An individual retirement arrangement, or IRA, is a personal savings plan which allows you to set aside money for retirement, while offering you tax advantages. You may be able to deduct some or all of your contributions to your IRA. Amounts in your IRA, including earnings, generally are not taxed until distributed to you. IRA's cannot be owned jointly. However, any amounts remaining in your IRA upon your death can be paid to your beneficiary or beneficiaries. ICI reports that at year end 2009, Traditional IRA's held an estimated $3.722 trillion of investors wealth accounting for 88% of total IRA assets, and that 31.2% of American households were holding Traditional IRAs. Approximately one half of Traditional IRA assets are rollovers of assets from employer provided contributory plans. 
Types of IRAs
The Traditional IRA was created in 1974 with the passage of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) (see Legislative History of IRAs for a history of the Traditional IRA.) Over the years, the Traditional IRA has been expanded to include a growing number of specialized plan types. These include:
|Traditional IRA||Roth IRA|
Contribution Eligibility and Limits
An individual can contribute to a Traditional IRA up to the year one reaches 70 1/2. The individual must have earned income (wage or business) in order to contribute to a Traditional IRA. Married taxpayers filing joint returns can contribute to a Spousal IRA for the non-working spouse, assuming sufficient earned income. Contributions can be made into an IRA up to the due date of an individual's tax return. For example, most taxpayer's can make 2011 IRA contributions up through April 15, 2012. Starting in 2008, the annual contribution limits have been indexed to inflation in $500 increments. Taxpayers age 50 and above are entitled to make additional "catch-up" contributions to their IRAs. Contributions are limited to the following annual amounts:
|Tax Year||Maximum Contribution (Under age 50)||Maximum Contribution (Age 50 and Older)|
|2008 - 2012||$5,000||$6,000|
|2013 - 2015||$5,500||$6,500|
If you or your spouse are covered by an employer provided plan through your employer, your deductible IRA contribution may be limited according to the amount of one's modified adjusted gross income, defined as:
|1.Subtract the following:
2. Add the following deductions and exclusions:
The following tables show deductible income limits for individuals, based on filing status and whether they are or are not covered by an employer plan: 
|Tax Year||Covered by Employer Plan||Not Covered by Employer Plan|
|Married/Joint Full Deduction||Married/Joint Partial Deduction||Married/Joint Full Deduction||Married/Joint Partial Deduction|
|2012||Below $92,000||$92,000-$112,000||Below $173,000||$173,000 - $188,000|
|2013||Below $95,000||$95,000-$115,000||Below $178,000||$178,000 - $188,000|
|2014||Below $96,000||$96,000-$116,000||Below $181,000||$181,000 - $191,000|
|2015||Below $98,000||$98,000-$118,000||Below $183,000||$183,000 - $193,000|
|Tax Year||Covered by Employer Plan||Not Covered by Employer Plan|
|Single Full Deduction||Single Partial Deduction||Single Full Deduction||Single Partial Deduction|
|2012||Below $58,000||$58,000-$68,000||Any amount||Any amount|
|2013||Below $59,000||$59,000-$69,000||Any amount||Any amount|
|2014||Below $60,000||$60,000-$70,000||Any amount||Any amount|
|2015||Below $61,000||$61,000-$71,000||Any amount||Any amount|
If one's income results in partial deductibility of contributions, one needs to refer to the appropriate tax table to determine the allowable deductible contribution. See Non-deductible Traditional IRA page for income limits based on your tax filing status.
For married couples with a MAGI between $116,000 and $181,000 in tax year 2014, the contribution result in a situation where one member of the couple is eligible to make deductible IRA contributions (such as a non-working spouse, or a spouse working part time or as a consultant or at a company without a retirement plan) while the other member of the couple (the one working at a company with a retirement plan) is not eligible for deductible IRAs, but might still be eligible for Roth IRAs.
Rollovers and Transfers
A significant amount of Traditional IRA assets and annual contributions come from the transfer or rollover of employer retirement plan assets. These transfer/rollovers occur when an employee severs employment from the employer whether voluntarily through job switching or retiring, or through lay-offs or firings. Employees may wish to transfer an employer plan to a Traditional IRA in order to consolidate accounts, reduce plan management expense, or to retain the right to transfer the transferred assets to another employer provided plan. Transfers of Traditional IRA accounts occur in three manners:
- Direct Trustee-to-Trustee Transfers
- Transfers incident to a divorce
IRA rollovers and transfers can become complicated. Refer to IRA Rollovers and Transfers for detailed consideration of this topic.
IRA contributions and transfers from 2000-2002 are tabulated below: 
|SEP, SIMPLE, Coverdell||14.885||15.582||16.714|
|Rollovers to Traditional||225.637||187.799||204.396|
Required Minimum Distributions
With a traditional IRA, once you reach age 70½, you must withdraw at least a minimum amount each year. This is called your required minimum distribution (RMD). Generally, you must take your first RMD by April 1 of the calendar year following the year you turn 70½. (Participants in employer plans who are still working at age 70½ can wait until April 1 of the calendar year following the year they retire.) For each subsequent year, you'll need to take your annual RMD by December 31.
The amount of your required minimum distribution is equal to your retirement account balance as of December 31 of the previous year (adjusted for any outstanding rollovers, asset transfers, or conversions completed during the prior year that are recharacterized in the current one) divided by your life expectancy factor according to the IRS Uniform Lifetime Table.
See Required Minimum Distribution for details.
Penalties: Early Withdrawals and Excess Contributions
Early withdrawals are generally amounts distributed from your traditional IRA account before you are age 59 1/2. You must pay a 10% additional tax on the distribution of any assets from your traditional IRA before you are age 59 1/2.
- Exceptions to the penalty apply if the early withdrawal is:
- made to a beneficiary or estate on account of the IRA owner's death,
- made on account of disability,
- made as part of a series of substantially equal periodic payments over your life or life expectancy,
- made to pay for a qualified first–time home purchase,
- not in excess of your qualified higher education expenses,
- not in excess of certain medical insurance premiums paid while unemployed,
- not in excess of your unreimbursed medical expenses that are more than a certain percentage of your adjusted gross income, or
- due to an IRS levy.
Contributing more than the allowed amount in any year to your traditional IRA also subjects you to an additional tax. Any excess contribution not withdrawn by the date your tax return for the year is due (including extensions) is subject to a 6% tax. You must pay the 6% tax each year on excess amounts that remain in your traditional IRA at the end of your tax year.
- Roth IRA
- Non-deductible Traditional IRA
- Investing Priority-/-Investing order
- Inheriting an IRA
- IRA Rollovers and Transfers
- SEPP:Substantially Equal Periodic Payments
- ICI The US Retirement Market, 2009
- See Non-deductible Traditional IRA
- Penalty free withdrawals can also be made by instituting a defined series of Substantially Equal Periodic Payments from an IRA. See SEPP:Substantially Equal Periodic Payments.
- COLA Increases for Dollar Limitations on Benefits and Contributions, IRS.
- IRS Publication 590: Roth IRAs
- IRA Deduction Limits at irs.gov
- What's new for 2011, IRS Publication 590]
- Copeland, Craig, "IRA Assets, Contributions, and Market Share". EBRI Notes, Vol. 28, No. 1, January 2007 Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=959015]
- IRS Publication 590 Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)
- IRS Whats New: IRAs and Other Retirement Plans