|What are the rules for IRA contributions?|
It depends on what kind of IRA you're talking about. Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs are each subject to different contribution rules.
You're allowed to contribute up to $5,000 to a traditional IRA in 2008 and 2009, as long as you're under age 70½ and you have earned income. In addition, if you're age 50 or older, you can make an extra "catch-up" contribution of $1,000 in 2008 and 2009. You can make your annual contribution up to April 15 of the following year, either in a series of payments or in one lump sum. The beauty is that practically anyone who has a paying job can set up and contribute to a traditional IRA. Also, if you meet certain conditions, you may be able to contribute an additional $5,000 in 2008 and 2009 to an IRA in your spouse's name (plus an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution if your spouse is age 50 or older). However, whether or not you can deduct your traditional IRA contributions will depend on several factors, such as your income, your tax filing status, and whether you or your spouse is covered by an employer-sponsored plan. You may be able to deduct all, a portion, or none of your contribution for a given year. You may even qualify for a partial tax credit.
Roth IRAs are in some ways the opposite of traditional IRAs. Contributions to Roth IRAs are never tax deductible, but a tax credit may be available and qualifying distributions will be tax free. Also, even though the same dollar caps on yearly contributions apply to Roth IRAs ($5,000 in 2008 and 2009, $6,000 if age 50 or older), not everyone will qualify to take full advantage of a Roth IRA. The amount you can contribute to a Roth IRA (if anything) will be based on your income and filing status. If you do qualify, you may be able to continue contributing to a Roth IRA after age 70½--a feature traditional IRAs don't offer. As with traditional IRAs, you may be able to contribute to a Roth IRA on behalf of your spouse. However, your contribution to a Roth IRA for any tax year must be reduced by contributions made to other IRAs during the same year. For example, your combined annual contribution to all of your IRAs in 2009--Roth and traditional--cannot exceed $5,000 ($6,000 if you're age 50 or older).