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While 2023 is long gone, taxpayers still have a valuable opportunity to save on their 2023 income taxes by contributing to a traditional IRA. It’s one of the only things that you can still do to reduce last year’s taxes, and it’s an easy move to make. The deadline to contribute is the day taxes are due, which is April 15, 2024.

However, not everyone can take advantage of this strategy, and there are strict limits on what you can deduct. Still, you could potentially save a decent chunk of change by funding an IRA.

How much an IRA could save you

For tax year 2023, you can contribute up to $6,500 to an IRA. If you’re age 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $1,000, for a grand total of $7,000. If you meet certain requirements (explained below), you can deduct the full amount from your income, meaning you won’t owe taxes on the amount you put into the account.

If you were in the 24 percent federal tax bracket, for example, and contributed the maximum $6,500, you would reduce your taxable income by the same amount. This move would reduce your overall federal tax burden by $1,560 ($6,500 x 24 percent). And you could save additional money on your state taxes. In effect, the government is paying you money to save.

You can contribute to an IRA even if you have a retirement plan at work, though you may not be able to deduct the full amount of your contribution, depending on your income:

  • If you and your spouse don’t have retirement plans at work, you’ll be able to capture the full tax savings. The IRS provides further details for those not covered by a workplace plan.
  • If you or your spouse does have a plan at work, the deductibility of your IRA contribution declines above certain income levels. For example, as a single filer, if your modified adjusted gross income is less than $73,000 for 2023, you can deduct the full amount. Those married filing jointly can have modified gross income up to $116,000 and still receive full deductibility. (The thresholds are higher in 2024.)

But for low-income taxpayers it gets even better. That’s because there’s an additional bonus called the Saver’s Credit. This could reduce your taxes further, by up to $2,000. This bonus is on top of the first tax savings, so you can get both if you meet the income requirements.

What is the deadline to contribute?

You can contribute to an IRA at any time during the calendar year and up to tax day of the following calendar year. For example, taxpayers can contribute at any time during 2023 and have until the tax deadline (April 15, 2024) to contribute to an IRA for the 2023 tax year. This means that not only do you have to open the account by this date, you must have funded it, too.

But this long contribution window means that as soon as you have your 2023 contributions settled, you can start contributing for 2024, rather than scrambling at the end of tax season in 2025.

And if you file your taxes before you make your contribution? No big deal. As long as you make your IRA contribution before the tax deadline, you can refile your tax return and still get the tax benefit. It’s a little extra work, but definitely worth the hassle for the savings.

Are you eligible for an IRA?

You’re eligible for an IRA if you have earned income for a given tax year. However, you may also be eligible for a spousal IRA, if your spouse had taxable income but you didn’t.

As mentioned, the contribution limit for 2023 is $6,500, or $7,500 for those over age 50. For 2024, the contribution limit increases to $7,000, or $8,000 for those over age 50. However, if your income does not reach these levels, you may only contribute up to your taxable income.

While an IRA can save you on taxes, the IRS may impose limits on the tax deduction, depending on your income. Even if you exceed these income levels, you can still contribute to an IRA, but you won’t get the tax break. If that’s the case, you may be able to take advantage of a backdoor Roth IRA and enjoy one of the best tax-advantaged retirement plans.

Comparing tax savings: Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA

If you’re looking for last-minute tax savings this year, you’ll want to make sure that you select the right IRA – the traditional IRA. But you should watch out because there’s another kind – the Roth IRA – that gets you tax savings in the future, rather than today.

The traditional IRA offers you a tax break today in exchange for allowing your investments to grow tax-free until retirement. When you withdraw your money in the future, you’ll pay taxes on the distributions.

In contrast, the Roth IRA gives you a future tax break because you’re saving with after-tax money today. With the Roth IRA, your investments grow tax-free and you won’t pay any taxes on qualified withdrawals later.

While these are the most substantial differences between the two IRAs, there are further differences that you’ll want to understand before making a final choice.

Bottom line

While a tax break for this year is a great incentive to make your IRA contribution, the real value of the IRA is its ability to shield your investments from taxes. Your investments will be able to compound faster that way, and you’ll roll up a larger portfolio more quickly. Bankrate’s IRA calculator can help you determine how large your investments can grow over time.

But to get that kind of growth, you’ll need to take action before this year’s deadline by opening and funding an IRA by April 15. Brokerages are one of the best places to invest your money because of the potentially higher-return investments. Bankrate’s brokerage reviews can help you decide where to open a traditional IRA.

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