Dear Tax Talk,
When a traditional IRA is moved from one bank or credit union to another, how long before I can move it to another bank?
— Maria

Dear Maria,
IRAs are held with financial institutions. The institution is referred to as the custodian. The frequency with which you can transfer funds from one custodian to another depends on the type of transfer you make. You can transfer, tax-free, assets from other retirement programs (including traditional IRAs) to a traditional IRA. You can make the following kinds of transfers.

Types of retirement account transfers
  • Transfers from one trustee to another.
  • Rollovers.
  • Transfers incident to a divorce.

Custodians offer a variety of investment options, such as CDs, stocks or mutual funds.  Changing the type of investment with the same custodian is not considered a transfer or rollover.  

A transfer of funds in your traditional IRA from one trustee directly to another, either at your request or at the trustee’s request, is not a rollover. Because there is no distribution to you, the transfer is tax-free. Unlike a rollover contribution, there is no limit on the amount of direct transfers you can make in any period of time.

Generally, a rollover is a tax-free distribution to you of cash or other assets from one retirement plan that you contribute to into another retirement plan. The contribution to the second retirement plan is called a “rollover contribution.” You generally must make the rollover contribution by the 60th day after the day you receive the distribution from your traditional IRA or your employer’s plan.

Generally, if you make a tax-free rollover of any part of a distribution from a traditional IRA, you cannot, within a one-year period, make a tax-free rollover of any later distribution from that same IRA. You also cannot make a tax-free rollover of any amount distributed, within the same one-year period, from the IRA into which you made the tax-free rollover.

The one-year period begins on the date you receive the IRA distribution, not on the date you roll it over into an IRA. You can still make a direct rollover in a transfer from one trustee to another.

To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. Taxpayers should seek professional advice based on their particular circumstances.