It is possible to recharacterize an IRA contribution, for example, by moving money contributed/converted to a Roth IRA account into a Traditional IRA account.

Is it possible to "recharacterize" a distribution from an IRA of either type?

For example, if a withdrawal is made from a Traditional IRA but it is later determined that a withdrawal from a Roth IRA would have been better (pushed over an income bracket/limit, mistake distribution, changes in financial situation, etc.), is there any recourse?

What is the time limit, if any, for doing so (end of calendar year, tax filing date, something else?)

2 Answers 2


You cannot recharacterize a distribution from an IRA the way you can recharacterize a contribution. It the latter case, you are in effect telling your IRA custodian to treat the contribution as having been made to a different kind of an IRA from the very first day that the contribution was originally made.

As described in JoeTaxpayer's answer, you can put back the distribution into the same IRA account or establish a new IRA account (of the same type) and deposit the distribution into the new account. Note carefully you have 60 days (not two months) to complete this maneuver and that postmarks don't count: the money must be deposited into the account, not just received by the custodian. Also, the 60-day clock starts on the day that the distribution was made by the IRA custodian and not the day you received the money.

If you choose to put back the money into the "wrong" kind of IRA as described above, you can take a distribution from the "right" kind of IRA, and effectively achieve a kind of "recharacterization" of the net distribution, but the mechanics are more complicated and the deadlines a lot tighter.

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    Agree, so long as the second withdrawal isn't past year end. Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 17:52

A withdrawal from an IRA has a 60 day period during which time you may roll it over to another IRA, effectively "borrowing" and returning the money. Once that time has passed, the transaction is complete.

Your question asks in one place about deposit, then withdrawal. You might edit to clarify the timing of your situation and your intentions.

  • The deposit part (I assume you mean the first sentence) is for context, comparing what I want (distribution recharacterization) to a contribution recharacterization. I don't have an actual timeline, I'm interested in knowing what the rules are for future reference.
    – arcyqwerty
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 15:24

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