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Let's say I end up in a position where I have to withdraw from my Roth IRA. Not a crazy amount, but let's just say I withdraw $1000 after maxing my contribution for the year. Will that $1000 be subtracted from my contribution total, or am I still maxed out? Is it a timed thing, where I'm allowed to re-contribute only for a certain amount of time?

How does withdrawing from a Roth IRA affect how much I'm allowed to contribute, and can I make it up?

8

If you have previously made a contribution during that tax year, you can pull it out and re-add it as often as you need until the deadline for that tax year (April 15 of the following year.) This assumes your gross income isn't high enough to exclude you from eligibility for new contributions--in 2017 the phase-out starts at $118,000 and it is completely phased out at $133,000.

Within 60 days of distribution, you can re-contribute up to that amount, but you are only allowed one such 60 day rollover per year.

  • Thank you, this was very helpful to a question that I thought would be easy to Google, but was rather elusive. Gotta love the flexibilities of Roth IRAs – Dean G. Mar 21 '17 at 20:02
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    Do you have a link to a source document for that? I'd love to see the IRS pub that allows that. – Craine Mar 21 '17 at 22:16
  • -1 I think this answer is grossly mis-leading. If an IRA owner takes a distribution from the IRA, there is only a 60-day window during which the distribution can be put back into an IRA (either the same account or a different IRA account of the same type). That is a rollover transaction and the amount distributed and rolled over can be any amount. That last line "If you distribute $20,000 in 2017, you can contribute up to $25,500 ($26,500 if over 50)" with the implication that this contribution can be made up till Tax Day in 2018, is an "alternative fact", not the truth. – Dilip Sarwate Mar 21 '17 at 22:35
  • @DilipSarwate I don't know what was going through my mind as I answered this. I knew about the 60-day window. I can't explain the brain-fart. Thanks for the correction. – Nathan L Mar 21 '17 at 23:17
  • OK, I have removed my down vote. – Dilip Sarwate Mar 22 '17 at 2:38
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If you have maxed out your IRA contribution for 2017 already (and it all went into your Roth IRA), then, until the 2017 Tax Day in April 2018, you can remove any part of this contribution (and the earnings therefrom) from your Roth IRA without any tax consequences or penalties. If you discover in early 2018 that you are not eligible (or only partially eligible) to contribute to a Roth IRA, then of course you must remove all (or part) of your 2017 contributions (and the earnings therefrom) from your Roth IRA by the 2017 Tax Day in April 2018. Indeed, if you have filed for an extension of time to submit your 2017 tax return, then you have until the extended due date to make the withdrawal. As NathanL's answer points out, for 2017, you and withdraw and re-contribute "as many times as you like" though if you push this idea to excess with the same IRA custodian, the custodian may start charging fees. Note that IRS Publication 590b says in the Roth IRA section,

Withdrawals of contributions by due date.
If you withdraw contributions (including any net earnings on the contributions) by the due date of your return for the year in which you made the contribution, the contributions are treated as if you never made them. If you have an extension of time to file your return, you can withdraw the contributions and earnings by the extended due date. The withdrawal of contributions is tax free, but you must include the earnings on the contributions in income for the year in which you made the contributions.

Now, if in the middle of all these transactions, you need to take a distribution from your Roth IRA during 2017 (say because you have a cash flow problem), then it makes a lot of sense to first withdraw all your 2017 contributions and the earnings therefrom. If more money is needed, than you can take a distribution from your Roth IRA. What the distribution consists of is described in great detail in Publication 590b and you might have to pay a tax penalty for a premature distribution depending on how much the distribution is. (The first dollars coming are assumed to be previous contributions in the order in which you made them and these are tax-free and penalty-free; after that the rollover and conversion amounts start to come out and are penalized if they have not spent 5 years in the IRA etc) But you can put the money back into your Roth IRA within 60 days and avoid penalties.

Important Notes regarding rollover transactions:

  • Note that the putback does not have to be into the same IRA account (same custodian); you can put the money into a different Roth IRA with a different custodian.
  • Note carefully you have 60 days (not two months, there's a difference) 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.
  • Note also that you can do these rollover transactions (the technical term is rollover, not re-contribution as NathanL calls it) regardless of whether you going to be eligible to make a 2017 Roth IRA contribution or not.
  • But, only one such rollover (where you received money from the Roth IRA and put it back) is permitted in one year.
  • On the other hand, trustee-to-trustee transfers (where you don't get to touch the money at all) can be done as many times in a year as you wish.
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    "then it makes a lot of sense to first withdraw all your 2017 contributions and the earnings therefrom" But isn't the earnings part of the withdrawal subject to penalty if you are under 59.5? So if you have positive earnings from the contributions this year, and you have contributions from previous years, wouldn't it make sense to withdraw contributions first? – user102008 Mar 23 '17 at 17:50
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    "then none of the returned money is subject to the early withdrawal penalty, even in the case of Traditional IRAs" But I believe it does, see my answer to the question here (which you also answered, and you quoted the same passage as me, but you didn't unequivocally state whether you thought the penalty would apply to the earnings part if there were earnings (in that person's situation, there were losses not earnings)) – user102008 Mar 24 '17 at 0:35
  • @user102008 Thanks for pointing out the error in my response to your first comment. You are quite correct that my gratuitous addition "even in the case of Traditional IRAs" is incorrect. But what I said with regard to Roth IRAs is correct, and I have edited my answer to include the relevant paragraph from Publication 590b. I am also deleting my previous comment and replacing it with a corrected version. – Dilip Sarwate Mar 25 '17 at 15:27
  • Revised comment: @user102008 You have to instruct the Roth IRA custodian to return your 2017 contribution (say $5500) and all earnings therefrom (say $250), not just request a distribution (of $5750 = $5500+$250) from the IRA. If you follow the correct method, then none of the returned money is subject to the early withdrawal penalty. The earnings are included in taxable income for the year for which the contribution was made. If you simply request a distribution (of $5750), you will be withdrawing contributions from earlier years, then rollovers and conversions etc as I said in my answer. – Dilip Sarwate Mar 25 '17 at 15:30

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