Chairman and Founder of PENSCO Trust Company
This week Bruce is joined again by Tom Anderson. Tom is the chairman and founder of PENSCO Trust Company. He is considered by many to be the national expert on the topic of self directed IRAs. He focuses on how investors can increase their wealth-building potential with real estate and private equity investments. He has written articles for nearly all the nation’s and financial magazines. He was recently invited to Washington as part of the “Future of Finance Initiative” for the Obama Administration.
You can loan money to your IRA if you attempting to protect the existence of the IRA. You cannot loan money to your IRA to buy new lots. The loan must also be interest free. If it did have an interest rate, the loan would be considered self dealing, because you would be taking profit out of your IRA. Lastly, if the loan extends more than 60 days, you must provide the custodian with a note explaining that the IRA owes you money.
Tom recently spoke to a member of the Department of Labor who created this exemption, and the member confirmed that you could loan money to your IRA to bail it out of mortgage delinquency.
There are some IRA investments which may or may not be considered illegal depending on which government official is reviewing the investment. For example, Tom once heard of a man who used his IRA to buy a classic car. Because the car is a classic, there is good reason to believe the car will appreciate. However, a government official might consider this self dealing, because they may or may not perceive the classic car to be for personal use. If the government perceives the car to be for personal use, then the car purchase would be labeled self dealing. Depending on which day the car purchase was reviewed, and depending on who reviewed the purchase, this may or may not be a legal IRA purchase. You can perform a large variety of transactions within your IRA, but you must be careful not to purchase anything that the government might perceive as self dealing. If the government believes you are self dealing with your IRA, then your IRA will lose its tax-deferred status.
Bruce’s business is set up to buy and sell real estate. Bruce asks Tom if there is a limit on how much money, or how many houses, he could use for his IRA. Tom believes that this is up for interpretation. In Bruce’s case, he owns a real estate business, so if he performs many transactions through his IRA, the government may possibly perceive Bruce to be running a business through his IRA. All businesses must pay taxes, and if the government determined that Bruce was running his business through his IRA, then he might lose the tax-deferred status of his IRA. Tom believes that if Bruce was both working in his IRA for retirement investments, and out of it for business use, then it would be hard for the government to label Bruce’s IRA as a business. However, if Bruce was retired, and he only purchased and sold properties through his IRA, then the government may perceive Bruce to be running a business through his IRA. You should consult with your CPA to determine whether or not you will be subject to taxes.
A disqualified person is a term in the Internal Revenue Code 4975 which defines certain entities as people you cannot perform transactions with. The government does not want you to touch your IRA assets, because they want your assets to be there when you retire. So you cannot buy a condo in a vacation spot with your IRA, and then use that condo on the weekends. Disqualified persons include yourself, your spouse, your children, and the spouses of your children. Most people in your family are considered disqualified persons, except for siblings, nephews and uncles. If you deal with a sibling or nephew, you should not offer them less than market rates. Giving a member of your family the benefit of low payments through an IRA asset could be considered self dealing.
Bruce heard an unusual example of someone who was taxed for self dealing. An investor owned a commercial building, and his IRA owned the let next to it. The investor would park in the lot next door, and that was considered illegal personal use. You are not allowed to gain a personal benefit from your IRA while the IRA is growing. If a mistake like this occurs, you have 14 days to correct it. However, if the custodian was the cause of the mistake, then you can argue in court that the custodian should be held responsible.
Tom’s company will not accept any member that is not a part of a regulated institution. If he did not check to determine whether or not his members were being regulated, many bad people would have the opportunity to deal through them. A non-regulated company may enter into an agreement with a bank who is a custodian. All banks, credit unions and trust companies are automatically qualified to hold IRAs. If you are not one of those institutions, then you must be authorized by the IRS. There are 257 mutual fund companies, insurance companies, and broker dealers that are licensed by the IRS.
It is good business to protect the consumer, and the government supports that mentality. PENSCO will not help someone enter into a prohibited transaction. If a lender was involved in a prohibited transaction on an IRA, then they would be subject to a 15% tax on the amount of the transaction. So a lender that made a $100,000 bill would receive a $15,000 bill. If the lender was not aware of the prohibited transaction, then they may be exempt from the tax.
When an investor is told that he cannot buy a property from himself with his IRA, he may get the idea of having a friend buy his property, and then re-buying from his friend. However, this is still considered an illegal transaction. This is considered a linked transaction by the IRS. You will not go to jail for performing a transaction like this unless you fail to pay the penalty taxes. However, the IRS tends to not inform you of your mistakes until 3 years later, so you can get caught off guard if you are not careful.
If you buy a property through your IRA while using your brother as a lender, you will not be taxed so long as your brother does not receive more than his regular fee.
A Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) is a request submitted to the Department of Labor when you anticipate that your potential transaction may be prohibited. A PTE is usually granted on the basis that there is no increase or decrease in value because of the transaction. You cannot submit a PTE after the transaction takes place. The exemption comes in writing, so the Good Day rule does not apply.
There are some custodians who offer check book IRAs. Tom believes this practice will probably be extinct soon. There are only two custodians Tom knows of that will do check book IRAs, and PENSCO is one of them.
Tom’s website is www.penscotrust.com
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