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Currently the annual IRA contribution limit is $5,500. Let's say I wanted to put $5,500 in my IRA for this year (2015) and for next year (2016), for a total of $10,100. How late can I put in the $5,500 for this year? Do I have to put it in the IRA by Dec 31 or can I do it before Apr 15, Tax Day?

One thing that's unclear to me and that could help elucidate the answer... do I get any documentation from the IRA provider w.r.t. my IRA? Do I get a 1099 or some such showing how much money I've contributed in the IRA? If so then when might I get that and when might it be mailed out? If it's mailed out on Feb 1 could that mean that Feb 1, 2016 would be the deadline for me to put funds in my IRA for 2015? Or maybe the deadline is Apr 15, 2016 but I'd just have to add my last contribution manually to a particular section on the form?

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    Don't wait until the last day; do it at least a week early. Every year we get questions from people who sent in their contribution on 4/15, and the bank said it was too late for the prior year. – Ben Miller Dec 26 '15 at 6:34
  • @ben yeah... plus some banks may have account verification requirements which take a while. When I first set up my IRA it was about two weeks before I was able to actually make my deposits. – enderland Dec 26 '15 at 16:05
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The IRA contribution for the year are allowed until the tax day of that year. I.e.: you can contribute for 2015 until April 15th, 2016 (or whatever the first business day is after that, if the 15th is a holiday).

You'll have to explicitly designate your contribution for 2015, since some of the IRA providers may automatically designate the current year unless you explicitly say otherwise. If that happens - it will be very hard to fix later, so pay attention when you're making the contribution.

You get a couple of things from your IRA provider:

Form 5498 - details your contributions for the year, account FMV, and RMD details. You can see the actual form here. You don't always get this form, if you didn't contribute anything and no RMD is required for you. Since the last day to contribute is April 15th, these forms are usually being sent out around mid-May. But you should know how much you've contributed by the tax day without it, obviously, so this is only for the IRS matching and your record-tracking.

Form 1099-R includes information about distributions (including withdrawals and roll-overs). You may not get this form if you didn't take any money out of your IRA. These come out around end of January.

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    In 2016 tax day is Monday, April 18th for most everyone in the US (due to 4/15/16 being Emancipation Day in Washington DC) and Tuesday, April 19th for people in Maine and Massachusetts (due to Patriots’ Day (no, not those Patriots) falling on 4/18/16). The answer's still a good one, and if the pushed out dates make a difference in your IRA contribution, you're waiting too long, but just wanted to be accurate. – blm Dec 26 '15 at 18:05
  • Tiny modification: in my experience they mostly send 5498 in Jan or Feb covering the calendar year (and year-end FMV, which you may need even without any RMD applying), and if you make contributions in the Jan-Apr period also send corrected 5498 in May. Plus nowadays 'send' is often actually 'post on website for you to download'. – dave_thompson_085 Apr 14 at 18:04

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