In a nutshell, traditional and Roth IRAs are retirement accounts that allow you to contribute money ($5,500 a year in 2015, plus an additional $1,000 if you're over age 50) that grows tax-free over time.
With traditional IRAs, contributions may be tax-deductible — depending on factors such as income levels and whether you have a work-related retirement plan. When you begin taking required minimum distributions, which must start at age 70½, you have to pay taxes on withdrawals.
With Roth IRAs, you pay tax on that income when you first make your contribution. If the withdrawal is made before 59½ and is only up to the amount that has been contributed to the Roth IRA, then no income tax is charged. Withdrawals of contributions are tax-free.
Roth IRAs are not subject to the RMD rules, since no distributions are required during the lifetime of the owner. However, Roth IRAs are subject to RMD rules after the death of the owner of the Roth IRA, with a 50 percent penalty if such distributions are not made.
Roth IRAs have income limitations; for instance, to contribute this year, your modified adjusted gross income for a married couple filing jointly must be less than $193,000.