Beginning in 2015 the IRS has limited the number of rollovers from one IRA to another (or same) IRA in any 12 month period, independent of how many IRAs you might collectively have. The limit will take all of an individual’s IRAs (including SEP and Simple IRAs) along with traditional and Roth IRA’s, essentially treating them as one IRA for the purposes of these limitations. For more information and the IRS document you can go to: http://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/IRA-One-Rollover-Per-Year-Rule.
In general it, seems many individuals are unclear of the differences between a “Rollover,” which is limited and a “Direct Transfer” for which which there are no current limits on transfers per year. During a rollover an individual receives a check (distribution) from their IRA and has 60 days to deposit it in the new IRA plan. If this is not done within the 60 day period the whole distribution is taxed at the taxpayer’s current tax rate, and the 10% early withdrawal penalty may apply as well.
With a direct transfer, a “trustee to trustee” distribution is completed with the individual never having possession of the distribution at any time. There will not be any taxes taken out of the distribution and the 10% early penalty will not apply. These are not limited in frequency per tax year and/or all IRAs are aggregated and treated as one big IRA for transferring purposes.
According to Investment News magazines May 2015 article, there are some other exceptions to this once-per-year rule.
A. Roth conversions done as a 60-day rollover from and IRA to a Roth IRA
B. IRA Rollovers to and from a company retirement plan such as a 401(k)
C. IRA first-time home buyer distributions when the home purchase is delayed or canceled.
D. Qualified reservist distributions that are repaid on time.
E. IRA-to-IRA or Roth IRA-to-Roth IRA direct transfers (As mentioned above.)