In 2023, you will be able to make a full Roth IRA contribution as a single if you make less than $138,000 per year. However, if you are married and file jointly, you can only make a full Roth IRA contribution if you and your spouse make less than $218,000 per year, which is less than 2 times $138,000 (which would be $276,000). Why is this? It seems unfair to married couples. You can still do a backdoor IRA, right?

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    There are a LOT of things different about filing jointly vs. filing individually, some of which seem equally unfair to those of us who are single. They're beneficial for some couples, less so for others. If you think this will make a difference in your case, it's up to you to run the numbers and see which approach makes sense.
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 19:58

1 Answer 1


Why is this?

Because the basic assumption of the lawmakers is that there's a breadwinner and a housewife. Under that assumption, any increase of limits would be beneficial since the income doesn't change with the marital status.

It seems unfair to married couples

Yes. This is called a "marriage penalty". The more the "other" spouse earns - the higher the penalty.

You can still do a backdoor IRA, right?

Yes. You can still contribute to a traditional IRA without claiming deduction, and then if you want - convert into Roth. Use form 8606 to track non-deductible IRA contributions. Worth reminding that there are pro-rata rules for IRA conversion that may make it partially taxable if you have IRA balances with gains or deductible contributions. Backdoor Roth IRA works best if you start and end every year with $0 balance in your traditional IRA (across all the custodians).

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    Perhaps it is worth reminding the OP that backdoor Roth IRAs work best if there are no other Traditional IRA accounts (whether with the same custodian or different ones) that are holding deductible contributions from previous years. If such other Traditional IRA accounts exist, the amount rolled over into the backdoor Roth is prorated between the untaxed value of the Traditional IRA and the nondeductible contribution just made, and income tax is due on the untaxed amount that is rolled over into the backdoor Roth IRA. Moral: don't do this if you have other Traditional IRA accounts. Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 20:41
  • @DilipSarwate good call out, added a couple of sentences on that
    – littleadv
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 20:49

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