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Is it possible to go back and redo all my taxes for several years to get a Roth IRA started at this late date or do most folks in this situation just do a conversion from regular IRA to ROTH.

You might want to read "All About IRAs" at

To answer your question...

There is nothing on the tax forms to show that you have contributed to a Roth IRA account. (The custodian will file some paperwork with the IRS and send you a copy, but you don't file anything yourself.)

You can legally contribute up to $2000 to a conventional IRA or a Roth IRA or split that up between the two, as long as the total contribution for any given tax year does not exceed $2000, and you have earned income and don't exceed the AGI limits for the tax year you are making the contributions.

You can contribute as early as January 1 or as late as the tax filing deadline (usually April 15 the next year), so you could have made your Year 2000 Roth IRA contribution as early as January 1, 2000, or you can make it as late as April 16, 2001. (April 15, 2001 is a Sunday so the deadline is pushed out to the next business day.) So you can still open a Roth IRA account and make your year 2000 contribution to it, but it is too late to catch up from past years, and it is currently too early for the 2001 contribution.

If you have money sitting in a conventional IRA, you can "convert" all or part of that money to Roth, but you will have to pay income tax for the dollar amount being converted. As long as your income doesn't exceed the AGI limit, you can convert as little or as much as you like, but the more you convert, the more income tax you will have to pay. However, if you are already taking minimum required distributions from a conventional IRA, you cannot convert money you have to withdraw for the minimum required distribution, but you can convert additional money in that IRA. (Note: there is paperwork that will have to be filed with your tax forms for converted amounts.)

The converted amounts don't affect the amount you can contribute, so you can conceivably contribute $2,000 for a year and also convert a lot of money from a conventional IRA to a Roth IRA.

The link I posted above on "All About IRAs" should cover the subject fairly well and, if you find a discrepancy between what I wrote and the write-up at the above link, you can assume that I was wrong. 8)
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