401(k) and IRA Contributions: You Can Do Both

You can still contribute to a Roth IRA and/or traditional IRA even if you participate in a 401(k) plan at work—as long as you meet the IRA’s eligibility requirements. You might not be able to take a tax deduction for your traditional IRA contributions if you also have a 401(k), but that will not affect the amount you are allowed to contribute. which is up to $6,000, or $7,000 with a catch-up contribution for those 50 and over, for 2021 and 2022.

It usually makes sense to contribute enough to your 401(k) account to get the maximum matching contribution from your employer. But adding an IRA to your retirement mix after that can provide you with more investment options and possibly lower fees than your 401(k) charges. A Roth IRA will also give you a source of tax-free income in retirement. Here are the rules you’ll need to know.

Key Takeaways

  • Having a 401(k) account at work doesn’t affect your eligibility to make IRA contributions.
  • Your income determines whether your traditional IRA contributions are deductible.
  • The amount of money you can contribute to a Roth IRA depends on your income.
  • Spousal IRAs allow you to contribute when your spouse works even if you don’t have any earned income yourself.
  • The Internal Revenue Service imposes a 6% excise tax if you make excess contributions to your IRA.

IRA Eligibility and Contribution Limits

The contribution limits for both traditional and Roth IRAs are $6,000 per year, plus a $1,000 catch-up contribution for those 50 and older, for both tax years 2020 and 2021. You can split your contributions between the two types, but your total contribution is still limited to $6,000 or $7,000. Traditional and Roth IRAs also have some different rules regarding your contributions

Traditional IRAs

Contributions to a traditional IRA are often tax-deductible. But if you are covered by a 401(k) or any other employer-sponsored plan, your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) will determine how much of your contribution you can deduct—if any.

The following tables break it down:

Deductibility of IRA Contributions If You Also Have an Employer Plan for 2021
Tax-filing status Income to deduct full contribution Income for partial  deduction Above this income, no deduction Contribution limit
 
Single
Less than $66,000 $66,000 to $76,000 More than $76,000 $6,000 + $1,000 more if you’re 50+
 
Married, with your own 401(k)
Less than $105,000 $105,000 to $125,000 More than $125,000 $6,000 each + $1,000 more if you’re 50+
 
Married, spouse has a  401(k) 
Less than $198,000 $198,000 to $208,000 More than 
$208,000
$6,000 each + $1,000 more if you’re 50+ 
 
Married with own 401(k), filing own return
$0 $0 to $10,000 More than $10,000 $6,000 + $1,000 more if you’re 50+
Deductibility of IRA Contributions If You Also Have an Employer Plan for 2022
Tax-filing status Income to deduct full contribution Income for partial  deduction Above this income, no deduction Contribution limit
  Single Less than $68,000 $68,000 to $78,000 More than $78,000 $6,000 + $1,000 more if you’re 50+
  Married, with your own 401(k) Less than $109,000 $109,000 to $129,000 More than $129,000 $6,000 each + $1,000 more if you’re 50+
  Married, spouse has a  401(k)  Less than $204,000 $204,000 to $214,000 More than  $214,000 $6,000 each + $1,000 more if you’re 50+ 
  Married with own 401(k), filing own return $0 $0 to $10,000 More than $10,000 $6,000 + $1,000 more if you’re 50+

IRS Publication 590-A explains how to calculate your deductible contribution if either you or your spouse is covered by a 401(k) plan.

Even if you don’t qualify for a deductible contribution, you can still benefit from the tax-deferred investment growth in an IRA by making a nondeductible contribution. If you do that, you will need to file IRS Form 8606 with your tax return for the year.

Roth IRAs

Roth IRAs provide no upfront tax benefit and it doesn’t matter whether you have an employer plan. How much you can contribute, or whether you can contribute at all, is based on your tax-filing status and your income for the year.

This table shows the current income thresholds:

Roth IRA Contributions for 2021

Tax-filing status

Income for full contribution

Income for partial  contribution

No contribution allowed

Contribution limit
 

Single

Less than $125,000

$125,000 to $140,000

More than $140,000

$6,000 + $1,000 more if you’re 50+
 

Married, filing jointly

Less than $198,000

$198,000 to $208,000

More than $208,000

$6,000 each + $1,000 more if you’re 50+
 

Married, filing separately

$0

$0 to $10,000

More than $10,000

$6,000 + $1,000 more if you’re 50+
Roth IRA Contributions for 2022
Tax-filing status Income for full contribution Income for partial  contribution No contribution allowed Contribution limit
 
Single
Less than $129,000 $129,000 to $144,000 More than $144,000 $6,000 + $1,000 more if you’re 50+
 
Married, filing jointly
Less than $204,000 $204,000 to $214,000 More than $214,000 $6,000 each + $1,000 more if you’re 50+
 
Married, filing separately
$0 $0 to $10,000 More than $10,000 $6,000 + $1,000 more if you’re 50+

Spousal IRAs

You must have earned income to contribute to an IRA. However, there’s an exception for married couples where only one spouse works outside the home. That’s a spousal IRA. It allows the employed spouse to contribute to an IRA of a nonworking spouse and as much as double the family’s retirement savings. You can open a spousal IRA as either a traditional or a Roth account.

The total of your combined contributions in a spousal IRA can’t exceed the taxable compensation reported on a joint tax return.

What if You Contribute Too Much?

If you discover that you contributed more to your IRA than you’re allowed, you’ll want to withdraw the amount of your overcontribution—and fast. Failure to do so in a timely way could leave you liable for a 6% excise tax every year on the amount that exceeds the limit.

The penalty is waived if you withdraw the money before you file your taxes for the year in which the contribution was made. You also need to calculate what your excess contributions earned while they were in the IRA and withdraw that amount from the account, as well.

The investment gain must also be included in your gross income for the year and taxed accordingly. What’s more, if you are under 59½, you’ll owe a 10% early withdrawal penalty on that amount.

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