When should I NOT convert to a backdoor Roth IRA?

You should not put money in a backdoor Roth if:

  • You have pre-tax IRAs in your name. The reason is that the IRS’s “prorate” rule will cause part of the conversion to be taxed, which is a kind of double taxation.
  • You have not filled out all of the pre-tax retirement space available to you (unless you are in a low tax bracket in medical school or residency).

What IS a backdoor Roth IRA?

When should I convert to a backdoor Roth IRA?

5 thoughts on “When should I NOT convert to a backdoor Roth IRA?

  1. Thank you for all of your helpful articles! I really appreciate the clear way you explain things. I have a couple of questions for you. I’d like to start doing a backdoor Roth IRA and possibly also a solo-401K as I do have 1099 income. However, I have $2800 sitting in a IRA rollover account from a 401K years ago. So I need to get that account cleared, right? Since it’s such a small amount, should I just roll it over into a Roth IRA? Or into my employer 401K? And should I do that before I start the backdoor Roth process, or can I do it all simultaneously?

    Thank you in advance for any insight you can provide?


    1. Hi, Jenny,
      Thank you for the kind words. You are fine to do either. If you decide to convert to a Roth, you should clear your TIRA balance by 12/31 of the year of the backdoor Roth conversion. Since I am not privy to your tax bracket, I don’t have an opinion on whether you should convert to a Roth (pay tax on $2,800) or roll into your work retirement account (not taxed currently, but will be taxed along with earnings in the future). Of course, you should not convert to a Roth unless you have funds outside the Roth to pay the taxes.


      1. Great! Thank you so much. Yes I am in a high tax bracket, so I guess there’s somewhat of an advantage to rolling into the 401K. And then I can start from scratch with creating the IRA-> Roth IRA conversion.One more question: I have heard you can do the Roth conversion up until the tax filing date, so theoretically I could still do it up until April 2020 for 2019 taxes, correct? Or would the money I had in the IRA as of 12/31/2019 mess up the pro-rata calculation and I should just wait until 2020? Thanks again!


  2. You have until 4/15 to contribute to the TIRA (nondeductible) for the prior year. Conversions are reported on a calendar year basis and can be made any time you choose. So, if you make the conversion in 2020, you have until 12/31/20 to move the pre-tax TIRA balance.


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