As most people know, a taxpayer can take a distribution from an IRA without being taxed if the taxpayer rolls over (contributes) the amount received into an IRA within 60 days. This tax-free treatment does not apply if the individual rolled over another distribution from an IRA within the one-year period ending on the day of the second distribution.
Taxpayers and the IRS both believed that this one-rollover-per-year limit was applied separately to each IRA owned by the individual. If an individual owned two IRAs, for example, the taxpayer could do two rollovers in the appropriate period - one from each IRA. The IRS applied this interpretation in proposed regulations and in Publication 590, IRAs.
One rollover per taxpayer
In Bobrow, TC Memo. 2014-21, CCH Dec. 59,823(M), issued in January 2014, the Tax Court concluded that a taxpayer could make only one nontaxable rollover between IRAs within a one-year period, regardless of how many IRAs the taxpayer maintained. Thus, the one-per-year limit applied to the taxpayer, not to each separate IRA owned by the taxpayer.
In Notice 2014-15 and Announcement 2014-32, the IRS indicated that it would follow the Bobrow interpretation. It withdrew the proposed regulations, and will issue a new Publication 590-A, Contributions to IRAs, that applies the Bobrow interpretation.
In the notice and the announcement, the IRS provided a transition rule that it will not apply the new interpretation of the limit on permissible IRA rollovers until January 1, 2015. A distribution from an IRA in 2014 that is rolled over to another IRA will be disregarded in applying the new rule to 2015 distributions, provided that the 2015 distribution is from a different IRA that was included in the 2014 rollover.
The IRS noted that there are several types of rollovers that that are not subject to the Bobrow rule: a rollover from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA; a rollover to or from a qualified plan; and trustee-to-trustee transfers. The IRS stated that trustees can accomplish a trustee-to-trustee transfer by transferring amounts directly between IRAs, or by providing the IRA owner with a check made payable to the trustee of the receiving IRA.
However, a rollover between Roth IRAs would preclude a separate rollover within the one-year period between the individual's traditional IRAs; similarly, a rollover between traditional IRAs would preclude a rollover between Roth IRAs with the one-year period.