Self-directed IRAs present a number of significant opportunities and challenges.
The self-directed IRA allows the account owner to invest in alternative assets, such as real estate, promissory notes, and tax liens. If properly structured, these investments can produce significantly higher investment returns than possible through the investments that are available in traditional IRAs.
The self-directed aspect of IRAs creates a number of compliance issues. The account owner must not engage in prohibited transactions, which generally involves avoiding any self-dealing or even perceived self-dealing. To the extent the IRA assets are subject to the unrelated business income tax or UBIT (such as when there is income from debt-financed real estate or an operating business), the account owner may need to file an income tax return for the IRA. Also, if the self-directed IRA owns a limited liability company or other legal entity, the account owner may need to ensure that the entity documents are prepared and timely filed.
The IRS has been auditing self-directed IRAs and this will no doubt continue. These audits can result in significant tax adjustments and penalties. These adjustments can be very large and negate the very benefits of the self-directed IRA. Recordkeeping is imperative–particularly with self-directed IRAs structured to have “checkbook control.” The recent court cases are evidence of this. Here are a few examples:
- LLC Owned by Self-Directed IRA Cannot Pay Wages
- Self-Directed IRA Purchase of Real Estate is Taxable
- Self-Directed IRA can Flip Houses & Share Ownership of Property
- Promissory Notes Owned by Self-Directed IRA Were Not Worthless
- Personal Guarantees for Company Owned by Self-Directed IRAs were Prohibited Transactions
An experienced tax attorney can help.
We advise clients on self-directed IRA questions, structuring, and audits and appeals.