I contribute the max to my Roth IRA every year ($5500 in 2013, for example). However, let's say I use that money to buy two stocks, with a commission $10 each, so I am effectively only contributing $5480. Admittedly this is pretty small but that extra $20 would have compounded, and if I follow this pattern every year it is like a 0.36% expense ratio. The same would apply to tax-deferred accounts like a traditional IRA. So I am wondering, is it possible to use external money (aside from the $5500 Roth contribution) to pay trading commissions? First of all, is this legal? I hypothesize perhaps not if the government wants to discourage lots of trading in tax-advantaged accounts. If it's legal, do any brokerages support this?


According to Publication 590, broker's commissions for stock transactions within an IRA cannot be paid in addition to the IRA contribution(s), but they are deductible as part of the contribution, or add to the basis if you are making a nondeductible contribution to a Traditional IRA. (Top of Page 10, and Page 12, column 1, in the 2012 edition of Pub 590). On the other hand, trustees' administrative fees can be paid from outside the IRA if they are billed separately, and are even deductible as a Miscellaneous Deduction on Schedule A of your income tax return (subject to the 2% of AGI threshold). A long time ago, when my IRA account balances were much smaller, I used to get a bill from my IRA custodian for a $20 annual administrative fee which I paid separately (but never got to deduct due to the 2% threshold). My custodian also allowed the option of doing nothing in which case the $20 would be collected from (and thus reduce) the amount of money in my IRA. Note that this does not apply to the expenses charged by the mutual funds that you might have in your IRA; these expenses are treated the same as brokerage commissions and must be paid from within the IRA.

  • Guess I remembered wrong... What page is it on? I can't find it... – littleadv Nov 3 '13 at 19:09
  • @littleadv I added in the references into my answer. – Dilip Sarwate Nov 3 '13 at 19:18
  • Oh, so I remembered right! I thought you wrote "can be paid in addition", now I see you wrote cannot, which is what I remembered...:) – littleadv Nov 3 '13 at 20:01
  • Pub590 (2013) and Pub590A (2014) talk about Traditional IRA specifically: Brokers' commissions paid in connection with your traditional IRA are subject to the contribution limit. How does that apply to Roth? – alexandroid Mar 2 '15 at 20:31

Nice idea. When I started my IRAs, I considered this as well, and the answer from the broker was that this was not permitted. And, aside from transfers from other IRAs or retirement accounts, you can't 'deposit' shares to the IRA, only cash.

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