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In the view of the IRS it does not matter whether you actually participate or not as long as you are eligible. The fact that you are eligible for a 401k or other Qualified Defined Contribution Plna will affect your ability to deduct contribtuions to a Traditional IRA. Please refer to the excellent post (as usual) by MarkOYoung for the details. The IRS is notified of your eligiblity status each year on your Form W-2. I believe it is box 13 on the w-2 that indicates if you are eligible. Whether you participate is not a factor to the IRS.

Bill
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