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Can a child who's only earned income is from odd jobs- ie babysitting, lawn mowing, etc. contribute to a Roth IRA?

Yes, but there is a catch. In order to contribute the full $2000 to the Roth, the child would have to declare at least that amount as self employment income and pay SE tax at 15.3%.

Assuming $2000 as SE income, the SE tax would around $283. Income tax would be negated by the standard deduction (assuming other taxable income is less than $2,500). This also assumes that the child is claimed as a dependent on the parent's return.

It works out much better for children who have regular wages from part-time jobs because SE taxes are not an issue. A child could earn up to $4,500 and pay FICA through withholding at 7.65% and remain tax-exempt for Federal purposes (state taxes may be applicable though). The child can then make a Roth contribution to the lesser of their earned income or $2,000.

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