One frequently overlooked tax benefit is the “spousal IRA.” Generally, IRA contributions are only allowed for taxpayers who have compensation (the term “compensation” includes: wages, tips, bonuses, professional fees, commissions, alimony received, and net income from self-employment). Spousal IRAs are the exception to that rule and allow a non-working or low-earning spouse to contribute to his or her own IRA, otherwise known as a spousal IRA, as long as the spouse has adequate compensation. Remember IRA and Roth IRA contributions are not due until you file your taxes, so it might not be too late for a 2015 contribution.
The maximum amount that a non-working or low-earning spouse can contribute is the same as the limit for a working spouse, which is $5,500 for 2015. If the non-working spouse is age 50 or older, the spouse can also make “catch-up” contributions (limited to $1,000 for 2015), raising the overall contribution limit to $6,500. These limits apply provided the couple together has compensation equal to or greater than their combined IRA contributions.
Example: Bill is employed and his W-2 for 2015 is $100,000. His wife, Jill, age 45, has a small income from a part-time job totaling $900. Since her own compensation is less than the contribution limits for the year, she can base her contribution on their combined compensation of $100,900. Thus, Jill can contribute up to $5,500 to an IRA for 2015.
The contributions for both spouses can be made either to a Traditional or Roth IRA, or split between them, as long as the combined contributions don’t exceed the annual contribution limit. Caution: The deductibility of the Traditional IRA and the ability to make a Roth IRA contribution are generally based on the taxpayer’s income:
•Traditional IRAs – There is no income limit restricting contributions to a Traditional IRA. However, if the working spouse is an active participant in any other qualified retirement plan, a tax-deductible contribution can be made to the IRA of the non-participant spouse only if the couple’s adjusted gross income (AGI) doesn’t exceed $183,000 in 2015 (up from $181,000 in 2014). This limit is phased out in 2015 for AGI between $183,000 and $193,000 (up from $181,000 and $191,000 in 2014). *
•Roth IRAs – Roth IRA contributions are never tax-deductible. Contributions to Roth IRAs are allowed in full if the couple’s AGI doesn’t exceed $183,000 in 2015 (up from $181,000 in 2014). The contribution is ratably phased out for AGI between $183,000 and $193,000 (up from $181,000 and $191,000 in 2014). Thus, no contribution is allowed to a Roth IRA once the AGI exceeds $193,000. *
Example: Jill, in the previous example, can designate her IRA contribution to be either a deductible Traditional IRA or a nondeductible Roth IRA because the couple’s AGI is under $183,000. Had the couple’s AGI been $188,000, Jill’s allowable contribution to a deductible Traditional or Roth IRA would have been limited to $2,750 because of the phase-out. The other $2,750 could have been contributed to a nondeductible Traditional IRA.