one. You can roll over funds from a 401 to an IRA, or from an IRA to another IRA. You can either do a direct rollover, where your 401 plan sends the money directly to your IRA, or you can do it indirectly, where you make the withdrawal yourself and deposit the funds into the IRA yourself. If you choose an indirect rollover, you have to move the money into the IRA within 60 days.
Also Check: How To Borrow Money From My 401k
Topic No 413 Rollovers From Retirement Plans
A rollover occurs when you withdraw cash or other assets from one eligible retirement plan and contribute all or part of it, within 60 days, to another eligible retirement plan. This rollover transaction isn’t taxable, unless the rollover is to a Roth IRA or a designated Roth account from another type of plan or account, but it is reportable on your federal tax return. You must include the taxable amount of a distribution that you don’t roll over in income in the year of the distribution.
Annuity Vs : Reasons To Rollover A 401 To An Annuity
Often debated among financial experts is whether an annuity should ever be used in a tax-qualified 401. Like a 401k, annuities provide income tax deferral. Therefore, it may at first seem redundant to place an annuity inside a qualified retirement plan.
That might be true if the onlybenefit an annuity offered is tax deferral. But, the fact is, annuities offer many advantages, whether held inside or outside of a 401.
Annuities are flexible investment products that can help you achieve your long-term financial goals and provide a source of retirement income. Tax deferral alone is not a sufficient reason to use an annuity in a tax-qualified plan. But income options, death benefit protection, investment selections and services, and flexibility are benefits an annuity can bring to any 401.
Read Also: How Do You Take Money Out Of 401k
Read Also: How Do I Put My 401k Into An Ira