An individual retirement account (IRA) is a form of “individual retirement plan”, provided by many financial institutions, that provides tax advantages for retirement savings in the United States. An individual retirement account is a type of “individual retirement arrangement” as described in IRS Publication 590, individual retirement arrangements (IRAs). The term IRA, used to describe both individual retirement accounts and the broader category of individual retirement arrangements, encompasses an individual retirement account; a trust or custodial account set up for the exclusive benefit of taxpayers or their beneficiaries; and an individual retirement annuity, by which the taxpayers purchase an annuity contract or an endowment contract from a life insurance company.
There are several types of IRAs:
- Traditional individual retirement account – contributions are often tax-deductible (often simplified as “money is deposited before tax” or “contributions are made with pre-tax assets”), all transactions and earnings within the IRA have no tax impact, and withdrawals at retirement are taxed as income (except for those portions of the withdrawal corresponding to contributions that were not deducted). Depending upon the nature of the contribution, a traditional IRA may be a “deductible IRA” or a “non-deductible IRA”. Traditional IRAs were introduced with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and made popular with the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981.
- Roth individual retirement account – contributions are made with after-tax assets, all transactions within the IRA have no tax impact, and withdrawals are usually tax-free.
- myRA – a 2014 Obama administration initiative based on the Roth IRA
- SEP individual retirement account – a provision that allows an employer (typically a small business or self-employed individual) to make retirement plan contributions into a Traditional IRA established in the employee’s name, instead of to a pension fund in the company’s name.
- SIMPLE individual retirement account – a Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees that requires employer matching contributions to the plan whenever an employee makes a contribution. The plan is similar to a 401(k) plan, but with lower contribution limits and simpler (and thus less costly) administration. Although it is termed an IRA, it is treated separately.
- Rollover individual retirement account – no real difference in tax treatment from a traditional IRA, but the funds come from a qualified plan or 403(b) account and are “rolled over” into the rollover IRA instead of contributed as cash. No other assets are commingled with these rollover amounts.
- Conduit individual retirement account – Tool to transfer qualified investments from one account to another. In order to retain certain special tax treatments, funds may not be commingled with other types of assets, including other IRAs.