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I thought that contributions to an IRA or a Roth IRA don't have to be from income earned in the US--that an American citizen can contribute to an IRA or a Roth IRA from any worldwide income.

The income doesn't have to be earned in the US, but it has to be taxable in the US. If you work abroad and all your income is wiped out by the foreign earned income exclusion you have no "taxable compensation" on which to base an IRA contribution.

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