What is a Roth IRA and How Does it Work?

A Roth IRA is an individual retirement account that offers tax-free growth and withdrawals during retirement. Learn more about how it works & its benefits.

What is a Roth IRA and How Does it Work?

A Roth IRA is an individual retirement account that allows you to save money for retirement after taxes. Contributions and earnings in the account can grow tax-free, and you can withdraw them without taxes or penalties after the age of 59 and a half and once the account has been open for five years. This type of retirement account offers tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals during retirement, making it an attractive option for those looking to save for the future. An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a tax-advantaged investment account designed to help you save for retirement.

There are two main types of IRAs: traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Traditional IRAs offer tax benefits in the current year, while Roth IRAs offer tax-free growth and withdrawals during retirement. In order to contribute to a Roth IRA, you must have earned income from wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, or other amounts paid to you for services you provide. The amount you can contribute is limited by your income level and other factors.

Contributions are made with after-tax dollars, meaning they are not tax-deductible. However, once you start withdrawing funds from the account, the money is tax-free. Most brokerages act as custodians of Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs with the same minimums, fees and terms for each. Transactions within a Roth IRA (including capital gains, dividends and interest) do not incur a current tax liability.

Distributions from a Roth IRA (as well as other similar plans) to a Canadian resident will generally be exempt from Canadian taxes to the extent that they would have been exempt from U. S. taxes. A key consideration when deciding between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA is how you think your future income (and, by extension, your income tax category) will compare to your current situation. The main advantages of a Roth IRA are its tax structure and the additional flexibility provided by this tax structure.

For individuals who work for an employer, compensation that is eligible to fund a Roth IRA includes salaries, salaries, commissions, bonuses, and other amounts paid to the person for the services they provide. Roth IRAs don't offer tax advantages when you make a deposit, but you can withdraw tax-free money in retirement. Additionally, Roth IRAs do not have mandatory minimum distributions (RMD), meaning you are not required to withdraw money at any age or throughout your life. If you are under the age of 59 and a half and have a Roth IRA that withholds income from multiple conversions, you must keep a record of the 5-year retention period for each conversion separately. In order to withdraw funds from your Roth IRA without incurring taxes or penalties, two conditions must be met: first, the five-year validity period must have elapsed since the Roth IRA was opened; second, there must be a justification such as retirement or disability. The prorated calculation is based on all traditional IRA contributions across the individual's traditional IRAs (even if they are in different institutions).

The effect of these rules is that, in most cases, no part of the Roth IRA will be taxable in Canada.