Apr 10

Can You Use ROBS to Start a Business with No Employees Other than Yourself?

When using the Rollover Business Startup Solutions (ROBS) to fund your business, you don’t need full time employees other than yourself.  In fact, the administration of the Plan will be much easier if your business will have no employees other than yourself since you will not require the services of a third-party Plan Administrator or recordkeeper. If you elect to purchase new company stock along with your new 401(k) Plan, as the sole employee of the Company, you could serve as the Plan’s trustee and administrator.

Can You Use ROBS to Start a Business with No Employees Other than Yourself?

Please contact one of our Retirement Experts at 800-472-0646 for more information.

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Jan 13

Rollover Business Start-Up Book Now Available on Amazon Kindle

New book on the ROBS written by Adam Bergman, Esq., now available in the Amazon Kindle store

The new book by Adam Bergman, Esq., Turning Retirement Funds into Start-Up Dreams – financing and retirement funding options for your start-up business is now available for purchase on Amazon Kindle.

The newly published book offers an in-depth overview of the various financing and retirement funding options available to entrepreneurs and business owners, including the viability of the Rollover Business Start-Up Solution (ROBS).

Turning Retirement Funds Into Start-Up Dreams is the next best thing to a private consultation with author Adam Bergman, Esq., a leading expert on IRAs and 401(k) plans. And what you’ll discover is that investing in yourself with your own retirement funds could be a viable option for you under the right circumstances.

Rollover Business Start-Up Book Now Available on Amazon KindleThis book provides a detailed analysis of various ways you can finance a business venture, including using personal savings, acquiring a traditional loan or SBA loan, using a credit card, approaching family or friends, and crowdfunding. It then discusses in detail the amazing benefits—and limitations—of the self-directed IRA, 401(k) plan loan option, and the Rollover Business Start-Up (ROBS) as business funding solutions. “My goal is to help educate more people, including many attorneys and CPAs, that there are legal ways to buy, finance, or invest in your own business with your retirement funds.” Stated Adam Bergman.

Adam Bergman is a senior tax partner with the IRA Financial Group, LLC, the markets leading provider of Self-Directed IRA LLC and Solo 401(k) plans. Mr. Bergman is also the managing partner of the law firm The Bergman Law Group, LLC. In addition, Mr. Bergman is a recognized expert on IRAs and 401(k) Plans and is the founder of the BergmanIRAReport.com and the Bergman401KReport.com. Mr. Bergman is the author of the book titled, “Going Solo: America’s Best Kept Retirement Secret For the Self-Employed”, available on Amazon, and is a frequent contributor to Forbes. Mr. Bergman has advised over 8,000 clients on the self-directed IRA LLC and Solo 401(k) Plan solutions.

Mr. Bergman has been quoted in a number of major publications on the area of self-directed retirement plans. Mr. Bergman has been interviewed on CBS News and has been quoted in Businessweek, CNN Money, Forbes, Dallas Morning News, Daily Business Review, Law.com, San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. Tax News, the Miami Herald, Bloomberg, Arizona Republic, San Antonio Express, Findlaw, Smart Money, USA Today, Houston Chronicle, Morningstar, and American Lawyer on the area of retirement tax planning.

Prior to joining the IRA Financial Group, LLC, Mr. Bergman worked as a tax and ERISA attorney at White & Case LLP, Dewey LeBoeuf LLP, and Thelen LLP, three of the most prominent corporate law firms in the world. Throughout his career, Mr. Bergman has advised thousands of clients on a wide range of tax and ERISA matters involving limited liability companies and retirement plans. Mr. Bergman received his B.A. (with distinction) from McGill University and his law degree (cum laude) from Syracuse University College of Law. Mr. Bergman also received his Masters of Taxation (LL.M.) from New York University School of Law.

Mr. Bergman is recognized as a leading retirement tax-planning expert and has lectured attorneys on the legal and tax aspects of Self-Directed IRA LLC and Solo 401(k) Plans. Mr. Bergman has also been retained by several leading IRA custodians, including Entrust, to offer expertise on the Self-Directed IRA structure. Mr. Bergman is a member of the Tax Division of the American Bar Association and New York State Bar Association.

IRA Financial Group is the market’s leading provider of self-directed retirement plans. IRA Financial Group has helped thousands of clients take back control over their retirement funds while gaining the ability to invest in almost any type of investment, including real estate without custodian consent.

To learn more about the IRA Financial Group please visit our website at http://www.irafinancialgroup.com or call 800-472-0646.

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Jan 04

Use ROBS to Start Your New Business

The Business Acquisition & Compliance Solution Structure (BACSS), also known as the “Rollover Business Start-Up” (“ROBS”) Solution, is an IRS and ERISA approved structure that allows an individual to use retirement funds, such as an IRA or 401(k), to purchase a new or existing business or franchise tax-free and penalty-free.

The ROBS arrangement typically involves rolling over a prior IRA or 401(k) plan account into a newly established 401(k) plan, which a start-up C Corporation business sponsored, and then investing the rollover funds in the stock of the new C Corporation.

What is the Difference between using a Self-Directed IRA Vs. ROBS structure to buy a business?

At first glance, using a Self-Directed IRA LLC to purchase stock in a corporation would seem to share many similarities with the ROBS structure.

With IRA Financial Group’s ROBS transactions, the structure typically involves the following sequential steps: (i) an entrepreneur or existing business owner establishes a new C Corporation; (ii) the C Corporation adopts a prototype 401(k) plan that specifically permits plan participants to direct the investment of their plan accounts into a selection of investment options, including employer stock, also known as “qualifying employer securities.”; (iii) the entrepreneur elects to participate in the new 401(k) plan and, as permitted by the plan, directs a rollover or trustee-to-trustee transfer of retirement funds from another qualified retirement plan into the newly adopted 401(k) plan; (iv) the entrepreneur then directs the investment of his or her 401(k) plan account to purchase the C Corporation’s newly issued stock at fair market value (i.e., the amount that the entrepreneur wishes to invest in the new business); and finally (v) the C Corporation utilizes the proceeds from the sale of stock to purchase an existing business or to begin a new venture.

With IRA Financial Group’s ROBS strategy, the newly formed business will also be able to borrow from third parties, pay salaries to employees (including shareholders/plan participants), and engage in other routine business transactions with disqualified persons. Commonly, a corporate officer or shareholder will make or guarantee loans to the business.

With a Self-Directed IRA LLC, an entrepreneur could use retirement funds to purchase business assets like with the ROBS strategy. However, that individual would not be able to be actively involved in the business, earn a salary, or even personally guarantee a business loan.

The recent U.S. Tax Court case Ellis v. Comm’r of Internal Revenue, No. 14-1310 (8th Cir. 2015) highlights the risk and limitations involved when using a Self-Directed IRA to purchase business assets. In the Ellis case, the taxpayers used IRA funds to invest in a corporation that ultimately purchased business assets. Because Mr. Ellis used an IRA and not a 401(k) Plan to purchase the C Corporation stock, Mr. Ellis was not able to earn a salary or personally guarantee a business loan, which ultimately was the cause of the IRS prohibited transaction rule violation.

If Mr. Ellis had used IRA Financial Group’s ROBS strategy, he would have been able to purchase business assets with retirement funds, earn a salary from the business, as well as personally guarantee the business loan without triggering the IRS prohibited transaction rules.

Legal Foundation for the ROBS Solution

Use ROBS to Start Your New BusinessAn individual retirement account investor is able to use retirement funds to invest in an active trade or business with tax or penalty because the ROBS solution qualifies for a special exemption set forth under IRC 4975(d) to certain prohibited transaction rules. The exemption to the prohibited transaction rules under IRC 4975(d) is centered around ERISA Section 408(e). It is IRC Section 4975(d) and ERISA Section 408(e) which shields employers from scrutiny of routine (non-abusive) corporate transactions by the plan sponsor and other “disqualified persons,” which might otherwise constitute technical violations of the prohibited transaction rules (due to the employer-sponsored retirement plan’s ownership of employer securities). If the plan sponsor and other fiduciaries’ routine corporate transactions did not fall within the purview of ERISA Section 408(e), the prohibited transaction rules would needlessly prohibit a myriad of legitimate business transactions and would ultimately nullify the exemption that Congress intended to provide. To accomplish its intended effect, ERISA Section 408(e) must be read to exempt the natural and necessary commercial consequences of owning corporate stock, rather than just the stock purchase or divestiture.

Important tax and economic policy considerations also compel a different result for 401(k) plans than IRAs. Congress specifically intended to encourage 401(k) plans to invest in employer securities, within certain limits. The opportunity to invest in employer securities through retirement plans benefits employers and employees alike by aligning their economic interests.

Outside the context of ROBS arrangements, many 401(k) plans permit participants to invest in employer stock. A number of large 401(k) plans, including plans sponsored by Apple and Pepsi, include substantial allocations of employer stock.

To learn more about the benefits of the ROBS strategy, please contact a retirement tax expert at 800-472-0646.

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Nov 06

Why Choose IRA Financial Group to Use Your 401(k) to Invest in a Business?

The IRA Financial Group was founded by a group of top law firm tax and ERISA professionals who have worked at some of the largest law firms in the country, including White & Case LLP and Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP.

The legality of using retirement funds to purchase employer corporate stock is firmly established in the Internal Revenue Code and under ERISA law. Although codified under law, the IRS has been concerned that a number of promoters marketing this type of structure have not had the expertise to develop a structure that is fully compliant with IRS and ERISA rules and regulations. With this in mind, the IRA Financial Group’s in-house retirement tax professionals spent the last two years carefully studying IRS materials and guidance in order to design an IRS and ERISA compliant structure for using retirement funds to acquire or invest in a business tax-free!

Why Choose IRA Financial Group to Use Your 401(k) to Invest in a Business?The Business Acquisition & Compliance Solution Structure (“BACSS”) was developed to specifically address and solve each of the non-compliant areas addressed by the IRS creating a business acquisition and funding solution that is in full compliance with IRS and ERISA rules and procedures. Unlike our competitors who have been offering this type of structure for many years, which according to the IRS, a significant portion have been found to be non-compliant, the IRA Financial Group has patiently waited for clear IRS guidance before offering a business acquisition structure that would be fully compliant with IRS and ERISA rules and procedures. Because the IRS has stressed the importance of compliance when using retirement funds to purchase a business, it is crucial to work with a company that is operated by a team of in-house tax and ERISA professionals who have worked at some of the largest law firms in the United States, including White & Case LLP and Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP to ensure the structure satisfies IRS and ERISA rules and procedures.

We have developed a process that ensures speed and compliance, by using standardized procedures that work via phone, e-mail, fax, and mail. Your funds will typically be ready for investment into your new or existing business within 14-21 days.

Call us today at 800-472-0646 to learn more about how you can use your retirement funds to start a new business or grow an existing business tax-free, in full IRS compliance, and without penalties!

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Oct 27

The ROBS Solution and the Law

The Internal Revenue Code and ERISA have firmly codified the ability to use retirement funds to invest in the stock of a sponsoring company as long as certain IRS and ERISA rules are followed.

Internal Revenue Code Section 4975(c) includes a list of transactions that the IRS deems “prohibited”. However, Internal Revenue Code Section 4975(d) lists a number of exemptions to the prohibited transaction rules. Specifically Internal Revenue Code Section 4975(d)(13) lists an exemption for any transaction which is exempt from section 406 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) by reason of section 408(e) of such Act.

Section 408(e) provides that section 406 shall not apply to the acquisition or sale by a plan of qualifying employer securities (as defined in section 407(d)(5), provided that: (1) the acquisition or sale is for adequate consideration; (2) no commission is charged with respect to the acquisition or sale; and (3) the plan is an eligible individual account plan (as defined in section 407(d)(3)). A 401(k) plan fits in to this definition.

Pursuant to ERISA Section 406, the acquisition or sale must be for “adequate consideration.” Except in the case of a “marketable obligation”, adequate consideration for this purpose means a price not less favorable than the price determined under ERISA § 3(18),subject to a requirement that the acquisition or sale must be for “adequate consideration.” An exchange of company stock between the plan and its employer-sponsor would be a prohibited transaction, unless the requirements of ERISA § 408(e) are met.

The ROBS Solution and the LawThe exemptions in 4975(d) shall not apply to items described in Internal Revenue Code Section 4975(f)(6). Section 4975(f)(6)(A) states that the exemption of 4975(d) shall not apply in the case of a trust described in Internal Revenue Code Section 401(a), which is part of a plan providing contributions or benefits for employees some or all of whom are owner-employees (other than paragraphs (9) and (12)) shall not apply to a transaction in which the plan directly or indirectly— (i) lends any part of the corpus or income of the plan to, (ii) pays any compensation for personal services rendered to the plan to, or (iii) acquires for the plan any property from or sells any property to, any such owner-employee, a member of the family of any such owner-employee, or any corporation in which any such owner-employee owns, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more of the total combined voting power of all classes of stock entitled to vote or 50 percent or more of the total value of shares of all classes of stock of the corporation. Therefore, since the Plan will be purchasing “qualified employer securities” directly from the newly formed corporation, the purchase of corporate stock will not be treated as a prohibited transaction pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 4975.

ERISA Section 407(b)(1) generally places limitations on the acquisition and holding of Qualifying Employer Securities (normally 10% of plan assets). However, the Section includes an exception for “eligible individual account plans” (ERISA 407(b)(1)). As set forth in ERISA Section 407(d)(3), a qualified profit sharing plan is included in the definition of “eligible individual account plans”. In addition, pursuant to ERISA Section 404(a)(2), these plans do not violate ERISA’s diversification and, to the extent it requires diversification, prudence requirements.

Call us today at 800-472-0646 to learn more about how you can use your retirement funds to start a new business or grow an existing business tax-free, in full IRS compliance, and without penalties!

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Oct 12

Advantages of Using Our BACSS to Invest in a Business with Your 401(k)

Tax Advantages: With the Business Acquisition & Compliance Solution Structure (BACSS) you have the ability to use your retirement funds to acquire a new business or grow an existing business tax-free!

Start or Grow a Business Tax-Free: With BACSS, you can access your retirement funds to start or grow a business tax free and without penalty!

Access Funds without Penalties: Accessing your retirement funds can prove expensive if not structured properly. Distributions before retirement age can cost you up to 45% in taxes and penalties. With BACSS, you can access your retirement funds to start or grow a business tax-free and without penalty!

Acquire or Build a Business with No Debt: With BACSS, you can start or grow a business without ever borrowing a penny or touching the home equity you worked so hard to build.

Control your Future: With BACSS, you will be in control of your retirement funds. BACSS is designed to make you the trustee of the plan giving you “Checkbook Control” over your retirement funds. As trustee of the plan you will have the ability to invest your funds to acquire or grow a business tax-free and without penalty!

Compliance with IRS and ERISA Rules: BACSS was designed as an IRS and ERISA compliant structure for using retirement funds to acquire or invest in a business tax-free! The IRA Financial Group’s in-house retirement tax professionals spent the last two years carefully studying IRS guidance in order to design an IRS and ERISA compliant structure for using retirement funds to acquire or invest in a business tax-free! Unlike our competitors who have been offering this type of structure for many years, prior to receiving guidance from the IRS and with a significant portion of their activity having been found to be non-compliant, the IRA Financial Group has patiently waited for clear IRS guidance before offering a structure that would be fully compliant with IRS and ERISA rules and procedures. Because the IRS has stressed the importance of compliance when using retirement funds to purchase a business, it is crucial to work with a company that is operated by a team of in-house tax and ERISA professionals who have worked at some of the largest law firms in the United States, including White & Case LLP and Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP to ensure a fully compliant structure.

Speed: We have developed a process that ensures speed and compliance, by using standardized procedures that work via phone, e-mail, fax, and mail. Your funds will be ready for investment into your new or existing business within 14-21 days.

Value: With the IRA Financial Group, you will be working directly with our in-house tax and ERISA professionals to design an IRS and ERISA compliant structure that will allow you to use your retirement funds to acquire or grow a business tax-free at a fair and reasonable price.

Use your retirement funds to purchase a new business or franchise tax-free and without penalty!

It’s 100% IRS compliant.

Call us today at 800-472-0646 to learn more about how you can use your retirement funds to start a new business or grow an existing business tax-free, in full IRS compliance, and without penalties!

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Sep 30

Forbes.com Publishes Article on Rollover Business Start-up (ROBS) Written By Adam Bergman

Adam Bergman is a contributor to Forbes.com on the topic of retirement taxation, contributes articles on using retirement funds to buy a business

Adam Bergman, partner with the IRA Financial Group, has just written an article published on Forbes.com that addresses the legality of the Rollover Business Startup (ROBS) solution. The article titled, “Robbing Your Retirement Account To Fund Your Business Invites IRS Scrutiny” discusses some of the problem areas and compliance issues the Internal Revenue Service has addresses regarding using the ROBS structure to buy a business or franchise.

Adam Bergman is a senior tax partner with the IRA Financial Group, LLC, the markets leading provider of Self-Directed IRA LLC and Solo 401(k) plans. Mr. Bergman is also the managing partner of the law firm The Bergman Law Group, LLC. In addition, Mr. Bergman is a recognized expert on IRAs and 401(k) Plans and is the founder of the BergmanIRAReport.com and the Bergman401KReport.com. Mr. Bergman is the author of the book titled, “Going Solo: America’s Best Kept Retirement Secret For the Self-Employed,” available on Amazon, and is a frequent contributor to Forbes. Mr. Bergman has advised over 12,000 clients on the Self-Directed IRA LLC and Solo 401(k) Plan solutions.

Forbes.com Publishes Article on Rollover Business Start-up (ROBS) Written By Adam BergmanMr. Bergman has been quoted in a number of major publications on the area of self-directed retirement plans. Mr. Bergman has been interviewed on CBS News and has been quoted in Businessweek, CNN Money, Forbes, Dallas Morning News, Daily Business Review, Law.com, San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. Tax News, the Miami Herald, Bloomberg, Arizona Republic, San Antonio Express, Findlaw, Smart Money, USA Today, Houston Chronicle, Morningstar, and American Lawyer on the area of retirement tax planning.

Prior to joining the IRA Financial Group, LLC, Mr. Bergman worked as a tax and ERISA attorney at White & Case LLP, Dewey LeBoeuf LLP, and Thelen LLP, three of the most prominent corporate law firms in the world. Throughout his career, Mr. Bergman has advised thousands of clients on a wide range of tax and ERISA matters involving limited liability companies and retirement plans. Mr. Bergman received his B.A. (with distinction) from McGill University and his law degree (cum laude) from Syracuse University College of Law. Mr. Bergman also received his Masters of Taxation (LL.M.) from New York University School of Law.

Mr. Bergman is recognized as a leading retirement tax-planning expert and has lectured attorneys on the legal and tax aspects of Self-Directed IRA LLC and Solo 401(k) Plans. Mr. Bergman has also been retained by several leading IRA custodians, including Entrust, to offer expertise on the Self-Directed IRA structure. Mr. Bergman is a member of the Tax Division of the American Bar Association and New York State Bar Association.

The IRA Financial Group was founded by a group of top law firm tax and ERISA lawyers who have worked at some of the largest law firms in the United States, such as White & Case LLP, Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, and Thelen LLP.

IRA Financial Group is the market’s leading “checkbook control” Self Directed IRA and Solo 401(k) Plan provider. IRA Financial Group has helped thousands of clients take back control over their retirement funds while gaining the ability to invest in almost any type of investment, including real estate without custodian consent.

To learn more about the IRA Financial Group please visit our website at http://www.irafinancialgroup.com or call 800-472-0646.

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Sep 25

New Podcast – Considering Doing a ROBS – Things You Should Consider

IRA Financial Group’s Adam Bergman discusses important items to think about when considering setting up a ROBS (Rollover Business Startup) solution.

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Click Here to Listen

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Aug 10

Why the 2008 IRS Memorandum concerning the “ROBS” Structure?

After reviewing a number of business acquisition structures (such as “ROBS”) that have been promoted by our competitors, in 2008 the IRS became concerned that the structures were not being properly established from an IRS and ERISA compliance standpoint. While having these compliance concerns, the IRS has always maintained the position that this type of structure is perfectly legal and not considered an abusive tax avoidance transaction. In the “Memorandum”, the IRS highlighted a number of compliance areas, which they believed were not being adequately followed by the promoters implementing the structure at that time.

Why the 2008 Memorandum concerning the "ROBS" Structure?While our competitors were promoting this type of structure, which in many cases failed from a compliance standpoint, the IRA Financial Group’s in-house retirement tax professionals spent the last few years reviewing IRS materials and guidance in order to develop the Business Acquisition Compliance and Support Structure (“BACSS”). BACSS was designed to satisfy each non-compliance issue address by the IRS in the “Memorandum” in order to offer our clients an IRS and ERISA compliant structure for using retirement funds to acquire or invest in a business tax free!

 

Please contact one of our Retirement Experts at 800-472-0646 for more information.

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Jul 21

Some Disadvantages of Using Your 401k to Buy a Business

When it comes to using retirement funds to buy or finance a business that you or another “disqualified person” will be involved in personally, there is only one legal way to do it and that is through the Business Acquisition Solution, also known as a Rollover Business Start-Up solution (ROBS). The ROBS solution takes advantage of an exception in the tax code under Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) Section 4975(d) that allows one to use 401(k) plan funds to buy stock in a “C” Corporation, which is known as “qualifying employer securities”. The exception to the IRS prohibited transaction rules found in IRC 4975(d) requires that a 401(k) plan buy “qualifying employer securities”, which is defined as stock of a “C” Corporation. This is the reason why one cannot use a self-directed IRA LLC to invest in a business the IRA holder or a disqualified person will be personally involved in or why a 401(k) plan cannot invest in an LLC in which the plan participant or disqualified person will be involved in without triggering the prohibited transaction rules. Hence, in order to use retirement funds to invest in a business in which a disqualified person will be personally involve one needs a “C” Corporation to operate a business and adopt a 401(k) Plan

So How Does the ROBS Solution Work?

The structure typically involves the following sequential steps:

1.An entrepreneur or existing business owner establishes a new C Corporation;

2.The C Corporation adopts a prototype 401(k) plan that specifically permits plan participants to direct the investment of their plan accounts into a selection of investment options, including employer stock, also known as “qualifying employer securities.”

3.The entrepreneur elects to participate in the new 401(k) plan and, as permitted by the plan, directs a rollover or trustee-to-trustee transfer of retirement funds from another qualified retirement plan into the newly adopted 401(k) plan;

4.The entrepreneur then directs the investment of his or her 401(k) plan account to purchase the C Corporation’s newly issued stock at fair market value ( i.e., the amount that the entrepreneur wishes to invest in the new business); and finally

5.The C Corporation utilizes the proceeds from the sale of stock to purchase an existing business or to begin a new venture.

Four Disadvantages of Establishing a ROBS

1. The “C” Corporation Requirement: Although there are advantages to establishing a “C” corporation, such as owner’s liability protection from the actions of the company, there are several disadvantages as well.

2. Double Taxation: Corporations, unlike other companies that are considered sole proprietorships and partnerships, file their own taxes separately from their owners at their own tax rates. After the company’s profits are taxed at the corporate level, they are then distributed to the shareholders who have to report the amount received on their individual tax returns. The corporate tax rate is generally 15% for corporate profits under $50,000 and 35% for profits above $50,000. This isn’t the case for Sub-chapter S corporations or LLC, where the profits bypass being taxed at the corporate level and are distributed and taxed at the shareholder’s level. That is called pass-through taxation. For example, if we assume a 20% income tax rate for both corporation and individuals and a “C” Corporation earned $100 of profits, the “C” Corporation would be required to pay tax of $20 (20% of $100) and then the shareholder would be required to pay tax of $16 (20% of $80) on any dividend issued by the “C” Corporation to the shareholder. Whereas, in the case of an LLC or “S” Corporation, there is no entity level tax so the $100 would flow directly to the shareholder or LLC member and a tax of only $20% would be imposed at the shareholder level. Comparing this with the “C” Corporation example, by using a passthrough entity such as an “S” Corporation or LLC, the individual would save $16 in our example (total tax of $36 with a “C” Corporation versus $20 in the case of an LLC or “S” Corporation.

Some Disadvantages of Using Your 401k to Buy a BusinessIt is important to note that it can be argued that the disadvantage of double taxation bite does not impact retirement accounts (i.e. 401(k) plans) as much as individuals, since the dividend from the “C” Corporation to the 401(k) plan shareholder would be exempt from tax since a 401(k) plan is a tax-exempt retirement account. However, the double taxation is not eliminated but simply deferred until the 401(k) plan participant elects to take a 401(k) plan distribution, which would generally be subject to a second tax (the first tax would be applied at the “C” Corporation level). In contrast, if a 401(k) plan invested in an LLC, a passthrough entity for taxation, the income or gains from the LLC would generally flow back to the 401(k) plan without tax and the 401(k) plan participant would only be required to pay one tax when a distribution is taken.

Unfortunately, the IRS rules require a “C” Corporation be used when a retirement account holder wishes to use retirement funds to invest in a business they or another disqualified person will be involved in. The issue of double taxation is certainly one disadvantage of the ROBS solution, but it is generally perceived as better than paying tax and potentially a 10% early distribution penalty on a distribution from your retirement account.

Regulations and Formalities

Sub-chapter C corporations generally involve more corporate formalities than LLCs, for example. In general, “C” Corporations have to report annually to the states in which they’re incorporated, and the states in which they do a lot of business, on an annual basis. Also, “C” Corporations must observe certain formalities to be considered corporations. This includes holding regular board and shareholder meetings and issuing stock. Also, the names of corporate officers are made public, which is not required by businesses formed under different organizational structures.

401(k) Plan Administration

Even though 401(k) plan administration costs have come down significantly over the years, there is still a cost of offering a 401(k) plan to employees. In addition to having to make a 3% safe harbor contribution, which will be discussed below, 401(k) plans cost money to administer because there are many compliance issues that have to be monitored, there are many ongoing service and administration functions that have to be provided, and there are a host of education and communication services that are required to be offered to plan participants. It is not uncommon for a small business 401(k) Plan to cost anywhere from $750-$1500 annually for a third-party administration company to administer as well as file the annual IRS Form 5500 .

3. Matching Contributions: A safe harbor 401(k) Plan, which is a popular type of 401(k) plan for small businesses, offer employees who participate in the plan a 3% matching contribution made by the employer. Thus, for example, if the employee earns $40,000 in salary during the year and contributes 3% of the salary or $1200 to the 401(k) plan, the employer would contribute an additional $1200 (3% of the salary) to the individual 401(k) plan account. Taking this a step further, if the business has 5 employees and each employee makes $40,000 a year, the employer now has to make $6000 in employer matching contributions. Although the contributions are tax deductible to the employer, it is still additional funds that are being removed from the company and could impact the cash flow of a new small business.

4. Potential IRS Audit: Dating back to the 2005 or so, the IRS started focusing some attention on the ROBS solutions and some of the abuses they perceived were occurring.

To this end, on October 31, 2008, Michael Julianelle, Director, Employee Plans, signed a “Memorandum” approving IRS ROBS Examination Guidelines. The IRS stated that while this type of structure is legal and not considered an abusive tax avoidance transaction, the execution of these types of transactions, in many cases, have not been found to be in full compliance with IRS and ERISA rules and procedures. In the “Memorandum”, the IRS highlighted two compliance areas that they felt were not being adequately followed by the promoters implementing the structure during this time period. The first non-compliance area of concern the IRS highlighted in the “Memorandum” was the lack of disclosure of the adopted 401(k) Plan to the company’s employees and the second non-compliance area was establishing an independent appraisal to determine the fair market value of the business being purchased. In sum, the IRS was concerned that people were using their retirement funds to buy a business and either the business was not being purchased and the individual then used the funds for personal purposes, thus avoiding tax and potential penalties, or the business that was purchased closed, and the retirement account liquidated, thus, leaving the IRS without the potential to tax the retirement account in the future.

The IRS did not publicly comment on the ROBS solution again until August 27, 2010, almost two years after publishing the “Memorandum”, the IRS held a public phone forum open to the public which covered transactions involving using retirement funds to purchase a business. Monika Templeman, Director of Employee Plans Examinations and Colleen Patton, Area Manager of Employee Plans Examinations for the Pacific Coast spent considerable time discussing the IRS’s position on this subject. Monika Templeman began the presentation reaffirming the IRS’s position that a transaction involving the use of retirement funds to purchase a new business is legal and not an abusive tax-avoidance transaction as long as the transaction complies with IRS and ERISA rules and procedures. The concern the IRS has had with these types of transactions is that the promoters who have been offering these transactions have not had the expertise to develop structures that are fully compliant with IRS and ERISA rules and regulations. The IRS added that a large percentage of the transactions they reviewed were in non-compliance largely due to the following non-compliance issues: (i) failure by the promoters to develop a structure that requires the new company to disclose the new 401(k) Plan to the company’s employees and, (ii) the failure to require the client to secure an independent appraisal to determine the fair market value of the company stock being purchased by the 401(k) Plan. The IRS concluded by stating that a transaction using retirement funds to acquire a business is legal and not prohibited so long as the transaction is structured correctly to comply with IRS and ERISA rules and procedures.

So does the ROBS solution trigger an audit? No one knows what factors trigger an IRS audit, but although legal, the ROBS solution is something the IRS and Department of Labor is looking at. Again, if your structure is set-up properly and the funds are used to buy a business, the 401k plan is being offered to all eligible employees, a valuation of the stock purchased is performed, and the plan is compliant with all annual testing and IRS filing requirement, there is nothing to be concerned with if your plan was audited by the IRS or DOL.

To learn more about the benefits of the ROBS strategy, please contact a retirement tax expert at 800-472-0646.

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