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Is There A Limit On IRA To IRA Transfers?

Monday, March 4th 2024

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) have long been considered great tools in retirement planning, providing many advantages including tax breaks. An IRA enables investors to save pretax or post-tax income that then grows tax free over time, including being able to transfer between accounts. One feature that stands out is their transfer functionality: one common question being “Is there a limit on IRA-to-IRA transfers?”, but it depends on the nature of each transfer transaction you consider.

Direct Transfers

There’s no upper limit or frequency cap on direct IRA transfers between one another. These “trustee-to-trustee transfers”, also referred to as trustee-to-trustee transfers, involve funds being moved directly between accounts without their owners being involved at all in handling them directly between themselves.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules allow direct transfers without tax withholding – making them the ideal way for those consolidating multiple accounts and looking to avoid potential complications associated with indirect transfers. Financial professionals frequently recommend these transfers over indirect ones to minimize risk.

Indirect Transfers

By contrast, indirect transfers come with certain restrictions. An indirect transfer (60-day rollover) allows an account owner to withdraw funds from an IRA and deposit them back within 60 days into another one; the IRS permits only one indirect rollover per 12-month period regardless of how many accounts an individual owns – known as the one-rollover-per-year rule which applies cumulatively across all their IRA accounts owned.

This limitation exists to discourage short-term uses of funds without incurring tax penalties and taxes, with those under 59.5 receiving a 10% early withdrawal penalty and regular income taxes on distributed amounts.

Roth IRA Conversions

An alternative form of transfer worth considering is Roth IRA conversion, the movement of assets from Traditional, SEP or SIMPLE IRAs into Roths. There’s no traditional rollover involved here, and no restrictions or limits imposed. But keep in mind that such conversions trigger tax liability events which make up part of an individual’s taxable income in that year of conversion.

Legislative Changes May Regulate Transfer Limits

New legislation may impose further limitations on transfers between IRAs. For example, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (1) reduced our ability to undo or reverse Roth conversions; meaning once one takes place from Traditional IRA to Roth conversion it cannot be reversed or undone.

Exceptions to the Rule

Trustee-to-Trustee transfers: These transfers do not count towards the one rollover-per-year rule and allow an IRA owner to make unlimited direct or trustee-to-trustee transfers between IRAs.

Roth conversions: Converting Traditional, SEP or SIMPLE IRA assets to Roth IRA does not count as a rollover and therefore falls outside the one rollover per year limit.

Failed financial institution exception: If an IRA was with a bank that failed and insurance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was required for coverage purposes, then that does not count as a rollover transfer.

Consequences of Exceeding the IRA Transfer Limit

The consequences of exceeding Limits on IRA Transfers IRA Transfer Limit mes Exceeding the transfer limit between IRAs can result in severe consequences. When indirect transfers happen the second distribution of one account that is rolled over within 12 months is likely to be considered as a tax-deductible distribution and could result in ordinary income taxes plus 10% early withdrawal penalties if under 59.5 years old; additionaly, that excess contribution amount will be subject to an annual tax rate of 6% penalty until it is removed.

Conclusion

Although IRAs allow for flexibility when moving funds around, it’s vital that users understand their rules and limits regarding inter-IRA transfers. While direct transfers allow easy account consolidation, indirect ones come with significant restrictions; additional considerations apply when Roth IRA conversions or legislative changes may cause additional complications to arise – understanding these aspects is crucial if one wishes to avoid penalties while optimizing retirement benefits.

Securing advice from an advisor or tax professional may prove useful when trying to navigate these regulations and make informed decisions regarding IRA transfers.

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2 Comments

  • Erin says:

    Hi Christopher,

    Do you recommend doing a direct or indirect transfer?

    Thank you

    • Hi Erin,

      Direct transfers are in most cases the best however, regardless of your choice this is something you should be discussing with your financial advisor who will take care of it for you.

      Happy investing!