How the IRS Discovers Your IRA: Unveiling the Secrets

Many people wonder how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) discovers their Individual Retirement Account (IRA). The process is not as mysterious as it may seem. The IRS has several ways to find out about your IRA, and understanding these methods can help you better manage your retirement savings and avoid potential tax issues. This article will unveil the secrets behind how the IRS discovers your IRA.

Form 5498: IRA Contribution Information

Every year, your IRA custodian, the financial institution that manages your account, is required to report certain information to the IRS. This is done through Form 5498, which provides details about your IRA contributions, rollovers, conversions, and the fair market value of your account. This form is typically sent to the IRS and the account holder in May, giving the IRS a clear picture of your IRA activity for the previous tax year.

Form 1099-R: Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans

When you take a distribution from your IRA, your custodian will report this to the IRS using Form 1099-R. This form includes the gross distribution amount, the taxable amount, and any federal income tax withheld. It also indicates whether the distribution is early (before age 59½), due to death, or a result of disability. This information allows the IRS to track withdrawals from your IRA and ensure that the appropriate taxes are paid.

Form 1040: Individual Income Tax Return

On your annual tax return, you are required to report any contributions made to a traditional IRA. This is done on Form 1040, where you can also deduct your contributions if you meet certain criteria. The IRS uses this information to verify the contributions reported by your custodian on Form 5498.

Form 8606: Nondeductible IRAs

If you make nondeductible contributions to your IRA, or if you have a Roth IRA, you must file Form 8606 with your tax return. This form helps the IRS track the basis in your IRA, which is the amount you’ve contributed that has already been taxed. This is important for determining the taxable amount of your distributions in the future.


The IRS has a comprehensive system in place to track your IRA activity. By understanding this process, you can better manage your retirement savings and avoid potential tax issues. Remember, it’s always important to consult with a tax professional if you have questions about your IRA or other tax matters.


Does the IRS know how much money I have in my IRA?

Yes, the IRS knows the fair market value of your IRA thanks to Form 5498, which your custodian sends to the IRS each year.

What happens if I don’t report my IRA distribution?

If you don’t report your IRA distribution, the IRS will likely find out through Form 1099-R, which your custodian sends to the IRS. This could result in penalties and interest on any unpaid taxes.