Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

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Brucie
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Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by Brucie » Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:49 pm

I have been debating whether Roth conversions make sense for us.
We are age 62/61.
I was retired early by my employer, spouse continues working. She will probably work until Medicare eligibility age 65.
We have $1.8MM in Traditional IRA/401K/403B accounts.
Another $320M in Roth accounts, some of which I paid 25-28% in taxes to convert. Too late to re characterize.
Our overall portfolio approaches $4MM.

I am drawn to Roth's from worries over later RMD's causing problems with SS/medicare/ paying even more tax in old age.

From what I have been reading on this site (I am new) I am wondering if I am making a mistake even trying to convert, in these tax brackets.
We were actually in the 15% bracket last year (no Roth conversions done).

My questions are:
1.Does it make sense to TRY to convert since any conversions would push us into the minimum 25% bracket?
2.If some conversion is advisable, how would you attack it with the amount to be converted?
3. We changed my wife's 403B from a Traditional to a Roth this year for the first time, since it will likely push us up to 25% bracket was that wise?

Thanks in advance, I thought I was good at this stuff, but am amazed at how smart the people on here are!!

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Ged
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by Ged » Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:03 pm

You should definitely fill the 15% bracket and going over a bit won't be harmful.

There is still something to be gained even in the 25% bracket because you may reduce your SS taxation. But the benefit is nowhere as big as the 15% bracket.

However you should keep in mind that in much later life you may have large medical expenses that will act as big tax deductions.

It's not an easy thing to foresee such events.

The Wizard
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by The Wizard » Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:14 pm

You need to look at what RMDs will be when you're 70.
And then figure your tax brackets for the years till then.
Usually it makes sense to convert at least some of your tax sheltered accumulation each year...
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ralph124cf
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by ralph124cf » Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:15 pm

The idea is to be able to have the greatest standard of living throughout your lifetimes, while considering any estate that you want to leave behind. This is impossible to do without actual knowledge of date of death.

The best you can do is make various assumptions and plug them into various retirement calculators.

Consider what tax rate you will be paying with you both collecting SS at 70 and RMDs start, plus any income from your taxable portfolio.

You might find that you will be in the 28% bracket then. If so, I would not want to pay tax now at 25% to only save the 3% eventually. I would be willing to pay tax at the 15% bracket to save paying at 25% later.

If you have room in the 15% bracket, definitely convert unless you are sure that you will still be in the 15% bracket in after age 70.

There will also be a big window of opportunity for conversion after your wife stops working until you are age 70 and start collecting SS.

Ralph

surfstar
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by surfstar » Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:20 pm

Does your wife really want to work another 4 years?
That's over 15% of her life expectancy.

You guys have enough. You've won the game.

Have her join you in retirement, unless she really enjoys and is fulfilled by her work.

Congrats :beer

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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by bsteiner » Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:20 pm

If you don't do any more conversions, it's unlikely you'll be able to take it all out at 15%. So it would seem that some conversions, even at 25% or 28%, might be beneficial. You may want to run some numbers to see how it's likely to work out, making some reasonable assumptions for any variables.

The absence of required distributions after age 70 1/2 is a significant benefit of the Roth.

Given the size of your estates, you're likely to provide for your children (or other beneficiaries) in trust rather than outright, to keep their inheritances out of their estates, and to protect their inheritances against their creditors and spouses. However, to the extent the trustees make distributions to avoid the 39.6% tax rate on trusts with income over $12,300, that throws the money into the beneficiaries' estates, and exposes it to their creditors and spouses. The Roth conversion avoids this tradeoff, since distributions from the Roth are tax-free.

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BL
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by BL » Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:24 pm

You do have the fortunate/unfortunate duty of paying taxes on your high taxable income.
Perhaps you now have time to play with a tax program, or at least Taxcaster, to get an idea of likely taxes with and without converting. I would say that converting at 15% is a no-brainer, 25% probably would make sense, and possibly even 28%, with your high amount in tax-deferred accounts.

Remember, the government owns 15-28+% of all of that money and they will get it one way or another! They just lent it to you so your share could increase for you! Perhaps keeping your bonds in tIRA will slow down growth a bit there while allowing for increases in your taxable and Roth. Also, perhaps congress will continue to pass, at the usual last minute, the QCD tax-free option where you can donate your RMD or up to $100k to charitable organizations directly after you reach 70 1/2, rather than itemize them. Also, as mentioned, there could be medical bills later in life that might off-set some of the income.

Don't forget to calculate the likely increase in tax bracket when one of you passes. Agree that spouse should only work now if she really wants to. You can buy health insurance until Medicare; you can afford whatever it takes. Enjoy your youth and energy while you can!
Last edited by BL on Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

retiredjg
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by retiredjg » Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:32 pm

I think the first step is to do a search for how much of your portfolio is required for RMDs. The number probably starts near 3.5% or 4%, but may go up from there over the years.

It appears you and your wife will reach RMD age within a year of each other. So pretending you turn 70.5 this year, how much would you have to take out of 401k/IRA for yours? In year 2 when you both have to take RMDs, how much for yours and for hers?

If the first few years of RMDs push you into the 28% bracket, I would convert up to the top of the 25% bracket and consider converting into the 28% bracket. This is because you know you will pay at least 25% on some of that money at some point in time. I'm still undecided about going a bracket above.

One reason to go a bracket above is if one of you dies, the survivor is very likely to be pushed into the next bracket just because s/he is single.

Another reason to go a bracket above is because by year 10 of RMDs, you may be taking a lot out just to satisfy the RMD requirement.

I don't have this all figure out yet. These are simply the steps I'm taking and the thoughts I'm having about making the same decision.

In your case, you have to wonder if converting $100k each year is going to reduce your RMD very much. In a bull market, it might not help even if you convert a full million over 10 years because what is left may be growing pretty quickly - making future RMDs still large. In a bear market, it might help a lot because your worth may drop quite a bit lower for a few years and converting $100k a year of a smaller amount will be a significant portion.

Some of this might depend on your heirs. If your heirs are in higher brackets and inherit a large tIRA, their RMDs will be taxed at the high bracket they are in. Is that higher than what you can convert at today? If your heirs are in the 15% bracket, there's not much sense in you paying 28% for big conversions now since their RMDs on your money might not be as high as 28%.

There's lots of moving parts to this decision. I don't think the answer is always clear. The things above are some things to consider.

I think your wife should just quit working so you can start spending more now and lower your RMDs later. But if she wants to keep working I think Roth is reasonable now since you are likely in a lower bracket now than when you were both working (just judging from your large accounts) and since it does not appear you will ever be in a lower bracket than now. This is kind of a guess though.

randomguy
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by randomguy » Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:37 pm

ralph124cf wrote:
You might find that you will be in the 28% bracket then. If so, I would not want to pay tax now at 25% to only save the 3% eventually. I would be willing to pay tax at the 15% bracket to save paying at 25% later.

You also save 15-28% on all future gains. Over 15+ years that can add up.

SGM
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by SGM » Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:44 pm

Age 62 is better than 63 in terms of avoiding a supplemental premium for Medicare at age 65. There is a look back of your MAGI for two years to determine whether you pay the $104 a month vs. some multiple of that for part B. Also part D will be higher too. If you make a large conversion at 63 it will increase your Medicare payment at age 65 and 66. It is just another thing to look at besides what will be your tax bracket when you have RMDs. Another thing I looked at was how much higher income tax would be for a surviving spouse.

I started making conversions while I was working part time and after retirement. I completed the last conversion early this year. I am stuck with a higher Medicare payment for 2016 and 2017. I read both of James Lange's books that discuss conversions and IRAs in detail.

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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by JW-Retired » Mon Aug 10, 2015 6:30 pm

1.Does it make sense to TRY to convert since any conversions would push us into the minimum 25% bracket?
2.If some conversion is advisable, how would you attack it with the amount to be converted?
3. We changed my wife's 403B from a Traditional to a Roth this year for the first time, since it will likely push us up to 25% bracket was that wise?
The first thing I would do is estimate what your income & tax bracket will be when you are 70+ and taking RMDs, SS, taxable account income, and whatever else you might have. Given what you listed now it's hard to imagine you won't be at least well into the 25% bracket.

Run it through TaxCaster with your best estimates and see where you are. https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/c ... taxcaster/

Your best opportunity to reduce your RMDs will come when wife is retired and one or both of you are delaying SS to 70, and therefore using up some of the tax deferred funds for both living expenses and Roth conversions. IMO, it would likely do no harm to be converting all the way to the top of the 25% bracket.
JW
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itstoomuch
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by itstoomuch » Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:10 pm

I'm coming to a decision to take enough IRA withdrawals to taxable account and build a dividend/interest portfolio. This would mimic a Roth Income portfolio. We (65/68) currently have neither bonds or interest notes. We are also heavy in deferred VA and VIA so a larger taxable can give us some flexibility in different economic situations. :sharebeer
YMMV
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Artsdoctor
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by Artsdoctor » Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:40 pm

Brucie,

You're not alone here. Many struggle with this.

The advice above is excellent. I would round it out logistically with fiddling around with a tax software program, like TurboTax. There are too many variables right now and the easiest thing would be to start entering your wife's salary, project some taxes, play with Roth conversions, just to get an idea of what it would do to your marginal tax rate. Then, later this year, you'll be in an even better position to adroitly use the software program to estimate what you might be able to convert in December.

The Medicare premium concern above is a very insightful one. Your MAGI is used to calculate your Medicare premium, and it usually means that the 1040 from two years prior is the one that Medicare will have its hands on. You can petition them to not include your wife's salary if she's no longer working, but I'm not sure if you'll be able to exclude a Roth conversion amount (although I'd love to hear from someone who knows the answer to this definitively).

Roughly, get an idea what your tax-deferred amounts might be worth at age 70 (for example, multiply the balance now by expected REAL return each return) and then multiply that by 4% to estimate your first RMD. That will give you a very rough idea. You can also take a look at the IRS tables to see how that rate increases as you (and your wife) age.

Brucie
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by Brucie » Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:54 pm

Thanks for helping me make some sense of this.
Tax planning is not one of my strengths.
I know it is a good problem to have. I also know it is not a simple problem, with so many unknowns about the future.
It seems filling up the 25% bracket makes sense at a minimum. I was questioning that from other comments I have seen on here.

I have had the conversation with my spouse regarding her retiring as well. I think someone, maybe all, guessed the healthcare insurance issue.
She is fearful of private insurance. I will share with her the comments!

Brucie

mhalley
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by mhalley » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:15 pm

You can run the numbers through iorp to get an idea of what the best course would be.
http://www.i-orp.com/
Mike

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BL
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by BL » Mon Aug 10, 2015 11:02 pm

If your spouse works for a fair-sized company, at least keep in mind that you can buy company insurance for 18 months. Lots of workers I know worked until age 63 1/2 for that reason. Perhaps a little research on health insurance available these days would help.

Brucie
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by Brucie » Wed Dec 09, 2015 5:14 pm

I am planning to convert $60,000 by 12/31 from Traditional to Roth, filling the 25% tax bracket.

While not a market timer, I would like to time it a little. Nearly pulled the trigger today after 3 down days.

Also thinking the Fed meeting might spook the markets enough to make next 12/15 or 12/16 a good low day.

would be converting Traditional TSM to Roth TSM.

Any thoughts?

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Epsilon Delta
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by Epsilon Delta » Wed Dec 09, 2015 5:21 pm

randomguy wrote:
ralph124cf wrote:
You might find that you will be in the 28% bracket then. If so, I would not want to pay tax now at 25% to only save the 3% eventually. I would be willing to pay tax at the 15% bracket to save paying at 25% later.

You also save 15-28% on all future gains. Over 15+ years that can add up.
No you don't. There is no compounding here, whether you do the Roth conversion or not you only pay taxes once.

retiredjg
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by retiredjg » Wed Dec 09, 2015 5:36 pm

Brucie wrote:I am planning to convert $60,000 by 12/31 from Traditional to Roth, filling the 25% tax bracket.

While not a market timer, I would like to time it a little. Nearly pulled the trigger today after 3 down days.

Also thinking the Fed meeting might spook the markets enough to make next 12/15 or 12/16 a good low day.

would be converting Traditional TSM to Roth TSM.

Any thoughts?
I don't see how it would make any difference.

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cfs
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by cfs » Wed Dec 09, 2015 7:04 pm

. . . would be converting Traditional TSM to Roth TSM . . .
Concur with our shipmate RetiredJg, from TSM to TSM, up or down markets will make no difference. You can take care of that conversion this evening.
~ Member of the Active Retired Force since 2014 ~

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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by grabiner » Wed Dec 09, 2015 9:31 pm

Check whether your marginal tax rate is actually 30%. If your ordinary income is in the 15% tax bracket, but your total taxable income (including qualified dividends) would be in the 25% tax bracket, then your marginal tax rate on Roth conversions is 30%; every $100 converted will lead to $15 in tax, and will make $100 more in qualified dividends taxable at 15%. You can confirm this with your tax software.

If this is the case, you shouldn't convert unless the amount in the 30% marginal rate will be very small and you have decided that converting at 25% is worthwhile (and if you do, then you should probably use the whole 25% bracket).
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trasmuss
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by trasmuss » Thu Dec 10, 2015 5:08 am

You didn't mention whether you have equities in taxable accounts. We are getting quite a bit of dividends from our equity taxable accounts and they are all currently tax free since we are in the 15% tax bracket (until RMD's). We would give this up if we converted enough to push us to the 25% bracket.

Brucie
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by Brucie » Thu Dec 10, 2015 10:19 am

We will be in the 25% bracket this year with no conversion, because we changed spouses 403B from Traditional to Roth early in the year.
Thinking was if we are looking to convert traditional to Roth, why add to Traditional.
I did not know that dividends from taxable accounts were not taxed in the 15% bracket. Yes we have dividends from taxable account.
Maybe the change to a Roth 403b was a mistake??
Though why add to traditional, when the concern is RMD'd later on with current $1.8MM in traditional.

It seems to me that if the stock market is down some, it would make a difference, and make the conversion more attractive. $60,000 conversion would convert more shares. That is why I was thinking of the upcoming Fed meeting, and possible dip in the market.

Thanks

retiredjg
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by retiredjg » Thu Dec 10, 2015 10:45 am

If you are going to be in the 25% bracket this year anyway, I think you should fill it to the top of the 25% bracket this year. You have already lost the 0% tax on qualified stock dividends. There is no reason not to use the entire bracket.

It appears you kind of have a choice for future years. Stay in the 15% bracket and pay no tax on some qualified dividends or convert a meaningful amount to Roth. It does not appear you can do both.

Remember that the 0% tax on dividends applies only to qualified dividends from stocks. Bond dividends do not get this benefit. And not all stock dividends are qualified.

In calculating your taxable income, do not forget to include the dividends and all other forms of income.

I suspect, but do not know, that doing the conversions is the better choice.

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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by itstoomuch » Thu Dec 10, 2015 12:32 pm

65/68.
I figure that if I am going to pay the tax on removing money out of tIRA s, that I would move some of the proceeds to taxable funds to take advantage of losses against income at time of withdrawal (future). We are in your similar situation. I am bearish on markets in the short to medium term, which is influences my thinking. YMMV. Highly speculative. :oops:
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jj
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by jj » Fri Dec 11, 2015 3:59 am

itstoomuch wrote:65/68.
I figure that if I am going to pay the tax on removing money out of tIRA s, that I would move some of the proceeds to taxable funds to take advantage of losses against income at time of withdrawal (future). We are in your similar situation. I am bearish on markets in the short to medium term, which is influences my thinking. YMMV. Highly speculative. :oops:
Hang on... what am I missing here? Are you saying that it is preferable to remove funds from a tax deferred account and place them in a taxable account? When for the same income tax cost those funds could be just as easily converted to a Roth IRA? I imagine if your intention is to place stocks or stock funds in there, yes there are tax loss harvesting opportunities, but tlh is making lemonade out of lemons, surely, not something to be hoped and planned for?

jj
...it is madness to risk losing what you need in pursuing what you simply desire. Warren E. Buffett

itstoomuch
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by itstoomuch » Fri Dec 11, 2015 11:53 am

"Why, Certainly", said Curley. (Then does the giddy shuffle). :mrgreen:
Maybe not hoped for but planned for. :annoyed
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Brucie
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by Brucie » Fri Dec 11, 2015 4:07 pm

Pulled the trigger on $60,000 conversion to Roth.
Still have a lot to decide on conversions and timing in future years.
Thanks for input.

retiredjg
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by retiredjg » Fri Dec 11, 2015 4:25 pm

Good luck!

Brucie
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by Brucie » Sat Dec 12, 2015 12:39 pm

One more question.
I pulled the trigger to convert $60,000 yesterday.
In the past I converted a couple of small tira to roth, and American century advised me to pay the estimated taxes, at or near the time of conversion.
I have also been told this was not necessary.

I paid it in 2013 for instance using a form 1040-V.
I went into the IRS website and can't find a form for 1040-V for tax year 2015.
I do find a 1040-v form for tax year 2014.

I was going to pay estimated tax now, to not have to pay a possible penalty for owing too much.
Have some cash sitting in Vanguard MMF earning next to nothing so won't lose much.

Is paying now necessary to avoid penalty. (I am adding $15,000 to my tax bill) $60,000 at 25%?
It seems new forms might come out 1/1/2016. should I wait to get a 2015 form and pay in Jan 2015?
Would paying now using the 2014 form crossed off and 2015 written in cause too much confusion?

I guess that is 3 questions :wink:
Hope I am not over my limit :beer

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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by trueblueky » Sat Dec 12, 2015 2:03 pm

Brucie wrote:One more question.
I pulled the trigger to convert $60,000 yesterday.
In the past I converted a couple of small tira to roth, and American century advised me to pay the estimated taxes, at or near the time of conversion.
I have also been told this was not necessary.

I paid it in 2013 for instance using a form 1040-V.
I went into the IRS website and can't find a form for 1040-V for tax year 2015.
I do find a 1040-v form for tax year 2014.

I was going to pay estimated tax now, to not have to pay a possible penalty for owing too much.
Have some cash sitting in Vanguard MMF earning next to nothing so won't lose much.

Is paying now necessary to avoid penalty. (I am adding $15,000 to my tax bill) $60,000 at 25%?
It seems new forms might come out 1/1/2016. should I wait to get a 2015 form and pay in Jan 2015?
Would paying now using the 2014 form crossed off and 2015 written in cause too much confusion?

I guess that is 3 questions :wink:
Hope I am not over my limit :beer
You can pay on-line at http://www.irs.gov/payments.

Rox
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Re: Convert to Roth if you have a lot to convert?

Post by Rox » Sat Dec 12, 2015 3:35 pm

Brucie wrote:One more question.
I pulled the trigger to convert $60,000

I was going to pay estimated tax now, to not have to pay a possible penalty for owing too much
This thread seems extremely similar - (lots of great insight from typical smarty pants BH'ers! :D ):

viewtopic.php?t=176770

Sounds like at this stage, you have 2 things to consider:

1) make payments to avoid a penalty (ex: pay via the above method)
2) make the IRS aware you don't have a penalty (when filing your 2015 return, you'll fill in line items or required forms, perhaps a 2210)

Hope this helps,

Rox

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