Retirement savers love Roth IRAs, because they're designed to offer tax benefits that no other retirement account can. Roth IRAs are able to grow tax free throughout your career and beyond, and unlike many other types of retirement accounts, you don't owe any tax when you take withdrawals from a Roth IRA in retirement.

With the contribution limits for Roth IRAs in 2019 set to go up to $6,000 from $5,500 in 2018 -- or $7,000 for those who are 50 or older -- using these accounts will get even more beneficial. Before you do, though, you need to know about the Roth IRA income limits that can put the brakes on your ability to use the account for your retirement savings.

Red, blue, and white road sign with Roth written on it, under a blue sky with a few clouds.

Image source: Getty Images.

The 2019 income limits for Roth IRA contributions

The 2019 Roth IRA income limits vary depending on your tax filing status. The starting point is to calculate your modified adjusted gross income, which includes all of your income but excludes amounts included from Roth conversions. You also must deduct what's known as above-the-line deductions, which includes penalties for early bank CD withdrawals and contributions to health savings accounts.

The chart below will tell you what to do with the resulting figure and what it means for your Roth IRA contributions.

For this filing status:

Contributions are reduced if income is above this amount

Contributions are not available if income exceeds this amount

Single, head of household, or married filing separately IF you didn't live with your spouse during the year



Married filing jointly or qualifying widow or widower



Married filing separately IF you lived with your spouse at any point during the year



Data source: IRS.

How much you can contribute

The rules for figuring out how much you can contribute to a Roth IRA in 2019 are generally pretty simple:

  • If your income is less than the number in the first column, you can make a full contribution of $6,000 for those younger than 50 or $7,000 for those 50 or older.
  • If your income is more than the number in the second column, you can't contribute anything to a Roth in 2019.
  • If your income is between the two numbers, you'll be able to make a prorated contribution. For single taxpayers, for every $1,500 you make above the number in the first column, you'll lose 10% of your $6,000 or $7,000 maximum contribution. For married taxpayers, you'll lose the same 10% for every $1,000 in income above the first-column amount.

As an example, say that you're 48, married, and have joint income of $200,000. Looking at the chart above, your income exceeds the $193,000 lower threshold by $7,000. At a rate of 10% per $1,000, that means that you'll lose 70% of your contribution. For someone younger than 50 with a maximum of $6,000, the reduction will be $4,200, leaving you with a final allowable contribution of $1,800.

Is there a workaround?

Those who find themselves with lower limits for Roth IRA contributions than they'd like have an alternative: the backdoor Roth. To use this strategy, you have to contribute to a traditional IRA -- for which there are no income limits preventing contributions -- and then convert that IRA to a Roth.

However, there's a potential problem with backdoor IRAs. They only work well in two cases: You're able to deduct the IRA contribution, or you have no other traditional IRAs. Otherwise, the conversion will result in an increased tax bill, and that's not usually something most taxpayers want.

Some workers are fortunate enough to have Roth 401(k) options in their workplace retirement plan. 401(k)s aren't required to offer a Roth alternative, but it's worth checking with your HR department to see if you're one of the lucky ones.

Use a Roth and save on taxes

Even with income limits, Roth IRAs are worth a closer look. Those who are allowed to use them for their retirement savings get tax benefits that are hard to find anywhere else, and together with other strategies, they can make it far easier to meet your long-term retirement goals.