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The 2015 IRA contribution deadline is in April 2016. As such it is possible to contribute $5500 to my 2015 IRA and $5500 to my 2016 IRA during the 2016 calendar year. My question is simply: if I choose to do this, can I deduct the full $11000 from my 2016 federal income taxes? Or would the 2015 IRA contributions be deducted from my 2015 taxes, and the 2016 IRA contributions from my 2016 taxes?

Context: my income is dramatically higher in 2016 than in 2015 (but I still have no employer retirement plan), so deducting the same amount in 2016 instead of 2015 would be advantageous, if it is possible.

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    The answers by littleadv and mhoran_psprep tell you all that you need to know (+1 to both of them), but I will add a small twist: if you are married (or will be married as of December 31, 2016), and plan on continuing to be married to the same person for the rest of your life, you could consider creating a Spousal IRA in your spouse's name for 2016 even if your spouse has no earned income and is thus ineligible to contribute to a separate IRA for his/herself. So, you can deduct $11K on your 2016 return. – Dilip Sarwate Nov 14 '15 at 17:55
  • Very interesting point on the spousal IRA, that may come in handy in the future, if maybe not in 2016. :) – D Coetzee Nov 14 '15 at 22:32
  • Wouldn't the answer possibly depend on local tax legislation? – Hagen von Eitzen Nov 15 '15 at 10:20
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Unfortunately you have to take the deduction in the proper tax year. Your 2015 contribution, even if made in 2016 impacts the taxes you file in April 2016. The logic allows taxpayers to decide how much to contribute into a IRA or Roth IRA after all the other calculations have been done. Some people are near the cutoffs and can't know what makes sense or what is allowed until all the numbers are in.

This following suggestion may seem counter-intuitive; but if you are in a very low tax bracket this year, and expect to be in a very high bracket next year you might consider a Roth IRA for your 2015 contribution.

For the low level of taxes you will pay on that $5500 now, you can pull all the gains out tax free when you retire, which may be decades from now.

  • Your answer was a bit later than littleadv's but more informative, I hadn't even considered that I'd still be eligible for contributing to a Roth IRA in 2015! Thank you. :) – D Coetzee Nov 14 '15 at 22:30
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No, 2015 IRA contribution counts towards 2015, despite the fact that the deadline extends to April of the next year.

The logic behind the extension is to allow you to decide whether you can even make the contribution after you have all the year-end data, including your eligibility for 401(k) or other plans (affects your limits), or having earned income at all (affects your eligibility altogether). You cannot deduct the contribution attributed to 2015 on your 2016 taxes.

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    And, perhaps obviously, but just to be really clear, the income limits for a 2015 contribution made in 2016 are still the 2015 limits as well. So if you had no earned income in 2015, you can't contribute to a 2015 IRA at all. – blm Nov 14 '15 at 17:41

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