Tag Archives: UBIT

UBIT? You Bet!


I think the answer to my question. Does Arkansas charge tax on UBIT and UDFI?

in the book 2009 Multistate Guide to Regulation and Taxation of Nonprofits By Steven D. Simpson. Which is found in full online through google books at:


It says that Arkansas does not have IRS code sections 501-529, but that it does tax unrelated business income on income attributable to Arkansas. Since UDFI is Section 514 I assume that there is no state income tax on UDFI. I also believe that attributable to Arkansas means the source of the income is physically inside the state.

This book seems to be a source of answers on UDFI and UBIT for all 50 states or at least a starting place.

I still have the following 3 questions from yesterday in a more simplified form:


1) If you pay UDFI on the sale of a depreciated rental property do you also recapture depreciation at a 25% rate?


2) If my IRA purchases a condo for nightly rental using debt will it owe UBIT on the nightly rental and UDFI on the profit percentage of the debt?


3) In the following  published article you state that UDFI is on Acquisition debt. Does this infer that if I pay cash for the house and then borrow against it later there is no UDFI? In other words is UDFI on all debt or just aquisition debt.




Definition of “Debt Financed Property.” In general, the term “debt-financed property” means any property held to produce income (including gain from its

disposition) for which there is an acquisition indebtedness at any time during the taxable year (or during the 12-month period before the date of the property’s disposal if it was disposed of during the tax year). If your retirement plan invests in a non-taxable entity and that entity owns debt financed property, the income from that property is attributed to the retirement plan, whether or not the income is distributed.





Thanks for the reference and the questions yesterday. Sorry we couldn’t get to all of them on the call.  As far as your questions:

1) I believe the IRA would owe this tax, but I have heard different arguments on this. If you think about it, it wouldn’t make sense to be able to deduct depreciation from current UDFI and then escape it on the sale of the property. However, one CPA told me that if the property had been paid off for more than 12 months so there was no capital gains tax then there wouldn’t be depreciation recapture either. I think this was based on the theory that ‘depreciation recapture’ is really another form of capital gains, technically called ‘unrecaptured section 1250 gains.’ To be honest, I just don’t know.

2) That’s a good question. Certainly running a hotel is considered to be a business operation as opposed to just rental income, so I see where you could assume that the nightly rentals would be UBI and not UDFI. I think that if it is considered to be a business operation then probably all income from that business would be UBI not UDFI. I don’t think you can split the capital gains in that case away and call them UDFI, but once again I’m really not that confident, especially this early in the morning. On the other hand, if it were me I would probably just report it as UDFI and see if the IRS disagreed. There is a lot of ambiguity in this area, unfortunately.


3) Another good question, but this one I can actually help you with. 🙂 Acquisition indebtedness is 1) when acquring or improving the property; 2) before acquring or improving the property if the debt would not have been incurred except for the acquisition or improvement; or 3) after acquiring or improving the property if (a) the debt would not have been incurred except for the acquisition or improvement, and b) incurring the debt was reasonably forseeable when the property was acquired or improved. So most likely in your scenario the debt would still be considered ‘acquisition indebtedness.’


Here is an interesting brain twister: what if my IRA owns a piece of land with no debt which produces no income but which is expected to be sold within a year. If my IRA borrows money to purchase bank stock, which will not be sold for several years, which property is considered debt-financed, the land or the bank stock? If the answer is the bank stock, then can my IRA escape taxation entirely on the gains from the bank stock because the debt will have been paid off from the sales proceeds of the land for more than 12 months prior to the sale of the bank stock?

Can you provide input on IRA Owned LLCs?

Question: Quincy can you give us input on whether we need to set up an IRA LLC or is there a better entity for self directed IRA’s? Is selling interest in a LLC the best way to pool IRA money?

Answer: The question of whether to set up an LLC for a particular transaction or series of transactions depends on a lot of factors.  For example, are you going to use the LLC for transactions on a regular basis, or is the LLC set up for a single transaction?  What is the cost of setting up the LLC in the state where you are located?  Are there any income or annual fees to maintain the LLC?  How much will the LLC cost to set up and maintain?  As I always say, “every port of refuge has its price.”  You simply have to analyze the costs and decide whether or not it is worth forming an LLC for your anticipated investments.  I have seen many people use trusts as a viable and less expensive alternative to LLCs, but once again there may be state law issues which affect your decision.

Another question is who will manage the LLC?  Personally, I believe it is not a great idea for an IRA owner to manage an LLC which the IRA owns, for a lot of reasons.  I understand that guidelines on IRA owned entities have been written by the Department of Labor and are under review by the IRS prior to being released sometime later this year.  These guidelines will hopefully shed light on a lot of the issues facing IRA owned entities.

Another factor to be considered is whether or not the operation of the LLC will subject the IRA to Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT).  If an IRA operates a business, either directly or through a non-taxable entity such as an LLC, the owing IRA will be subject to taxation and will need to file a Form 990T each year (unless that LLC elects to be treated as a C corporation for tax purposes).  This may impact the return and complicate matters somewhat, but does not at all mean the project shouldn’t be considered (I have investments in my retirement plan that require me to file a 990T each year).  It is conceivable or perhaps even probable that the continuous purchase and sale of notes in the LLC would cause the owning IRAs to owe UBIT, if that is your intent.  You should note that no disqualified person (including, but not limited to, the IRA owners and their immediate familymembers) may receive any current benefit from the transactions engaged in by the LLC.  For example, no commissions may be earned by any disqualified person for purchasing notes within the LLC.

The answer to your second question has significant Securities and Exchange Commission issues, so if you form an LLC and sell its shares you will want to be careful not to make it a “public” offering, or at the very least you should consult with a securities attorney prior to raising capital.  A full discussion of the securities law implications is beyond the scope of a quick email, and is subject to who the members of the LLC are and how they acquire the membership interests.  I have used both trusts and LLCs to accumulate funds for investments, but I have always dealt with immediate family members and close associates, not the “public.”  I am not an expert on securities laws, I just know enough to be dangerous.

Of course you should also realize that any particular asset may be held directly by an IRA as opposed to owning the asset through an LLC.  Depending on the complexity of the transaction and the volume of activity, direct ownership by the IRA or IRAs may be sufficient to meet your needs.

I apologize for the delay in answering your questions. If I can do anything for you, please let me know.  Have a great day!

Debt Financed Property in a Self-Directed 401(k) and UBIT

Question: I attended the seminar with you, Dyches Boddiford, and Hugh Bromma about a year ago.  I was reading the transcript of your February 4 radio interview which was very interesting.  You mentioned the need to file a 990T for your 401K with regard to a debt financed shopping center that your plan owns.  I wondered if that is correct because I thought it was unnecessary to file a 990T for a 401K, especially since there is no UDFI tax on a 401K.  Is there an advantage to filing one in such a situation?

Any insight you could give me on this would be much appreciated.  I have a debt financed property in my 401K so this is a particular topic of interest to me.

Answer:  Yes, the information about the 990T is correct in this case.  The exception you refer to requires either direct ownership by the 401(k), ownership through a special type of corporation, or ownership through a specially designed partnership.  Since most partnerships where non-retirement plans are also partners do not meet the special requirements to maintain the exemption, as mine does not, your plan may still owe UBIT and have to file a 990T.  As noted in the interview, this can still work out great, but you should always go in with your eyes open.  And yes, even if you do not owe UBIT taxes filing the 990T may be of some benefit, since you can carry forward a loss to offset future UBIT from the investment.  For the past two years the partnership my 401(k) invested in has shown a slight loss, but this year it will show a fairly decent profit, and I will use my loss carry forward from the last couple of years to offset the tax.

I have some articles I wrote on the topic, but right now I am in an airport on my way to Florida, so I can’t access them.  I will be back in the office next Wednesday.  The exemption and the restrictions on it may be found in Internal Revenue Code Section 514(c)(9).

I hope that helps some.  Have a great weekend!

H. Quincy Long’s UBIT Paper

Does Flipping Notes, Loans or Homes Create UBIT?

Conversation Between 2 Persons: Gentleman, The debate continues:)  I actually have an account with ….  I use this company website as a resource: But, it does not seem to give much information regarding the the tax treatment of Flipping notes in an IRA:  I am networking with a lot of younger investors and there seems to be a lot of questions and little information.  When we ask our tax professionals they “look at us like-you can’t do that.”  Most tax and legal professionals do not seem to understand much, if anything about Self Directed Investing.  So here is a follow up to the conversation if you can help us clear this up.  Just to put this into context, the original question was, “what would you do with $50k in a Self Directed IRA.”  I would say the average reader is in their late 30’s.

Person 1: I find it very hard to believe that flipping notes could be considered appreciably different than transacting stocks quickly.

Person 2: I don’t think we are saying that they are “appreciably” different, just that the two investment options (stocks on public market vs. private market notes) are different in other means. I have no idea which is the correct and legal answer, but in my opinion, I see how one can argue that notes sold/transfered from flipping which deal with a buyer and a seller who negotiate between themselves and have contact between them in a private manner is functionally different than flipping stocks in a public market where the buyer and seller never negotiate and never have contact.

To add to the confusion, what if you bought and immediately sold an actual business inside your 401k/IRA. Would UBIT apply?

Person 1: Flipping stocks doesn’t just magically occur either. A buyer and a seller still have to agree on a price for a transaction to occur. There may be fewer things to negotiate in these transactions, but I don’t see how they are really different from a “business standpoint.” What about trading something on the pink sheets? Is that somehow different still?

Person 2: I almost always agree with you, but will have to agree to disagree on this. Regardless of who is right, as no final evidence has been discovered clearly (and may never be clear), we just have two different thoughts on this. I see a difference in stocks vs. flipping notes as explained, you do not as explained. No problem.  Not only that, when they discuss the fact that the IRA can use debt leverage on a rehab, it makes no mention of UDFI which also triggers UBIT (unless debt is paid off 365 days before sale). As I have mentioned in the past, unfortunately, find details are often missing from TPA’s such as Equity Trust.

It seems like there is a lot of mis information and confusion out there regarding the subject.  I certainly appreciate your thoughts, time and any information you can cite to help us clear this up.  Please note that am not asking for advice-just information on where we can find facts in regards to this subject.

Quincy’s Answer: I think you’re trying to over analyze this and impose rationality and reason on the US government, which is of course quite impossible.  Step back and ask yourself one question while forgetting entirely about the IRA aspect of it – would note flipping be considered a trade or business if you did it personally?  If the answer is yes, then it is, by definition, a trade or business within the IRA as well, and it will generate UBIT, assuming it is “regularly carried on.”  If the answer is no, then it should not generate UBIT.  Whether something else like day trading stocks is or isn’t a trade or business is irrelevant.  You are focusing on the IRA aspect of it when you should be focusing on whether or not it is a trade or business.  In general terms, anything that you buy as “inventory” for resale to the public is going to be considered a trade or business, whether it is real estate, notes, widgets or anything else.  Unfortunately, the standard of when you cross the line from being an investor to being in a trade or business is fuzzy at best and depends on many factors.  Oh well, that’s the world we live in.

I have attached my short paper on UBIT.  You may also find more information on UBIT in IRS Publication 598.  The Internal Revenue Code sections dealing with UBIT are 26 USC 511-514.  I hope that helps some.  Good luck!

Full H. Quincy Long UBIT White Paper

Person 2: Thank you for taking the time to help me out with this.  It seems to me that it is best t err on the side of caution with this since the penalties can be so steep.  I see a lot of guys buying and flipping homes in IRA’s.  These guys are considered “Dealers” because they also buy and flip properties outside of IRA’s.  I would say since these are bought with the intention of immediately offering them for sale to the public that they would then be subject to UBIT.  The same would hold tru for a note that is immediately flipped.  When you say “regulatory carried on,” do you mean this is something you do inside the IRA X amount of times per year, X amount of times during the life if the IRA?      

Quincy’s Answer: Review Page 3 of IRS Publication 598, which states:  “Business activities of an exempt organization ordinarily are considered regularly carried on if they show a frequency and continuity, and are pursued in a manner similar to comparable commercial activities of nonexempt organizations.”  An example is given in the publication.  I agree that intent is very important.  I’m not sure that an occasional flip in an IRA among many other investments will cause UBIT, but certainly if that’s all that the IRA invests in and the IRA owner also flips properties outside of his or her IRA that would weigh heavily in the consideration of whether the IRA had dealer income.  While IRAs are very rarely audited, it is always important to give the IRS what they are due, because they have what it takes to take what you have.

One thing I would caution you about is not to confuse the payment of UBIT with the penalties associated with prohibited transactions.  It is perfectly legal to make investments which subject your IRA to taxation, but if you do a prohibited transaction it blows up your entire IRA and you and others may owe excise taxes and penalties as well.  The two subjects are completely separate, but many people, even educated ones, get them mixed together in their minds.

Can we partner with family members on an Oil & Gas project??

Question: In 2008 an oil company drilled a successful oilwell (30 BOPD, 100 barrels saltwater/day) on my mother’s land and she owns the mineral rights.They were disposing of the saltwater by vacuum truck and hauling to another location.Before the oil company could drill a saltwater(produced ) water disposal well, they went bankrupt. My mother now owns the well, the borehole. My brother and I are both experienced in the oilfield. My brother and I want to go into business together to drill a new disposal well or re-enter an old well in order to get the oil well producing again. Can my brother and I go into business together to get this well producing and make a profit. My brother will fund his 50% of the expenses with his own private funds. I want to use my self directed IRA to fund the other 50% of the expenses. My brother will receive 50% of the profits and my IRA will receive the other 50% of the profits. Of course, my mother will receive her share of the royalties. Is this legal?

Answer: Thank you for your inquiry.  There are a number of problems associated with using your IRA in this transaction.  First of all, you would not be able to fund expenses personally for an investment which your IRA owns.  Second, your mother is a disqualified person as to your IRA, and the investment by your IRA clearly would benefit her, in as much as she receives royalties as a result of making the well produce again.  This would make your proposal a prohibited transaction.  Third, your brother, while not a disqualified person to your IRA, is someone in whom you may have an interest which would affect your best judgment as a fiduciary for your IRA.  If true, it could be argued that a benefit to your brother may be deemed to be an indirect benefit to you, which again, could make this a prohibited transaction.  Fourth, using your own talents to make the deal work may be considered a prohibited transaction or at least an excess contribution to your IRA.  Additionally, as a working interest in an oil well the transaction would likely produce Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBTI) on which your IRA would owe taxes, assuming the investment made money.  While making an investment in your IRA which causes it to pay taxes on its UBTI does not necessarily mean you shouldn’t do any particular deal, it is something that you must take into account when deciding if a transaction is right for your IRA.

The bottom line is that based on the facts stated in your email I would not think your proposed investment is a wise one in your self-directed IRA, although I cannot give you tax, legal or investment advice.  If you have any further questions, or if you can locate an investment involving non-disqualified persons, we would be very happy to assist you with self-directed IRA services.  Have a great day!

Also, replay H. Quincy Long’s Prohibited Transactions Webinar

Can you write off large investment loses in an IRA?

Question: I made a large (nearly 6 figure) investment in my self directed IRA account in an oil & gas investment (direct ownership WI in 3 oil wells). The entire investment is gone as the principals behind it scammed everybody & offshored most of the funds. Can you claim a loss on a IRA account investment gone bad?

Answer: I am sorry you experienced a loss in your IRA but thank you for your inquiry.  To answer your question, you may be able to claim some of your loss on your personal tax return in this case, but there are significant limitations.  The rules are discussed on page 41 of IRS Publication 590 for 2010 in the paragraph entitled “Recognizing Losses on Traditional IRA Investments” which you can download from www.irs.gov.  To summarize briefly the rule, you may deduct the difference between the total amount of your remaining after-tax contributions in the account (your basis) and the amount withdrawn from your traditional IRAs as a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to the 2% of adjusted gross income floor on your Schedule A.  In other words, if the amount of non-deductible contributions in all of your IRAs was $10,000 and you closed all of your traditional IRAs down with zero money coming back to you, you would be able to claim the $10,000 on your Schedule A to the extent it exceeds 2% of your adjusted gross income for the year.  Any such deduction is not counted when calculating the Alternative Minimum Tax, so if you are subject to that tax it may not do you much good.  Note that it is only your unrecovered basis (after-tax contributions) in your IRAs that you can base the loss on, not the actual amount you lost in the deal.  If you had no unrecovered basis in your traditional IRAs, you cannot take the loss.  The rationale for this seemingly harsh rule is simple – if you never paid taxes on the money you lost you cannot deduct the loss from your taxable income.  Also, as noted above, the only way you can take such a loss is when all of the amounts in all of your traditional IRA accounts have been distributed to you and the total distributions are less than your unrecovered basis in the account.

As you can see from the answer to your question, the rules are a bit complex, so you will absolutely want to work with your CPA or other tax advisor to see the tax effect in your individual situation.  Although I can give you the general rule, I cannot give you tax advice.

In an unrelated issue, I wanted to make you aware that if you purchase a working interest in an oil and gas well (as opposed to a royalty interest) in your IRA in the future, any income may be subject to unrelated business income tax (UBIT), and your IRA would need to file IRS Form 990T.  While this does not mean that you should not make the investment necessarily, you should understand the tax implications for your IRA prior to entering into this type of investment.  A careful analysis may reveal that such investments are better made outside of the IRA, since there may be significant tax deductions available to you.  You may find more information on UBIT from IRS Publication 598.

If I can assist you in any other way, please let me know.  Have a great day!

How Can My Minor Child Have a Roth IRA?

By H. Quincy Long

“How can my minor child have a Roth IRA?” If I only had a million dollars for every time I have been asked this question, I would be a very rich person!  When entrepreneurial people learn of the myriad of possibilities for non-traditional investments within a self-directed IRA, they usually immediately see the benefit of starting on their child’s retirement now in addition to utilizing their own IRAs.  In this article I will discuss the benefits of starting an IRA early, how a minor can qualify for a Roth IRA, the tax filing requirements for a minor with earned income, and what can be done with the IRA once the money is deposited in the account.

First, let me briefly discuss the benefits of starting early on retirement savings.  Assume your 15 year old daughter starts off her Roth IRA with $1,000 from her earnings and adds $1,000 per year until she retires at age 67.  If she can earn an average return of just 10% per year, her tax free Roth IRA will be worth $1,552,472 at retirement – not bad for only investing a total of $52,000 over 52 years.  Contrast this with an individual who starts saving at age 35 and puts $5,000 in for 32 years with the same annual return of 10%.  His Roth IRA will be worth approximately $1,111,253 when he retires at age 67, and his contributions will total $160,000.  No matter what your age and annual return assumptions are, one thing is very clear – the earlier you start saving the better!

Before you get too excited and start writing your IRA custodian or administrator checks to open Roth IRAs for your minor children, you must make sure that they qualify to make a contribution.  In order to contribute to a Roth IRA, a single individual must have earned income (compensation) at least in the amount of the contribution and Adjusted Gross Income of no more than $122,000 (for 2011).  For example, if your daughter earns $1,000 babysitting in 2011, she can contribute a maximum of only $1,000 to her Roth IRA, even though the contribution limit for individuals under age 50 is $5,000.

How can a minor earn money so they qualify to contribute to a Roth IRA?  The younger your child is, the more difficult it will be to justify compensation if the IRS questions the contribution.  I have heard of parents hiring their minor children as a model for advertising purposes in the parents’ trade or business, but if you intend to do this make sure that you actually use the photos in your advertising.  Keep track of how and when you use the photos, and have adequate documentation in your file as to what reasonable compensation would be for a model doing an advertising shoot with unlimited use of the photos.  By the age of 8 or 9 children can be of some use to their parents’ businesses by doing things like cleaning up trash in the yard of rent houses, collating materials if the parent teaches classes, stuffing and stamping envelopes, or other menial tasks.  At age 7 my daughter helped me with artwork to put on t-shirts by carefully writing in crayon “Do you have a self-directed IRA?  I do!”  I then had her wonderful artwork turned into a silk screen for the back of t-shirts with my company logo on the front.  I gave away hundreds of the shirts to my clients.  With the unusual writing on the back of the shirts, people asked a lot of questions about self-directed IRAs and it turned out to be one of my most effective advertising campaigns!  Other ways for minors to earn money include cutting grass, babysitting, or working at restaurants and offices when they are a little older.  If you are hiring your minor children in your own business, be sure that you always document the time spent working and pay them a reasonable wage.  The importance of good records cannot be overstated.

The next questions I get asked when discussing Roth IRAs for minors are “What is the tax effect of my child earning compensation?” and “Does my child have to file a tax return?”  I will briefly summarize the rules here, but always check with your CPA or tax professional.  More information may also be found in IRS Publication 929, Tax Rules for Children and Dependents.  A minor child who is a dependent on someone else’s tax return cannot claim a dependency exemption, but can still claim the standard deduction on their tax return if they are required to file.  The standard deduction for a single dependent minor varies between $950 and $5,700 for 2010, depending on the type and amount of income.  In general, for 2010 a dependent minor must file a tax return if 1) unearned income, such as interest and dividends, was over $950, 2) earned income was over $5,700, or 3) if the minor has both earned income and unearned income, the gross income was more than the larger of $950 or the earned income (up to $5,400) plus $300.  If the dependent minor worked at an employer who withheld income taxes from their paycheck, in most cases they will want to file a return to collect a refund of this amount, even if there was no filing requirement.

There are situations where a dependent minor has to file a tax return regardless of the above filing requirements.  One of the more common circumstances is when the dependent minor has net earnings from self-employment (such as from babysitting or cutting grass) of $400 or more.  Net earnings from self-employment for IRA contribution purposes are calculated by taking the net Schedule C income and subtracting one-half of the self-employment taxes due and the contribution to any self-employment retirement plan such as a SEP IRA.  If this amount is $400 or more, the dependent minor will owe Social Security and Medicare tax on that income and will have to file a tax return to pay the tax.  For example, a recent tax client of mine who was 18 years old and still a dependent on her mother’s tax return earned $3,183 doing clerical work, for which she received a 1099-MISC.  She was not treated as an employee by the person who hired her, and she was required to file a dependent tax return to report this income.  Because her Adjusted Gross Income was below $5,700 she owed no federal income tax.  Unfortunately, she still owed $487 in Social Security and Medicare taxes.  If she had been treated as an employee, the employer would have paid its portion and withheld her portion of the Social Security and Medicare tax from her paycheck.  In that case she would not have had to file a federal tax return, unless she wanted to claim a refund for any federal income taxes withheld.

There is an interesting exception to the requirement that a dependent minor pay Social Security and Medicare tax on their earned income.  If a child under age 18 works in their parent’s trade or business and their parent’s business is either a sole proprietorship or a partnership in which the parents are the only partners, the income is exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes, as well as federal unemployment taxes (FUTA).  This exception does not apply if the business is incorporated or if the partnership includes persons other than parents.  The exemption is extended to those under age 21 for work other than in a trade or business, such as domestic work in the parent’s private home.  So if a minor earns compensation of less than $5,700 working in their parent’s trade or business or for domestic work in the parent’s private home and they have no other income, no federal income tax or Social Security and Medicare taxes would be due.  This means that no tax return would have to be filed, but they would still qualify to contribute to a Roth IRA up to the amount of their earned income, subject to the $5,000 maximum contribution!  However, just to be safe it may be advisable to go ahead and file a zero tax due return for documentation purposes.  Always check with your CPA or tax advisor to find out if your child will owe state or local income taxes on this income.  More information on the family employee exception to Social Security and Medicare taxes may be found in IRS Publication 15, Circular E, Employer’s Tax Guide, Chapter 3.

What you can do with the money once in a Roth IRA?  The beauty of a self-directed IRA is that even small amounts can be invested in non-traditional investments.  There are at least four ways a small Roth IRA can be invested.  The Roth IRA may be combined with IRAs of other people to make a single investment.  The most IRAs I have seen participate in a single note investment was 10 different accounts, with the smallest IRA investor contributing only $2,000.  That note had a yield of 12% per year!  Another investment which is common in small IRA accounts is an option to buy real estate.  Once you have an option, you may let it lapse, exercise the option and close on the property, sell the option to a third party for a fee if the option agreement allows this, or even release the option for a cancellation fee from the property owner.  Another variation on this idea is for the Roth IRA to enter into a sales contract, then assign that contract to a third party for a fee.  Finally, the IRA could buy a property with a loan, either from taking over the property subject to the seller’s existing financing, negotiating non-recourse seller financing, or obtaining a non-recourse loan from a private party or another non-disqualified IRA.  However, if the IRA either owns debt-financed property or operates a business of any type (including a real estate dealer business), it may be required to file IRS Form 990T and pay Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT).  Always be sure and have your child’s IRA pay the taxes if they are due.  It is great to use the tax law to your advantage, but do not abuse the law, because the IRS has what it takes to take what you have.

If your child qualifies, there is no doubt that one of the best things you can do for them is to open a Roth IRA.  Perhaps the best part of this strategy is the time you will spend with your child teaching them the benefits of saving early and the methods of investing their money wisely. This is truly a win-win situation for both you and your child.  Happy investing!

Can You Write off IDC (Intangile Drilling Costs) in an Oil & Gas Investment in an IRA?


Quincy, I wanted to see if you had any information about whether or not IDC (Intangible Drilling Costs) write offs from Oil and Gas can be utilized in any manner within a IRA? I suspect not but have never really found out for sure. It could make a difference when we have working interest projects on whether or not to use IRA or cash for the clients that we set up with Entrust.  One of your employees had mentioned UBIT’s would have some write off potential within the structure of an Oil and Gas investment that would include IDC’s.


Although I’m not an expert on oil and gas issues, and as you know we do not give tax, legal or investment advice, what I can say is that if the IRA owns a working interest in a well that is considered to be Unrelated Business Income (UBI), on which taxes are owed by an IRA.  Because taxes are owed by the IRA, the IRA should get all the normal tax breaks, including the IDCs.  They can even have a NOL against future UBI taxes owed by the IRA.  In any event, the IDCs would be a deduction for the IRA against its UBI taxes, and would not benefit the individual owning the IRA on his or her personal tax return.  Did that answer your question?  Certainly you will want to verify tax matters with a CPA or other tax advisor of your choice, since Quest IRA, Inc. is not able to play the role of tax advisor. I apologize for not being of greater assistance.  Have a great day!

The Truth About Self-Directed IRAs and Other Accounts

By H. Quincy Long

There is a lot of confusion over self-directed IRAs and what is and is not possible.In this article we will disprove some of the more common self-directed IRA myths.

Myth #1 – Purchasing anything other than CDs, stocks, mutual funds or annuities is illegal in an IRA.

Truth:The only prohibitions contained in the Internal Revenue Code for IRAs are investments in life insurance contracts and in “collectibles”, which are defined to include any work of art, any rug or antique, any metal or gem (with certain exceptions for gold, silver, platinum or palladium bullion), any stamp or coin (with certain exceptions for gold, silver, or platinum coins issued by the United States or under the laws of any State), any alcoholic beverage, or any other tangible personal property specified by the Secretary of the Treasury (no other property has been specified as of this date).

Since there are so few restrictions contained in the law, almost anything else which can be documented can be purchased in your IRA.A “self-directed” IRA allows any investment not expressly prohibited by law.Common investment choices include real estate, both domestic and foreign, options, secured and unsecured notes, including first and second liens against real estate, C corporation stock, limited liability companies, limited partnerships, trusts and a whole lot more.

Myth #2 – Only Roth IRAs can be self-directed.

Truth: Because of the power of tax free wealth accumulation in a self-directed Roth IRA, many articles are written on how to use a Roth IRA to invest in non-traditional investments.As a result, it is a surprisingly common misconception that a Roth IRA is the only account which can be self-directed.In fact, there are seven different types of accounts which can be self-directed.They are the 1) Roth IRA, 2) the Traditional IRA, 3) the SEP IRA, 4) the SIMPLE IRA, 5) the Individual 401(k), including the Roth 401(k), 6) the Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA, formerly known as the Education IRA), and 7) the Health Savings Account (HSA).Not only can all of these accounts invest in non-traditional investments as indicated in Myth #1, but they can be combined together to purchase a single investment.

Myth #3 – I don’t qualify for a self-directed Roth or Traditional IRA because I am covered by a retirement plan at work or because I make too much money.

Truth:Almost anyone can have a self-directed account of some type.Although there are income limits for contributing to a Roth IRA (in 2008 the income limits are $169,000 for a married couple filing jointly and $116,000 for a single person or head of household), having a plan at work does not affect your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA, and there is no age limit either.With a Traditional IRA, you or your spouse having a retirement plan at work does affect the deductibility of your contribution, but anyone with earned income who is under age 70 1/2 can contribute to a Traditional IRA.There are no upper income limits for contributing to a Traditional IRA.Also, a Traditional IRA can receive funds from a prior employer’s 401(k) or other qualified plan.Additionally, you may be able to contribute to a Coverdell ESA for your children or grandchildren, nieces, nephews or even my children, if you are so inclined.If you have the right type of health insurance, called a High Deductible Health Plan, you can contribute to an HSA regardless of your income level.With an HSA, you may deduct your contributions to the account and qualified distributions are tax free forever!It’s the best of both worlds.All of this is in addition to any retirement plan you have at your job or for your self-employed business.

Myth #4 – I can’t have a self-directed 401(k) plan for my business because I am self-employed and file a Schedule C for my income.

Truth:You can have a self-directed SEP IRA, a SIMPLE IRA or a 401(k) plan even if you are self-employed and file your income on Schedule C of your personal tax return.With a SEP IRA, you can contribute up to 20% of your net earnings from self-employment (calculated by deducting one-half of your self-employment tax from your net profits as shown on Schedule C) or 25% of your wages from an employer, up to a maximum of $46,000 for 2008.With the SIMPLE IRA, you can defer up to the first $10,500 of your net earnings from self-employment (calculated by multiplying your net Schedule C income by 0.9235% for SIMPLE IRA purposes), plus an additional $2,500 of your net earnings if you are age 50 by the end of the year, plus you can contribute an additional 3% of your net earnings as an employer contribution.Beginning in 2002 even self-employed persons are entitled to have their own 401(k) plan.Better yet, in 2006 the Roth 401(k) was added, allowing even high income earners to contribute after tax dollars into an account where qualified distributions are tax free forever!With an Individual 401(k) you can defer up to $15,500 (for 2007 and 2008) of your net earnings from self-employment (calculated by deducting one-half of your self-employment tax from your net profits as shown on Schedule C), plus an additional $5,000 of your net earnings if you reach age 50 by the end of the year, plus you can contribute as much as an additional $30,500 based on up to 20% of your net earnings for2008 (or 25% of your wages from an employer).This means that a 50 plus year old self-employed person can contribute up to $51,000 for 2008!

Myth #5 – Because I have a small IRA and can only contribute $5,000, it’s not worth having a self-directed IRA.

Truth:Even small balance accounts can participate in non-traditional investing.Small balance accounts can be co-invested with larger accounts owned by you or even other people.For example, one recent hard money loan we funded had 10 different accounts participating.The smallest account to participate was for only $1,827.00!There are at least 4 ways you can participate in real estate investment even with a small IRA.First, you can wholesale property.You simply put the contract in the name of your IRA instead of your name.The earnest money comes from the IRA.When you assign the contract, the assignment fee goes back into your IRA.If using a Roth IRA, this profit is tax-free forever!Second, you can purchase an option on real estate, which then can be either exercised, assigned to a third party, or canceled for a fee.Third, you can purchase property in your IRA subject to existing financing or with a non-recourse loan from a bank, a hard money lender, a financial friend or a motivated seller.Profits from debt-financed property in your IRA may incur unrelated business income tax (UBIT), however.Finally, as mentioned above, your IRA can be a partner with other IRA or non-IRA investors.

Myth # 6 – If I want to purchase non-traditional investments in an IRA, I must first establish an LLC which will be owned by my IRA.

Truth:A very popular idea in the marketplace right now is that you can invest your IRA in an LLC where you (the IRA owner) are the manager of the LLC.Effectively you have “checkbook control” of your IRA funds.Providers generally charge thousands of dollars to set up these LLCs and sometimes mislead people into thinking that this is necessary to invest in real estate or other non-traditional investments.This is simply not true.Not only can an IRA hold title to real estate and other non-traditional investments directly with companies such as Quest IRA, Inc., but having “checkbook control” of your IRA funds through an LLC can lead to many traps for the unwary.Far from protecting your IRA from the prohibited transaction rules, these setups may in fact lead to an inadvertent prohibited transaction, which may cause your IRA to be distributed to you, sometimes with substantial penalties.This is not to say that there are not times when having your IRA make an investment through an LLC is a good idea, especially for asset protection purposes.Nonetheless, you must educate yourself completely as to the rules before deciding on this route.Having a “checkbook control” IRA owned LLC is kind of like skydiving without a parachute – it may be fun on the way down, but eventually you are likely to go SPLAT!

Myth #7 – I can borrow money from my IRA to purchase a vacation home for myself.

Truth:Although the Internal Revenue Code lists very few investment restrictions, certain transactions (as opposed to investments) are considered to be prohibited.If your IRA enters into a prohibited transaction, there are severe consequences, so it is important to understand what constitutes a prohibited transaction.

Essentially, the prohibited transaction rules were made to discourage disqualified persons from dealing with the assets of the plan in a self-dealing manner, either directly or indirectly. The assets of a plan are to be invested in a manner which benefits the plan itself and not the IRA owner (other than as a beneficiary of the IRA) or any other disqualified person.Investment transactions are supposed to be on an arms length basis.

As a result of these legal restrictions, a loan from your IRA or staying at a vacation home owned by your IRA, even if fair market rates are paid for interest or rent, would be prohibited.

Myth #8 – With a self-directed IRA, I can borrow my IRA funds to purchase real estate and then put all the profits back into the IRA.

Truth:When real estate or any other asset is purchased within a self-directed IRA, the money never leaves the IRA at all.Instead, the IRA exchanges cash for the asset, in the same way that an IRA at a brokerage house exchanges cash for shares of stock or a mutual fund.Therefore, the asset must be held in the name of the IRA.For example, if Max N. Vestor were to purchase an investment house in his self-directed IRA, the title would be held as “Quest IRA, Inc. FBO Max N. Vestor IRA #12345-11.”Since the IRA owns the asset, all expenses associated with the asset must be paid by the IRA and all profit resulting from that investment belongs to the IRA, including rents received and gains from the sale of the asset.

Myth #9 – If my IRA buys real estate, it must pay all cash for the property.An IRA cannot buy real estate with debt.

Truth:An IRA can own debt-financed property, either directly or indirectly through a non-taxed entity such as an LLC or partnership.Any debt must be non-recourse to the IRA and to any disqualified person.An IRA may have to pay Unrelated Debt Financed Income Tax (UDFIT) on its profits from debt-financed property.In general, taxes must be paid on profits from an IRA-owned property that is debt-financed, including profits from the sale or disposition of the property, in the same proportion that it had debt.For a simplified example, if the IRA puts 50% down, then 50% of its profits above $1,000 will be taxable.Although at first this sounds terrible, in fact leverage can be an extremely powerful tool in building your retirement wealth.The same leverage principle applies inside or outside of your IRA – you can do more with debt-financing than you can without it.One client was able to build her Roth IRA from $3,000 to over $33,000 in less than 4 months even after paying the taxes due by taking over a property subject to a debt and selling the property to another investor!

Myth #10 – An IRA cannot own a business.

Truth:A self-directed IRA is an amazingly flexible wealth building tool and can own almost anything, including a business.However, due to the conflict of interest rules you cannot work for a business owned by your IRA and get paid.Some companies have a plan to start a C corporation, adopt a 401(k) plan, roll an IRA into the 401(k) plan and purchase employer securities to effectively start a new business, but this is not a direct investment by the IRA in the business and is fairly expensive to set up.Also, if your IRA owns an interest in a business, either directly or indirectly through a non-taxed entity such as an LLC or partnership, the IRA may owe Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) on its profits from the business.A solution to this problem may be to have the business owned by a C corporation or another taxable entity.

Option Strategies for Your IRA

Many people would like to buy real estate in their IRAs but have a mistaken belief that they do not have enough money to do so.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  You may invest in real estate with your IRA without a lot of money in several ways, including partnering with other IRAs or non-IRA money, buying property with debt, or by using one of the most powerful and under utilized tools in real estate investing today – the option.

In this article we will focus on some option basics.  First, what is an option?  Once consideration for the option is paid, it is the owner’s irrevocable offer to sell the property to a buyer under the terms of the option for a certain period of time.  The buyer has the right but not the obligation to buy.

You might wonder why an owner would agree to tie up his property with an option.  Advantages to a property owner include:  1) the owner may be able to time his income for tax purposes, since option fees are generally taxable when the option is either exercised or expires (always check with your tax advisor); 2) if the owner needs money, an option may be a way to get money that he doesn’t have to repay, unlike a loan; 3) options are very flexible, and the owner may be able to negotiate an option which allows him to keep the property until a more opportune time – this is especially true of an owner in a pre-foreclosure situation.

Do the paperwork right!  Options are extremely powerful and very easy to mess up.  Be very specific, clear and complete about all the details.  Remember, with options, you have to negotiate for both the option and for the purchase of the property. With a well written option, the following must be, as my old law professor was fond of saying, “patently obvious to the most casual observer”:

a)         Who is granting the option?  Does it include heirs, successors and assigns?
b)         Who is receiving the option?  Does it include assignees of the buyer, or is it an exclusive option to purchase by the buyer only?
c)         What property is being optioned?  Property can be anything, including real estate, a beneficial interest in a land trust, a real estate note or nearly anything else.
d)         What is the consideration for the option?  Remember, there must be some consideration for the option in the form of money, services or other obligations.
e)         How is the option exercised by the buyer?  This is one of the easiest things to mess up in an option.  If the procedure is not clear for exercising the option, it is an invitation to litigation!
f)          What will be the purchase price of the property if the option is exercised?
g)         How will the purchase price be paid when the option is exercised?  Will it be for cash?  Seller financing?  Subject to the owner’s existing mortgage?
h)         Will the option consideration be credited to the option price or not?
i)          When can the option be exercised?  For example, does the option holder have the right to exercise the option at any time during the option period, or can the option only be exercised after a specified amount of time?
j)          When will the option expire, and under what circumstances?  The option should have a definite termination date, but might also include other circumstances under which the option terminates, such as a default under a lease.
k)         When it comes time to close, what are each party’s obligations?  For example, who pays for title insurance, closing costs, etc?  Are taxes prorated?

So what forms do you use?  The answer is my favorite as a lawyer – it depends! There is not and cannot be a “standard” option for all purposes.  They are simply too flexible.  You must decide on a specific use for the option and then, as Shakespeare said, “Get thee to a lawyer!” (Okay, it was “Get thee to a nunnery” but I like it better as revised!).

When you have negotiated an option agreement for your IRA, you have several choices.  First, you can let the option expire on its own terms.  Sometimes this is the best course of action if the deal is not what you expected, especially if you only paid a small amount for the option.

Another choice is that your IRA could exercise the option and buy the property.  Since there are ways to finance property being purchased by your IRA, including seller financing, bank financing, private party financing or even taking over property subject to a loan, this may be a good strategy for your IRA, even if the IRA does not have the cash to complete the purchase.  Be aware that if your IRA owns debt financed property, either directly or indirectly through an LLC or partnership, its profits from that investment will be subject to Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT).  This is not necessarily a bad way to build your retirement wealth, but it does require some understanding of the tax implications.

A third choice which is often employed in the context of self directed retirement accounts is to assign your option to a third party for a fee.  Your option agreement should specifically allow for an assignment to make sure that there are no problems with the property owner.  This is a great technique for building a small IRA into a large IRA quickly.  I had one client who put a contract on a burned house for $100 earnest money in his daughter’s Coverdell Education Savings Account, then sold his contract to a third party who specialized in repairing burned houses for $8,500.  In under 1 month the account made a profit of 8,400%, and all parties were happy with the deal!  The account holder then immediately took a TAX FREE distribution to pay for his daughter’s private school tuition.

A fourth choice that sometimes is overlooked is the ability to release the option back to the property owner for a cancellation fee.  In other words, this is a way for your IRA to get paid not to buy! Let me give you an example of how this might work.  Suppose you want to offer the seller what he would consider to be a ridiculously low offer.  When the seller balks, you say “I’ll tell you what.  You sign this option agreement for my IRA to purchase this property at my price, and we’ll put in the option agreement that I cannot exercise my option for 30 days.  If you find a buyer willing to offer you more money within that 30 day period, just reimburse my IRA the option fee plus a cancellation fee of $2,500.”  Either way, your IRA wins!

The creative use of options can make your IRA grow astronomically if done correctly.  In future articles I will be discussing different types of option strategies.