Many of us are familiar with the Traditional IRA’s and the investment opportunities they provide. Less commonly known is the Self- Directed IRA, which offers a greater choice of investment options, including real estate.
I am not a financial advisor selling investments.
I am a CPA who just finished reading a book titled, ‘Leverage Your IRA, Maximize Your Profits with Real Estate’. One of the authors is a CPA and a Certified Financial Planner. I read this book for personal reasons and to learn the tax aspects so that I could be an informed resource for others. I found the information beneficial and hope you will as well.
There are two types of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA’s):
- Traditional: IRA’S: Most retirement plans are tax deferred and are funded with pre-tax dollars. Traditional IRA’s, SEP IRA’S, SIMPLE IRA’S, and 401 (K) plans are in this category; tax is deferred and paid at a future event such as a withdrawal /distribution
- Roth IRA’s and Roth 401k’s are tax-free because they are funded with after -tax dollars
Traditional IRA’s allow funds to be invested with banks, brokerage firms, mutual fund companies, and insurance companies.
Self-Directed IRA’s allow the Account Holder many more investment options. For example, Self-Directed IRA retirement account funds can be invested in mortgages without having to “cash out” to make the investment. Investments are made inside this type IRA and funds can be rolled over from traditional accounts without a penalty.
Self-Directed IRA’s can invest in just about anything except:
- Life Insurance contracts
- Subchapter S Corporation stock (S-Corps cannot have an IRA as a stock holder)
Your Self-Directed IRA can purchase rental properties, commercial properties, tax liens, foreign real estate, buy mortgage notes, loan money earning interest, and more. Assets need to be handled as investments and cannot be used personally by you or any disqualified person. Your IRA owns the investment, not you. Investment possibilities may include:
- Buying real estate from an unrelated party with cash
- Buying property with a down payment and obtaining an “unsecured loan”
- Co-investing with other parties
Income and capital gains can flow back to IRA’s tax-deferred (Traditional) or tax-free (Roth), if the IRA does not have a related real estate loan.
Real Estate Loans are possible and are “Unsecured”; your IRA funds cannot be used as collateral as security and there is no recourse against the Account Holder. In the event of default, the lender can only look to the property or the leases for repayment.
Non-Secured Loan Qualification is underwritten similar to a commercial real estate property loan. Criteria includes:
- The Property – the lender needs to be satisfied with the value, marketability, and the condition of the property
- Cash Flow – does the property cover the mortgage and the expenses?
- IRA Funds – are the funds sufficient to cover the down payment, closing costs, pre-paid costs for taxes and insurance, and reserves for repairs or vacancies?
Down payment requirements vary by the lender and the property type. One such lender that provides Unsecured IRA Loans is North American Savings Bank (www.nasb.com)
Safeguards – how to protect your investment
Transactions need to be handled by a Specialized Custodian or Administrator. If you handle the transactions, the transaction could become taxable and the value of your money is at risk. Always follow the rules and keep your IRA funds and you safe.
While the Self-Directed IRA’s offer greater investment choices, there are also specific IRS rules that must be followed to protect your IRA. For example, “Self-Dealing” and “Prohibited Transactions” must be avoided.
The Exclusive Benefit Rule applies to all IRA’s. This means only the IRA can benefit from the transaction and that the IRA owner nor any other “disqualified person” may receive a personal benefit as a result of a transaction by their IRA; i.e. your IRA cannot buy your vacation home.
IRS Publication 590 (2013), Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs) includes the following about Prohibited Transactions:
Generally, a prohibited transaction is any improper use of your traditional IRA account or annuity by you, your beneficiary, or any disqualified person.
Disqualified persons include your fiduciary and members of your family (spouse, ancestor, lineal descendant, and any spouse of a lineal descendant).
The following are some examples of prohibited transactions with a traditional IRA. ***
- Borrowing money from it
- Selling property to it
- Using it as security for a loan
- Buying property for personal use (present or future) with IRA funds.
With any investment, Due Diligence is always important. Knowledge is power. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”.
I encourage you to take the time to become an educated investor prior to considering using any portion of your retirement funds in a Self Directed IRA. Additional information can be found at:
- Retirement Industry Trust Association (RITA) is a non-profit trade association formed in 1987which represents Trust Companies, banks, attorneys, accountants and other service providers in the self-directed retirement plan industry. http://www.self-directed-retirement.org/investor-resources/
- Review “Self-Directed IRA Custodian” websites
- For more in-depth information on Prohibited Transactions, you may wish to read IRC 4975
- Discuss with your CPA, Tax Attorney, or other experienced investors about their Self-Directed IRA
The information provided in this post is intended to be a good basic primer about Self Directed IRA’s. A comprehensive review is beyond the scope of this blog post.
Please let me know if you have any questions or if you would like me to post a more technical blog about UDFI (Unrelated Debt-Financed Income) and UBIT (Unrelated Business Income Tax), which can apply if an IRA real-estate loan is part of the IRA transaction.
Deb Fox is working to make a difference in peoples lives, hearts, and wallets by helping others protect their financial health and is available for side-by-side, remote, or mobile appointment. More information is available at www.debfoxfinancial.com. Questions or comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.