Q: I still do some work as a consultant, but I must start taking distributions from my IRA before April 1 of next year. If I convert to a Roth IRA this year, can I avoid taking the distribution (and the resulting tax)? R.A., Duluth, Minn.
A: No dice. Unfortunately, a person who has reached age 70 1/2—and, therefore, is required to begin taking minimum distributions from their IRA—can't convert the IRA amount into a Roth IRA before they receive the required minimum distribution for the year of the conversion. In other words, the required distribution amount cannot be converted to Roth IRA status. You must take that amount out of the traditional IRA before the conversion and pay the resulting taxes. (Treasury reg. 1.408A-4, Q&A 6) Note: Unlike a traditional IRA, you can continue to make contributions to a Roth IRA after you reach 70 1/2 if you have earned income.