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Question: My client is 54. He did one Roth conversion is 2007, and another in 2011. If he takes a distribution from his Roth IRA now, what is the order of distributions from the Roth IRA?
Answer: Here’s an edited excerpt from Publication 590:
Ordering Rules for Distributions
If you receive a distribution from your Roth IRA that is not a qualified distribution, part of it may be taxable. There is a set order in which contributions (including conversion contributions and rollover contributions from qualified retirement plans) and earnings are considered to be distributed from your Roth IRA….
Order the distributions as follows.
- 1. Regular contributions.
- 2. Conversion and rollover contributions, on a first-in, first-out basis (generally, total conversions and rollovers from the earliest year first). See Aggregation (grouping and adding) rules, later. Take these conversion and rollover contributions into account as follows:
- a. Taxable portion (the amount required to be included in gross income because of the conversion or rollover) first, and then the
- b. Nontaxable portion.
- 3. Earnings on contributions.
In this example, assuming the taxpayer has made no regular Roth contributions to the Roth IRA, a withdrawal will come from the 2007 conversion first.
Why is that important? Well a nonqualified distribution to a pre-59 ½ taxpayer from amounts converted within the last five years are generally subject to an extra 10% penalty tax. In this case, if amounts are distributed from the 2011 conversion, they would be subject to the penalty tax. So the ordering rules help make sure that the taxpayer dips into the oldest conversion—in this case, one that happened more than five years ago—first.
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