In a recent column you mentioned that a lump-sum distribution from a Keogh plan is "eligible for special forward averaging (five years for most people, 10 years using 1986 tax rates for anyone who was 50 or older on Dec. 31, 1986)."

Two questions: Is that option only available for 1986 tax returns, or may it be used in a later year provided the taxpayer was 50 years old by Dec. 31, 1986, and the 1986 tax tables are used?

Is a lump-sum distribution from the newly established Thrift plan for federal workers also eligible for 10-year forward averaging?

Before I answer, let me set the record straight on the date you used. In the June 8 column I corrected that date; the special 10-year averaging is only available for people who were 50 or older as of Jan. 1,1986.

Now to your questions: The 10-year averaging method is not restricted to 1986; it will continue to be available in future years to those who meet the age requirement -- but it will always require the use of the 1986 tax rates.

Because of the reduction in tax rates, anyone who qualifies should try both the old and the new (five-year) method to see which produces the lower tax.

A lump-sum distribution from the federal thrift plan will not qualify for either 10-year averaging or the new five-year method.

To qualify as a lump-sum distribution, the payout must include (within one tax year) the entire balance to your credit in the employer pension plan.

Even a partial distribution must equal at least 50 percent of that total balance. Since it is highly unlikely that the taxable portion of your contributions to the plan will be that much, such a distribution will not qualify for either averaging or rollover into an IRA.

My wife serves as court-appointed guardian of her 84-year-old brother, a bachelor with substantial net worth. The court has approved an annual guardian's commission of several thousand dollars.

I assume that the amount of the commission must be reported as income on our joint return. Can the commission be claimed as a tax-deductible item?

Yes. If the fee is an "ordinary and necessary" expense of administering the guardianship -- as it is in this case -- the amount of the fee is deductible on the tax return she files for her brother.

If your wife is filing an individual return on Form 1040 for him, the fee is deductible as a miscellaneous expense on Schedule A (assuming itemizing).

If a trust has been established and she is filing a fiduciary return on Form 1041, then it is deductible directly from total income.

I retired Jan. 1, 1987, and will still be able to deposit $2,000 into my IRA for 1987 as my adjusted gross income will be less than $25,000. However, for 1988 (and I presume beyond) I was told that unless I earn $2,000 or more on top of my interest and retirement income, I will not be eligible to set aside additional funds in my IRA. Yet nothing I have read indicates this -- everyone writes about AGI limits, age, etc.

Can you please discuss the validity of the information I have received?

Your information is correct -- and I suspect I'm as guilty as others on this subject. We tend to get so wrapped up in all the new qualification requirements that we forget to mention a basic rule: Regardless of the other rules, you may not deposit into an IRA an amount in excess of your earned income for the year. "Earned income" includes such things as wages, commissions, tips and net earnings from self-employment, but it does not include either investment or retirement income.Abramson is a family financial counselor and tax adviser. Questions of general interest on tax matters, insurance, investments, estate planning and other aspects of family finances will be answered in this column. Advice cannot be given on an individual basis. Address all questions to E.M. Abramson, The Washington Post, Business &Finance News, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.