There are two possible answers to this question, depending on whether or not the distribution from the Roth IRA is qualified.

Earnings on investments within a Roth IRA are neither subject to income tax nor are they included in the IRA owner's income. Instead, they accumulate on a tax-deferred basis and are tax free when withdrawn from the Roth if the distribution is qualified.

If an individual receives a distribution from his/her Roth IRA and the distribution is qualified and therefore tax free, the amount is not included in the individual's income - therefore, it is not included in the modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) to determine Roth IRA eligibility. However, if the distribution is not qualified, then the amount attributable to earnings is included in the individual's MAGI to determine Roth IRA eligibility.

Advisor Insight

Joe Allaria, CFP®
CarsonAllaria Wealth Management, Glen Carbon, IL

The easy answer is that earnings from a Roth IRA do not count towards income. If you keep the earnings within the account, they definitely are not taxable. And if you withdraw them? Generally, they still do not count as income – unless the withdrawal is considered a non-qualified distribution. In that case the earnings could be taxable. (The IRS website, IRS.gov explains what defines qualified vs. non-qualified Roth IRA distributions.)

Bear in mind, though, that at no point are you ever forced to take distributions from a Roth IRA, unlike a traditional IRA, where required minimum distributions begin the year (or the year following the year) in which you turn 70.5.