In writing about Roth IRA contribution limits (and how to fix Roth IRA contribution mistakes) over the past week, I came to realize that some readers might not be familiar with the term modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). As it turns out, this is a critical value for determining things like whether or not you are eligible to: (1) contribute to a Roth IRA, (2) deduct traditional IRA contributions, or (3) convert funds from a traditional (or SEP) IRA to a Roth IRA. Thus, it’s important that people understand what it is and how it is calculated.
Here’s my understanding of the situation…
In order to figure out your MAGI you first need to know what your AGI represents. In short, your AGI is your total income (including wages, interest, income from retirement accounts, capital gains, and alimony received) less certain “adjustments.” These adjustments include things like deductible IRA contributions, 401(k) or 403(b) contributions, alimony payments, health insurance premiums (if you’re self-employed), moving expenses, and interest on student loans (consult the IRS web site or a tax professional for a full rundown). Note that AGI does not reflect standard or itemized deductions. Nor does is it influenced by personal exemptions.
In order to arrive at your modified AGI, you then need to add back certain things like income that you exluded due to the foreign earned income exclusion, any deductions for foreign housing, interest income for series EE bonds that you may have excluded because you used the proceeds to pay for qualified educational expenses, any deduction that you may have claimed for student loan interest or allowable tuition expenses, employer-paid adoption expenses, and any deduction that you may have claimed for a traditional IRA contribution (note that employer plans, such as 401(k) and 403(b) contributions still reduce your MAGI). Also, if you’re age 70-1/2 and receiving minimum distributions from a traditional, these funds do not count against your MAGI.
As a final note, it’s important to keep in mind that funds being converted from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA do not count against your MAGI even though they may be taxable.