While doing my taxes, I came to the realization that my income for 2015 is above the limit to contribute the full $5500 to my Roth IRA, but below the limit where I am unable to contribute. My contribution limit for 2015 turned out to be $4400 but I had contributed the full $5500; I contributed an excess $1100.

I've seen different suggestions on how to deal with this, but I'm confused about what they all mean and what the ultimate implications are. It seems my options are the following.

  1. Withdraw the excess from the Roth IRA
  2. Convert the excess to a Traditional IRA
  3. Pay a 6% tax penalty on the over contribution

It sounds like the withdrawal is the least painful, but it is now 2016 and I am unsure what the implications of doing this withdrawal would be since 2015 is over; is there an issue with this? If the withdrawal is not an option, is there still time to do the do the Traditional IRA conversion (there is just under a month till April 15th)?

No matter what I do, is there any paperwork I need to file to ensure I do not get audited?

Note: it seems that there is a similar question that at the time of asking does not yet have an answer.

  • You should call your IRA administrator and ask them. I bet they would know which are permitted and which is easiest. I believe moving the excess into a traditional IRA would be both easiest and best. I think the deadline is October 15 but it may be April 15. Plenty of time if you get on it right away.
    – farnsy
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 4:08
  • By the way, moving all or part into a traditional IRA is called "recharacterizing" your Roth contribution. It's common. Including this term will help as you google it.
    – farnsy
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 4:12
  • 1
    Link you may want to read: rothira.com/blog/…
    – farnsy
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 4:13

2 Answers 2

  1. Yes, you can withdraw the excess contribution (or actually any amount you contributed for 2015, not necessarily an excess), plus earnings from that withdrawn contribution, by April 15, and not incur a penalty for the excess contribution. It would count as if you did not contribute that amount at all. The earnings would be taxed as regular income, and the earnings may incur a penalty.

  2. Yes, you can "recharacterize" (all or part of) your Roth IRA contribution as a Traditional IRA contribution (or vice versa) by April 15. Recharacterization means you pretend the contribution was originally made as a Traditional IRA contribution, and did not involve Roth IRA at all. ("Conversion" is something very different and can only go from Traditional to Roth, not the other way around.) You are likely not eligible to deduct that Traditional IRA contribution, so you will have to report it as a non-deductible Traditional IRA contribution on a 2015 Form 8606 Part 1.

    Note that after you've recharacterized it as a Traditional IRA contribution, you can also then "convert" that Traditional IRA money to a Roth IRA if you want, achieving the same state as what you have now. Contributing to a Traditional IRA and then converting to a Roth IRA is called a "backdoor Roth IRA contribution"; if you don't have any existing pre-tax money in Traditional IRA or other IRAs, then this achieves the same as a regular Roth IRA contribution except with no income limits. When you convert, the earnings you have made since contributing will be taxed as income. If you had done the backdoor originally to begin with (convert right after contributing), you would have had no earnings in between and no tax to pay, but since if you do the conversion now you have waited so long, you are disadvantaged by having to pay tax on the earnings in between. If you convert, you will have to fill out Form 8606 Part 2 for the year you convert (2016).

  • Note that if you do withdraw the excess contribution, the earnings on it become income that count towards your MAGI, which will further reduce your Roth contribution limit. See money.stackexchange.com/questions/93186 Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 14:02

You should simply withdraw the excess contributions by April 15. You have until October 15 if you go through the extra step of filing an amended tax return.


It unnecessary for you to pay the 6% penalty. You should wait until you can estimate your 2016 accurately before making your 2016 contribution. If your income is too high for the Roth IRA, you might instead pursue the backdoor Roth IRA strategy:


  • "You should wait until you can estimate your 2016 accurately before making your 2016 contribution." You don't have to wait -- you can just do the backdoor, regardless of income.
    – user102008
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 5:02

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