Roth Conversions as Revenue Raisers: Smoke and Mirrors

Research Report

Roth Conversions as Revenue Raisers: Smoke and Mirrors

May 11, 2006


The Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 will extend the low tax rates on capital gains and dividends through 2010, grant temporary relief from the individual alternative minimum tax through 2006, and extend several expiring business tax breaks. To prevent Senators from raising a parliamentary "point of order" that would kill the bill, it had to reduce federal tax revenues by no more than $70 billion. Meeting this budget target required the inclusion of several tax increase provisions in the package. One of the largest allows taxpayers to convert IRA balances into so-called Roth IRAs. The Joint Committee on Taxation reckons that this provision would raise $6.4 billion in revenues over the 10-year budget window. In fact, this provision would reduce federal revenues over the long term by much, much more than it raises in the short run: On balance, the provision would reduce net long-term federal revenues by $14 billion in present value.

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