Backdoor Roth IRA Planning: A Tax-free Financial Strategy

Backdoor Roth planning: a simple tool to save you more in the long-term

Roth IRAs are a great tool and a basic financial planning strategy. Roth IRAs work well and have strong appeal due to the tax-free nature of its distributions and the fact that you don’t have to take money out during your lifetime. This offers the opportunity for a multi-generational compounding earnings so taxpayers can potentially leave significant wealth to their heirs. So how can taxpayers utilize a Roth IRA long-term? Read on to learn about backdoor Roth planning: a simple tool to save you more in the long-term.

Tax Treatment of Roth IRAs

The tax treatment of a Roth IRA is almost the exact opposite of a traditional IRA. There are no income limitations when making a traditional IRA contribution, and contributions can be either deductible or nondeductible. Whereas, annual Roth IRA contributions are subject to income limits and begin to phase-out when modified adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds $189,000.

A problem arises from the limitations. Individuals whose income is too large to contribute to a Roth IRA will often be active participants in a retirement plan, and therefore, can only make nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA.

As a result, a “backdoor strategy” is available to work around the Roth contribution income limits. This strategy is a two-step process, made up of a contribute-then-convert transaction.

How does a Backdoor Roth Plan Work?

The backdoor Roth plan enables you to contribute to a regular IRA without the concern of income limitations. This contribution would also be non-deductible. Then, you can follow the contribution with a conversion to a Roth IRA. This works because there is no income limitation on Roth conversions.

The strategy is fairly simple; however, there are a few considerations. A person must satisfy the requirements to be able to contribute to a regular IRA—this generally means having earned income and not being over the age of 70½. Beyond this, a Roth conversion can be subject to tax as part of the pro-rata rule, which maintains that if a taxpayer has other traditional IRA funds, their Roth conversion is partially taxable. Ultimately, the IRS requires taxpayers to aggregate all of their IRAs, so in this situation, individuals must consider their IRA assets when calculating their taxes due upon conversion.

Another caveat to keep in mind is that if the original contribution isn’t converted quickly, it has the potential to accumulate earnings—and those earnings would then be taxable on the later conversion.

Additional Considerations for Backdoor Roth Planning

If an individual has no other traditional IRAs, then the strategy can be a simple procedure for high income taxpayers who can’t otherwise invest in a Roth IRA directly. And making nondeductible contributions to traditional IRAs today can facilitate conversions in the future; for example, when income is lower.

Executing this plan for a married couple over a period of years can allow for a rapid accumulation of assets, including significant compounding of earnings over time and resulting in a large account balance that is free from income. The lifetime Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) rules that apply to traditional IRAs do not apply to Roth IRAs.

It’s also important to note that if an individual is a participant in an eligible retirement plan that allows rollovers from IRAs, those IRA funds can be placed into the plan. This will eliminate the IRA balances and prevent the application of the aggregation rule.


Individuals can use backdoor Roth planning for long-term, tax-free saving opportunities. The deadline to make contributions for 2018 is April 15, 2019. Please contact a Sikich Financial Wealth Advisor for assistance with your retirement planning.

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By |2019-04-01T09:05:01+00:00April 1st, 2019|Wealth Management|0 Comments

About the Author:

Sikich LLP
Sikich is a leading professional services firm specializing in accounting, technology and advisory services. For over 30 years, Sikich has been helping clients focus on overall business growth and the components that result in building the bottom line. Sikich has more than 750 associates and has been ranked as one of the country’s 30 largest accounting firms and among the top one percent of all enterprise resource planning solution partners in the world.
This material has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as accounting, tax, or other professional advice. Please refer to your advisors for specific advice.

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