What Is the Married Couple Limit to an IRA Contribution?

The Internal Revenue Service does not allow married couples to share an individual retirement account. Each IRA is tied to one Social Security number. However, the IRS does have special rules relating to how a spouse may be able to contribute to an IRA when she might not otherwise be eligible if unmarried.

Standard Contribution Limits

The IRS adjusts the annual contribution limit each year to reflect changes in the cost of living. As of 2011, you can contribute $5,000. If you are 50 or older, the IRS bumps up the contribution limit to $6,000. These limits apply to each spouse separately. For example, if one spouse is 49 and the other is 52, the 49-year-old spouse would be able to contribute $5,000 while the 52-year-old spouse would be able to contribute $6,000.

Earned Income Requirements

The IRS requires that your contribution for the year not exceed your earned income for the year. For example, if your contribution limit would be $5,000 but you only have $800 in earned income, you would be able to contribute only $800. Gifts to you do not count as earned income. However, the IRS permits an exception for spouses: You can use your spouse's earned income to satisfy the requirement for you to contribute to an IRA. For example, if one spouse does not work, but the other spouse has earned income in excess of the combined contribution limits, both spouses could make a full contribution.

Roth IRA Income Limitations

If you want to contribute to a Roth IRA, you must consider the income limits imposed by the IRS. As of 2011, the maximum Roth IRA contribution limit for each spouse decreases if you file jointly and your modified adjusted gross income falls between $169,000 and $179,000. If you file jointly and your modified adjusted gross income exceeds $179,000, neither spouse can contribute. If you file separately, your contribution limits if your modified adjusted gross income falls between $0 and $10,000. If your modified adjusted gross income exceeds $10,000, you cannot contribute.

Traditional IRA Deduction Limitations

Traditional IRAs do not restrict who can contribute based on income. However, if either spouse has a retirement plan at work, the IRS imposes income limits on who can deduct their contributions to traditional IRAs from their taxes. In 2011, if you are the covered spouse, you can take a reduced deduction if your modified adjusted gross income falls between $90,000 and $110,000 if you file jointly. Those with modified adjusted gross income above $110,000 cannot claim any deduction. If you are covered and file separately, you can take a reduced deduction if your modified adjusted gross income falls between $0 and $10,000 if you file jointly. If only your spouse is covered, you can take a reduced deduction if your modified adjusted gross income falls between $169,000 and $179,000 if you file jointly. Those with modified adjusted gross income above $179,000 cannot claim any deduction. If only your spouse is covered and you file separately, you can take a reduced deduction if your modified adjusted gross income falls between $0 and $10,000 if you file jointly.

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