Our combined (married) income from paychecks for 2016 will be 180k, which makes us eligible for Roth IRA contributions. However we are also anticipating some 16-20k in disability benefits (non-taxable). Does this also count towards the Roth income limit? If so, that would make us ineligible and might have to resort to backdoor Roth. Any thoughts?
The answer to this question is more complicated than it seems.
TLDR; - Yes, they count. Assuming that you are receiving SSDI benefits, those count towards your MAGI, which would bump you out of the range to contribute your income towards the Roth IRA.
It appears that whether disability benefits affect the MAGI (Modified Adjusted Gross Income - what determines IRA limits) can be dependent on other factors (for example, if someone can claim you as a dependent).
Also stated in the first article, if you are receiving SSDI (which it sounds like you are) and not SSI, it DOES count towards your MAGI, and therefor affects your income limits that qualify you for the Roth IRA. (SSI would not count towards the limit it seems, so double-check what disability benefits you are actually receiving).
If you are receiving SSI benefits, those may not count towards the roth limit. And since you have earned income, you are eligible to contribute to a retirement savings account, as long as you are within the limits.
In terms of taxes, it sounds as if in your situation, your disability benefits will count towards your combined income, even though they may or may not actually affect your gross income.
You are married, and have a household income that is separate from your disability income. Because of this, you could potentially be taxed on your disability income, even though it is not considered by the IRS to be "earned income." Another piece of the puzzle, is that to contribute to a roth, you must have earned income which you do have. If you were just receiving the disability beneifts, you could not contribute to a roth at all: http://www.rothira.com/roth-ira-limits.
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