Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Convert Traditional IRA into Roth IRA
Here's the best scenario for this idea: Your traditional IRA is (or was) loaded with equities and has still not fully recovered from the beating taken during the 2008/2009 stock market meltdown. So your account is now worth less than it once was. Correspondingly, the tax hit from converting your traditional IRA into a Roth IRA right now would also be less than it would have been at the market peak. Why? Because a Roth conversion is treated as a taxable liquidation of your traditional IRA followed by a nondeductible contribution to the new Roth IRA. While even the reduced tax hit from converting is unwelcome, it may be a small price to pay for future tax savings. After the conversion, all the income and gains that accumulate in your Roth IRA, and all withdrawals, will be totally free of any federal income taxes - assuming you meet the tax-free withdrawal rules. In contrast, future withdrawals from a traditional IRA could be hit with tax rates that are higher than today's rates.
Of course conversion is not a no-brainer. You have to be satisfied that paying the up-front conversion tax bill makes sense in your circumstances. In particular, converting a big account all at once could push you into higher 2012 tax brackets, which would not be good. You must also make assumptions about future tax rates, how long you will leave the account untouched, the rate of return earned on your Roth IRA investments, and so forth. If the Roth conversion idea intrigues you, please contact us for a full analysis of the relevant variables.
DON'T OVERLOOK ESTATE PLANNING
For 2012, the unified federal gift and estate tax exemption is a historically generous $5.12 million. However, the exemption will drop back to only $1 million in 2013 unless Congress takes action. In addition, the maximum federal estate tax rate for 2013 and beyond is scheduled to rise from the current 35% to a painfully high 55%. Therefore, planning to avoid or minimize the federal estate tax should still be part of your overall financial game plan. Even if you already have a good plan, it may need updating to reflect the current $5.12 million exemption and the uncertainty about next year's rules. Contact us for specifics.