Converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA results in current income taxes. Also, certain taxpayers with high income cannot avail themselves of converting
If you have money outside your IRA that can cover the taxes, you are more likely to want to convert the IRA. The reason for doing so is that no taxes are due on withdrawals during retirement. Also, the asset passes to heirs with no income tax.
However, you are trading the taxes now, lessening your total investments, for future taxes. So you need to work through the decision to convert carefully
The calculation is complicated and, for example, if the traditional IRA were to be subject to taxes at a lower rate than now, converting might make sense.
A list of concerns appears below. If you are considering making this conversion and want help with the decision, let us know.
First, Bob Keebler is a CPA with a major accounting firm, Baker Tilly, in Appleton, Wis., and author of The Big IRA Book. Here’s his reaction to the article:
“The math of the conversion is more complex than this author addresses:
• When rates are going down the conversion likely makes no sense.
• When rates are going up the conversion is more likely to make sense.
• Conversions are likely better for the person who does not need the funds to live off.
• Conversions are generally better for the person that has outside funds to pay the taxes.
• Conversions for a couple before the first death can make sense.
• Conversions with the intention to monitor the market often make sense.
• Conversions for a person with an estate tax problem will make more sense than for a person without an estate tax issue.
• Conversions to leave a Roth to grandchildren often have merit.
• Conversions for a person with an NOL or other carryforward can make sense.
“This question is very complex and a calculator cannot replace the professional’s judgment.”