Can Working Spouses Contribute to Roth IRA?

by Ciaran John

Generally, you can only deposit money into a Roth individual retirement arrangement (IRA) if you have earned income, although in some instances both spouses can contribute even if only one spouse works. However, Roth contributions are also subject to income restrictions; if your modified adjusted gross income exceeds these limits, you may find yourself unable to contribute.


As of the time of publication, annual contributions to Roth IRAs are capped at $6,000 for people aged 50 and older, while younger taxpayers can contribute up to $5,000, although contributions cannot exceed earned income. IRAs by definition are individually owned, so while you and your spouse can file your taxes jointly, you cannot both contribute to the same account. As a married couple, you and your spouse can either file your taxes jointly or separately. If you file separately, you can only fund a Roth if you actually have earned income. If you file jointly, you can both contribute to Roth IRAs, even if only one of you actually earned any money during the year.

Filing Separately

If you and your spouse lived apart for the entire tax year, then your Roth contributions are subject to the same income limits as single tax payers. You can each make full contributions to Roth IRAs if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) as an individual amounted to less than $107,000. If your MAGI exceeded that amount then you can make a reduced contribution as long as your MAGI did not exceed $121,999. If your MAGI amounted to $122,000 or more, then you cannot contribute. So if you earned $130,000, and your spouse earned nothing, then neither of you can contribute.

Filing Jointly

If you file your taxes as married filing jointly then you can make a full Roth contribution if your MAGI does not exceed $169,000. If your MAGI falls between $169,000, and $178,999, you can make a partial contributions. You cannot contribute with a MAGI of $179,000, or higher. Since you file your taxes jointly, the money belongs to you both, which means that a non-working spouse as well as a working spouse can contribute to a Roth. However, a non-working spouse can only contribute if the working spouse earned enough to cover both spouses' contributions. If are 25 years old with a combined MAGI of $6,000, and your spouse contributed $5,000 to a Roth, then you can only contribute $1,000 to your own Roth.

Living Together

If you and your spouse lived together within the last 12 months but file your taxes separately, then you have to contend with much stricter contribution limits. If your MAGI exceeds $10,000, then you cannot contribute to a Roth IRA. With a MAGI of $10,000, or less, you can make a partial contribution to a Roth. If you earned nothing then you cannot contribute, because you can only use your spouse's earnings to make your contribution if you file jointly.

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