How and why to undo a 2008 Roth IRA Conversion

Monday - 9/21/2009, 12:33pm EDT

Ed Zurndorfer, CFP

Getting back taxes paid on a losing investment may be as easy as preaching to the converted.

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Last year, some investors decided to take a traditional IRA and convert it to a Roth, and when they did, they paid federal and state taxes. "Well, if you remember back in 2008, the stock market was doing fairly well, but then in the course of the year it went way down, especially towards the end," Certified Financial Planner Ed Zurndorfer tells FederalNewsRadio.

So the investors converted their IRAs, paid taxes, and now they have the Roth IRA.

Then the value of the Roth IRA dropped. Significantly.

While you can't recover the losses, at this point, Zurndofer said you can recover the taxes you paid.

There's a little known option, according to Zurndorfer, available until October 15th called "recharacterization," to "recharacterize your conversion." In laymen's terms, it's a Mulligan or a do-over. By filling out a form, you can say "nevermind. I take it back. I don't want to covert my IRA."

Zurndorfer said the losses are truly lost, but "all the taxes you have paid (on that conversion), you'll get back."

The clock is ticking. The deadline to file for the recharacterization is October 15th through your IRA custodian.

If the IRA went up in value, says Zurndorfer "you don't do this."

Best of all, says Zurndorfer, "there's a lollipop here! Because if you change your mind again and want to go back to the Roth IRA, you can do that. You can go through another conversion. The IRS allows you to do a conversion, a recharacterization, and another conversion, but you couldn't do that until next year. Until January."

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On the Web:

MyFederalRetirement - Now May Be the Time to Undo a 2008 Roth IRA Conversion (by Edward A. Zurndorfer, CFP)

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