A Roth individual retirement account can provide you with some significant tax advantages. The investments in your account grow tax-deferred, and once they become qualified you can withdraw them completely tax-free. Your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA is dependent on you or your spouse having earned income. Whether or not you have a disability is immaterial.
You can open and contribute to a Roth IRA if you have earned income, or what the IRS refers to as taxable compensation. This is money, goods or services you receive in exchange for work. Earned income can be in the form of wages, salaries, tips, commissions, self-employment compensation, taxable alimony, bonuses and professional fees. If you are disabled but are still able to earn compensation from working, you can qualify for a Roth IRA.
Employer's Disability Plan
The IRS considers income you receive under the provision of your employer's disability retirement plan to be earned income until you reach what would otherwise have been the normal retirement age. If you retire due to a disability and receive this type of compensation, you qualify for a Roth IRA. The payments must come from your employer's plan. Payments you receive from a disability policy that you paid for don't qualify as earned income.
If you are married, you file a joint tax return and your spouse has earned income, you might qualify for a Roth IRA even if you are totally disabled and have no earned income of your own. You can use your spouse's earned income to fund your Roth IRA as long as your spouse has sufficient income to cover the contributions. Your spouse's contributions to your spousal IRA are irrevocable. Once that contribution is made, all of the money and any investments you make with it belongs to you -- not to your spouse.
The maximum you can contribute to a Roth IRA is $5,000 for the 2012 tax year, regardless of your disability status. For those 50 or older, the maximum contribution is $6,000. If you qualify for a spousal IRA, both spouses can contribute up to the maximum for a total of up to $10,000, or $12,000 after you reach 50.
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.