For the first time since 2013, the individual retirement account (IRA) contribution limit maximums have been increased, by $500 to be exact. The federal government has also raised the income thresholds that make you eligible for tax deductions on a traditional IRA or eligible to contribute at all to a Roth IRA.

Key Takeaways

  • IRA contribution maximums have increased for the first time since 2013.
  • Income thresholds for IRA contributions have also increased.
  • You can contribute $6,000 to a traditional or Roth IRA in 2019 if you're under age 50.
  • It's $1,000 more if you're 50 or over.

Traditional and Roth IRA Contribution Limits

The maximum you can contribute to either a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA is $6,000 for 2019 if you're under age 50. That's up from $5,500 in 2018.

The catch-up contribution maximum for people age 50 and older is $7,000, up from $6,500 in 2018.

Traditional IRA Income Thresholds

If you have a retirement account through your employer, you can claim a tax deduction for an IRA contribution if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) doesn't exceed annual limits. Those limits have also expanded for 2019.

Individuals can take the full deduction if their incomes are $64,000 or less (up from $63,000 in 2018). People making $64,000 to $74,000 can take a partial deduction. There's no deduction for those making $74,000 or more.

Many people aren't even aware of the "saver's credit" for lower-income earners. It's a dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxes for those who qualify.

For married couples filing jointly, the phase-out begins at a MAGI of $103,000 and tops out at $123,000 (up by $2,000 from 2018), if the one making the contribution is the one covered by the employer plan.

If it's the spouse who's covered, the thresholds expand significantly. The phase-out begins at $193,000 and tops out at $203,000. That's $4,000 more than the 2018 parameters.

If neither spouse participates in a retirement plan at work, all of their contributions are tax-deductible.

Roth IRA Income Thresholds

The income threshold for allowable Roth IRA contributions has also increased. If you file as single or as the head of a household, you can take the full deduction if your MAGI is under $122,000.

The allowable contributions begin to phase out at $122,000 and are completely disallowed after $137,000. For married couples, the phase-out begins at $193,000 MAGI and completes at $203,000. Those with incomes higher than that are ineligible.

There are still ways around the Roth IRA contribution limits. If you make a contribution to a non-deductible IRA, you can convert it to a Roth IRA. The same applies to non-deductible contributions made to a 401(k) plan.

Any strategy that has tax implications should be reviewed by a qualified tax professional.

SEP and SIMPLE IRAs

For the self-employed and small business owners, the contribution limit for Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRAs and solo 401(k) plans has been growing for several years. In 2019, it's 25% of compensation, or up to $56,000, versus $55,000 for 2018.

Savings Incentive Match Plan (SIMPLE) plans have gotten a cost-of-living bump to $13,000, from $12,500 in 2018. The catch-up contribution for over-50s is unchanged at $3,000.

The Saver's Credit

Many people with low to moderate incomes aren't even aware of this tax credit, a dollar-for-dollar reduction of the taxes you owe. It has existed since the early 2000s.

If eligible, you could earn a credit of 10%, 20%, or 50% of your contribution, up to a dollar amount of $2,000.

The saver's credit is available to individuals, heads of households, and joint filers who contribute to an IRA, 401(k), or any other qualified retirement account, and whose adjusted gross income falls within certain parameters. In addition, you must be over 18, not a full-time student, and not listed as a dependent on anyone else's tax return.

The income thresholds are adjusted annually. The lower your income, the bigger the credit. The income-eligibility ranges are:

  • Single taxpayers: $19,250 to $32,000 AGI
  • Heads of household: $28,875 to $48,000 AGI
  • Married couples filing jointly: $38,500 to $64,000 AGI

A married couple with an AGI below $64,000 could save as much as $400 off their 2019 tax bill by contributing $2,000 to each of their IRAs (the 10% level). If they managed to contribute $4,000 with an income below $38,500, their tax credit would be $2,000 (50% of their contributions).