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The purpose of an IRA is to serve as a personal tax-qualified retirement savings plan. Anyone who works, whether as an employee or self-employed, can set aside a set amount in an IRA, with the earnings on these investments tax-deferred until the date of distribution. In addition, certain individuals are permitted to deduct all or part of their contributions to the IRA. Plus, as of 1998, certain individuals can also set up Roth IRAs, to which contributions are not deductible, but from which withdrawals at retirement won’t be taxed.

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It doesn’t take much to set up an IRA. The trustee (or custodian) can be a bank, mutual fund, brokerage house or other financial institution. You cannot be your own trustee. An IRA can be established and a contribution made after year-end, no later than the due date for filing the income tax return for that year, not including extensions. This generally means that you have until April 15th of the following year to make the contribution and deduct it on your tax return.