Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) can help boost your savings for retirement, provided that you adhere to the rules. The amount you can contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA in 2020 and 2021 is generally $6,000 for those younger than age 50. However, your age, income, and other retirement accounts may allow you to save more—or require you to contribute less.
The contribution limits discussed do not apply to SEP IRAs or SIMPLE IRAs.
IRA Contribution Limits
The amounts in 2020 and 2021 are the same for both traditional IRAs, which are tax-deductible, and Roth IRAs, which are not tax-deductible. Total contributions to traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs cannot exceed:
- $6,000 ($7,000 with "catch-up" contributions for taxpayers ages 50 or older)
- Your annual taxable compensation
These amounts remain unchanged from the IRA contribution limits for 2020.
The combined contribution limit grants you the ability to contribute to either a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. You also can contribute a partial amount to both, as long as you don't exceed the dollar limits above. For example, you can contribute $6,000 to a traditional IRA or $2,000 to a traditional IRA and $4,000 to a Roth IRA, as long as the total combined amount does not exceed $6,000 (unless you age age 50 or older).
IRA Income Rules
In order to contribute to an IRA, you must meet the compensation threshold and not exceed the income limits.
IRA Minimum Income
You must earn compensation to make a contribution to either a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. For the purposes of an IRA, compensation includes:
- Self-employment income
- Taxable alimony
- Non-taxable combat pay
It doesn't include:
- Income from real estate, including property income, interest income, and dividend income
- Income from pensions or annuities
- Compensation that was deferred in a prior year
- Income from non-income-producing partnerships
- Income from Conservation Reserve Programs (CRPs)
- Other amounts you don't include as income, such as foreign-earned income
In addition, the amount of compensation must equal or exceed the amount of your IRA contribution. This means that if you're retired and no longer earning compensation, you can't make an IRA contribution, although you can still roll over or transfer money from a 401(k) to an IRA.
You can also make an IRA contribution for a non-working spouse who has no compensation, as long as you are married and filing jointly, and your compensation is equal to or greater than your contribution amount. This is referred to as a "spousal IRA contribution."
Roth IRA Maximum Income
You can contribute to a traditional IRA as long as you have earned income. Your Roth IRA contribution limit, however, depends on your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) and filing status:
- In 2020, you can put in up to the IRA contribution limit if your modified AGI is less than $124,000 if your filing status is single, or $196,000 if you are married and filing jointly.
- In 2021, you can contribute up to the limit if you're a single filer with a modified AGI less than $125,000 or married and filing jointly with a modified AGI of $198,000.
- In 2020, you could contribute a reduced amount if your modified AGI was between $124,000 and $139,000 as a single filer, or between $196,000 and $206,000 as a married couple filing jointly. You can use Worksheet 2-2 in IRS Publication 590-A to calculate the reduced contribution limit.
- In 2021, the ranges are from $125,000 to $140,000 for a single filer, and $198,000 to $208,000 if married filing jointly.
- In 2020, you couldn't contribute any amount to a Roth IRA if your modified AGI was $139,000 or more as a single, or $206,000 as a married couple filing jointly.
- In 2021, you can't contribute if your modified AGI is $140,000 as a single filer, or $208,000 if married and filing jointly.
IRA rollovers and transfers don't count as "contributions," so they won't affect your ability to fund an IRA.
IRA Age Limits
In tax years before 2020, you had to stop making contributions to a traditional IRA no later than the year you reach age 70 1/2. Beginning with the 2020 tax year, there is no age limit for contributing to traditional IRAs. There's also no cut-off for Roth IRAs due to age, so you can continue contributing to those IRAs beyond age 70 1/2 as long as you continue to receive compensation.
IRA Deduction Limits
You can't deduct any of your contributions to Roth IRAs. That is because you contribute to those accounts with post-tax dollars and withdraw from them on a tax-free basis in retirement.
Traditional IRA contributions allow for a tax deduction in the year the contribution was made, either in whole or in part. It's important to note that the taxes are not forgiven but are merely deferred, meaning that you will pay normal income tax on the money when it's withdrawn, ideally during retirement. One other factor that determines how much of the contribution you can actually deduct depends on whether you and/or your spouse are covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
Deduction Limits When Not Covered by a Company-Sponsored Retirement Plan
You can deduct the contribution in full when you're not enrolled in a retirement plan at work and:
- You have any Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI), and your filing status is single, head of household, or married and filing jointly with a spouse who isn't covered by a company-sponsored retirement plan.
- Your MAGI is greater than or equal to the allowable contribution limit. If not, you can only deduct the amount of your MAGI.
- Your spouse is covered by a company-sponsored retirement plan, but your MAGI is below $196,000 for 2020 or $198,000 for 2021.
You can take a partial deduction when:
- You have a MAGI of between $196,000 and $206,000 in 2020 ($198,000 and $208,000 in 2021) if married and filing jointly with a spouse covered by a company-sponsored retirement plan.
- You have a MAGI of less than $10,000 in 2020 or 2021 if married and filing separately with a spouse enrolled in a company retirement plan.
You can't deduct the contribution when:
- You have a MAGI of $206,000 or more in 2020 ($208,000 in 2021) if married and filing jointly with a spouse covered by a company-sponsored retirement plan.
- You have a MAGI of $10,000 or more in 2020 or 2021 if married and filing separately with a spouse covered by a company-sponsored retirement plan.
You can use Worksheet 1-2 in IRS Publication 590-A to calculate partial IRA deductions.
Deduction Limits When Covered by a Company-Sponsored Retirement Plan
Your traditional IRA contribution deduction is also limited if you contribute to a work retirement account. You can deduct the contribution in full if:
- You have a MAGI of $65,000 or less in 2020 ($66,000 or less in 2021) and your filing status is single or head of household.
- You have a MAGI of $104,000 or less in 2020 ($105,000 in 2021) if married filing jointly.
You can take a partial deduction if:
- You have a MAGI of between $65,000 and $75,000 in 2020 ($66,000 to $76,000 in 2021) if your filing status is single or head of household.
- You have a MAGI of between $104,000 and $124,000 in 2020 ($105,000 to $125,000 in 2021) if married and filing jointly.
- You have a MAGI of less than $10,000 in 2020 or 2021 if married and filing separately.
You can't deduct the contribution when:
- You have a MAGI of $75,000 or more in 2020 ($76,000 or more in 2021) if your filing status is single or head of household.
- You have a MAGI of $124,000 or more in 2020 ($125,000 or more in 2021) if married and filing jointly.
- You have a MAGI of $10,000 or more in 2020 or 2021 if married filing separately.
You can still make contributions to traditional IRAs even if they are not deductible. For example, you can make IRA contributions if you and/or your spouse participate in a company-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k), even if they are not deductible. The funds in the account will grow tax-deferred until you take a withdrawal, which means there is still a benefit in contributing to them.
IRA Contribution Deadlines
Note that the normal deadline to make your 2020 IRA contribution was the due date for filing your personal tax return, which was May 17, 2021. It's always useful to save early, as the sooner you put in money according to the IRA contribution limits above, the more time it has to grow on a tax-deferred basis.