Nov 14

What is the Rollover Business Start-up Solution?

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.

Rollover Business Start-Up, Rollover Business StartupWith 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

An 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 (Rollover Business Startup) strategy, please contact a retirement tax expert at 800-472-0646.

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Aug 22

Is a Solo 401k Subjected to the Same UBTI Rules as a Self-Directed IRA?

Yes and No. Like an IRA, the tax advantage of a Solo 401K Plan is that income is tax-free until distributed. In general, an exempt organization is not taxed on its income from an activity that is substantially related to the charitable, educational, or other purpose that is the basis for the organization’s exemption. Such income is exempt even if the activity is a trade or business. However, to prevent tax-exempt entities from competing unfairly with taxable entities, tax-exempt entities are subject to unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) when their income is derived from any trade or business that is unrelated to its tax-exempt status.

What is Unrelated Business Taxable Income?

UBTI is defined as “gross income derived by any organization from any unrelated trade or business regularly carried on by it” reduced by deductions directly connected with the business. The UBTI rules only apply to exempt organizations such as charities, IRAs, and 401(k) Plans. Congress enacted the UBTI rules in the 1950s in order to prevent charities from competing with for-profit businesses since charities do not pay tax giving them an unfair advantage over for- profit businesses. With the enactment of ERISA in 1974, IRAs and 401(k), who are considered tax-exempt parties pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Sections 408 and 401 respectively, became subject to the UBTI rules.

As a result, if an IRA or 401(k) invests in an active business through an LLC or partnership, the income generated by the IRA or 401(k) from the active business investment will be subject to the UBTI rules. In other words, a 401(k) Plan that is a limited partner, member of a LLC, or member of another non-corporate entity will have attributed to it the UBTI of the enterprise as if it were the direct recipient of its share of the entity’s income which would be UBTI had it carried on the business of the entity.   For example, if a Solo 401(k) Plan invests in an LLC that operates an active business such as a restaurant or gas station, the income or gains generated from the investment will generally be subject to the UBTI tax. However, if the Solo 401(k) Plan invested in an active business through a C corporation, there would be no UBTI since the C Corporation acts as a blocker blocking the income from flowing through to the Solo 401(k) Plan. This is why you can invest IRA and 401(k) funds into a public company, such as IBM without triggering the UBTI tax. Remember that if an IRA or 401(k) Plan makes a passive investment, such as rental income, dividends, and royalties, such income would not be subject to the UBTI rules.

Is a Solo 401k Subjected to the Same UBTI Rules as a Self-Directed IRA?UDFI and The Solo 401k Plan

However, unlike a Self-Directed IRA LLC, in the case of a Solo 401(k) Plan, UBTI does not apply to unrelated debt-financed income (UDFI). The UDFI rules apply when a 401(k) Plan uses leverage to acquire property such as real estate. Pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 514(c)(9), a 401(k) Qualified Plan is not subject to the UDFI rules and, thus, the UBTI tax if nonrecourse leverage is used to acquire property such as real estate. With the UBTI tax rates at approximately 40% for 2017, the Solo 401(k) Plan offers real estate investors looking to use nonrecourse leverage in a transaction with a tax efficient solution.

Exceptions to the UBTI Rules

There are some important exceptions from UBTI: those exclusions generally exclude the majority of income generating investment activities from the UBTI rules – dividends, interest, annuities, royalties, most rentals from real estate, and gains/losses from the sale of real estate.

What is an Unrelated Business?

For a Solo 401(k), any business regularly carried on or by a partnership or corporation of which it is a member/partner is an unrelated business. For example, the operation of a shoe factory by a pension trusts, the operation of a financial consulting business for high net worth individuals by a university, or the operation of an computer rental business by a hospital would likely be treated as an unrelated business and subject to UBTI.

UBTI & Real Estate Investments

Although there is little formal guidance on UBTI implications for Solo 401(k) Plans investing in real estate, there is a great deal of guidance on UBTI implications for real estate transactions by tax-exempt entities. In general, Gains and losses on dispositions of property (including casualties and other involuntary dispositions) are excluded from UBTI unless the property is inventory or property held primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of an unrelated trade or business. This exclusion covers gains and losses on dispositions of property used in an unrelated trade or business, as long as the property was not held for sale to customers. In addition, subject to a number of conditions, if an exempt organization acquires real property or mortgages held by a financial institution in conservatorship or receivership, gains on dispositions of the property are excluded from UBTI, even if the property is held for sale to customers in the ordinary course of business.

The purpose of the provision seems to be to allow an exempt organization to acquire a package of assets of an insolvent financial institution with assurance that parts of the package can be sold off without risk of the re-sales tainting the organization as a dealer and thus subjecting gains on re-sales to the UBIT.

How Do I Avoid UBTI?

In general, if you make passive investments with your Solo 401(k) Plan, such as stocks, mutual funds, precious metals, foreign currency, rental real estate, etc the passive income generated by the investment will generally not be subject to the UBTI tax. Only if your Solo 401(k) Plan will be making investments into an active business, such as a retail store, restaurant, software company using a passthrough entity such as an LLC or partnership will your Solo 401(k) Plan likely be subject to the UBTI tax.

Please contact one of our 401(k) Experts at 800-472-0646 for more information.

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Jun 20

Does the UBTI Tax on Unrelated Debt Financed Income Apply to Solo 401k Plans?

No. Unlike a Self Directed IRA LLC, when a Solo 401K Plan uses nonrecourse leverage to purchase real estate that is leveraged, it is exempt from paying any Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBTI) tax on the income or gain generated.

When an IRA buys real estate that is leveraged with mortgage financing, it creates Unrelated Debt Financed Income (a type of Unrelated Business Taxable Income) on which taxes must be paid. A Solo 401(k) plan is exempt from UDFI pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 514(c)(9).

With the UBTI tax rates at approximately 40% for 2017, the Solo 401(k) Plan offers real estate investors looking to use nonrecourse leverage in a transaction with a tax efficient solution.

Does the UBTI Tax on Unrelated Debt Financed Income Apply to Solo 401k Plans?“Debt-financed property” refers to borrowing money to purchase the real estate (i.e., a leveraged asset that is held to produce income). In such cases, only the income attributable to the financed portion of the property is taxed; gain on the profit from the sale of the leveraged assets is also UDFI (unless the debt is paid off more than 12 months before the property is sold).

Why does this Exemption Apply to 401(k) Plans and Not IRAs?

When Internal Revenue Code Section 514(c)(9) was enacted in 1980, it applied only to qualified pension, profit sharing, and stock bonus plans, but its scope was broadened in 1984 to include schools, colleges, and universities. The provision brings the history of Internal Revenue Code Section 514 full circle by exempting some organizations, such as 401(k) Qualified Plan, from tax on income from the very sort of leveraged real estate deals that provoked the enactment of the predecessor of Internal Revenue Code Section 514 in 1950. As per the legislative history, the only reason given in the committee reports for the exemption is that some people wanted it: “Trustees of these plans are desirous of investing in real estate for diversification and to offset inflation. Debt-financing is common in real estate investments.”

Please contact one of our 401(k) Experts at 800-472-0646 for more information.

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Jun 17

What Are the Advantages of a Solo 401k Plan vs a Self-Directed IRA?

A Solo 401(k) Plan is an IRS approved retirement plan, which is suited for business owners who do not have any employees other than themselves and perhaps their spouse. The “one-participant 401(k) Plan” or individual 401(k) Plan is not a new type of plan. It is a traditional 401k Plan covering only one employee.  Unlike a Traditional IRA, which only allows an individual to contribute $5500 annually or $6500 if the individual is over the age of 50, a Solo 401k Plan offers the Plan participant the ability to contribute up to $60,000 each year.  Before the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) became effective in 2002, there was no compelling reason for an owner-only business to establish a Solo 401(k) Plan because the business owner could generally receive the same benefits by adopting a profit sharing plan or a SEP IRA.  After 2002, EGTRRA paved the way for an owner-only business to put more money aside for retirement and to operate a more cost-effective retirement plan than a Traditional IRA or 401(k) Plan.

There are a number of options that are specific to Solo 401k Plans that make the Solo 401k Plan a far more attractive retirement option for a self-employed individual than a Traditional IRA for a self-employed individual.

1. Reach your Maximum Contribution Amount Quicker: A Solo 401(k) Plan includes both an employee and profit sharing contribution option, whereas, a Traditional IRA has a very low annual contribution limit.

Under the 2017 Solo 401(k) contribution rules, a plan participant under the age of 50 can make a maximum employee deferral contribution in the amount of $18,000. That amount can be made in pre-tax or after-tax (Roth). On the profit sharing side, the business can make a 25% (20% in the case of a sole proprietorship or single member LLC) profit sharing contribution up to a combined maximum, including the employee deferral, of $54,000.

What Are the Advantages of a Solo 401k Plan vs a Self-Directed IRA?For plan participants over the age of 50, an individual can make a maximum employee deferral contribution in the amount of $24,000. That amount can be made in pre-tax or after-tax (Roth). On the profit sharing side, the business can make a 25% (20% in the case of a sole proprietorship or single member LLC) profit sharing contribution up to a combined maximum, including the employee deferral, of $60,000.

Whereas, a Traditional Self-Directed IRA would only allow an individual with earned income during the year to contribute up to $5500, $6500 if the individual is over the age of 50.

For example, Joe, who is 60 years old, owns 100% of an S Corporation with no full time employees.  Joe earned $100,000 in self-employment W-2 wages for 2017.  If Joe had a Solo 401(k) Plan established for 2017, Joe would be able to defer approximately $49,000 for 2017 (a $24,000 employee deferral, which could be pre-tax or Roth, and 25% of his compensation giving him $49,000 for the year).   Whereas, if Joe established a Traditional Self-Directed IRA, Joe would only be able to defer approximately $6,500 for 2017.

2. No Roth Feature: A Solo 401k Plan can be made in pre-tax or Roth (after-tax) format.  Whereas, in the case of a Traditional Self-Directed IRA, contributions can only be made in pre-tax format.  In addition, a contribution of $18,000 ($24,00, if the plan participant is over the age of 50) can be made to a Solo 401(k) Roth account.

3. Tax-Free Loan Option: With a Solo 401K Plan, you can borrow up to $50,000 or 50% of your account value, what ever is less.  The loan can be used for any purpose.  With a Traditional Self-Directed IRA, the IRA holder is not permitted to borrow even $1 dollar from the IRA without triggering a prohibited transaction.

4. Use Nonrecourse Leverage and Pay No Tax: With a Solo 401(k) Plan, you can make a real estate investment using nonrecourse funds without triggering the Unrelated Debt Financed Income Rules and the Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBTI or UBIT) tax (IRC 514).  However, the nonrecourse leverage exception found in IRC 514 is only applicable to 401(k) qualified retirement plans and does not apply to IRAs. In other words, using a Self-Directed SEP IRA to make a real estate investment (Self Directed Real Estate IRA) involving nonrecourse financing would trigger the UBTI tax.

5. Open the Account at Any Local Bank: With a Solo 401k Plan, the 401k bank account can be opened at any local bank or trust company.  However, in the case of a Traditional Self Directed IRA, a special IRA custodian is required to hold the IRA funds.

6. No Need for the Cost of an LLC: With a Solo 401(k) Plan, the plan itself can make real estate and other investments without the need for an LLC, which, depending on the state of formation, could prove costly. Since a 401(k) Plan is a trust, the trustee on behalf of the trust can take title to a real estate asset without the need for an LLC.

7. Better Creditor Protection: In general, a Solo 401(k) Plan offers greater creditor protection than a Traditional IRA.  The 2005 Bankruptcy Act generally protects all 401(k) Plan assets from creditor attack in a bankruptcy proceeding.  In addition, most states offer greater creditor protection to a Solo 401(k) qualified retirement plan than a Traditional Self-Directed IRA outside of bankruptcy.

The Solo 401k plan is unique and so popular because it is designed explicitly for small, owner-only business.  The many features of the Solo 401k plan discussed above is why the Solo 401k Plan or Individual 401k Plan it so appealing and popular among self-employed business owners.

To learn more about the benefits of a Solo 401(k) Plan vs. a Self-Directed IRA, please contact a tax professional at 800-472-0646.

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Jun 01

Is a Solo 401(k) Plan Subject to the Same UBTI Rules as a Self Directed IRA?

Yes and No. Like an IRA, the tax advantage of a Solo 401K Plan is that income is tax-free until distributed. In general, an exempt organization is not taxed on its income from an activity that is substantially related to the charitable, educational, or other purpose that is the basis for the organization’s exemption. Such income is exempt even if the activity is a trade or business. However, to prevent tax-exempt entities from competing unfairly with taxable entities, tax-exempt entities are subject to unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) when their income is derived from any trade or business that is unrelated to its tax-exempt status.

What is Unrelated Business Taxable Income?

UBTI is defined as “gross income derived by any organization from any unrelated trade or business regularly carried on by it” reduced by deductions directly connected with the business. The UBTI rules only apply to exempt organizations such as charities, IRAs, and 401(k) Plans. Congress enacted the UBTI rules in the 1950s in order to prevent charities from competing with for-profit businesses since charities do not pay tax giving them an unfair advantage over for- profit businesses. With the enactment of ERISA in 1974, IRAs and 401(k), who are considered tax-exempt parties pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Sections 408 and 401 respectively, became subject to the UBTI rules. As a result, if an IRA or 401(k) invests in an active business through an LLC or partnership, the income generated by the IRA or 401(k) Is a Solo 401(k) Plan Subject to the Same UBTI Rules as a Self Directed IRA?from the active business investment will be subject to the UBTI rules. In other words, a 401(k) Plan that is a limited partner, member of a LLC, or member of another non-corporate entity will have attributed to it the UBTI of the enterprise as if it were the direct recipient of its share of the entity’s income which would be UBTI had it carried on the business of the entity.   For example, if a Solo 401(k) Plan invests in an LLC that operates an active business such as a restaurant or gas station, the income or gains generated from the investment will generally be subject to the UBTI tax. However, if the Solo 401(k) Plan invested in an active business through a C corporation, there would be no UBTI since the C Corporation acts as a blocker blocking the income from flowing through to the Solo 401(k) Plan. This is why you can invest IRA and 401(k) funds into a public company, such as IBM without triggering the UBTI tax. Remember that if an IRA or 401(k) Plan makes a passive investment, such as rental income, dividends, and royalties, such income would not be subject to the UBTI rules.

UDFI and The Solo 401(k) Plan

However, unlike a Self-Directed IRA LLC, in the case of a Solo 401(k) Plan, UBTI does not apply to unrelated debt-financed income (UDFI). The UDFI rules apply when a 401(k) Plan uses leverage to acquire property such as real estate. Pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 514(c)(9), a 401(k) Qualified Plan is not subject to the UDFI rules and, thus, the UBTI tax if nonrecourse leverage is used to acquire property such as real estate. With the UBTI tax rates at approximately 40% for 2017, the Solo 401(k) Plan offers real estate investors looking to use nonrecourse leverage in a transaction with a tax efficient solution.

Exceptions to the UBTI Rules

There are some important exceptions from UBTI: those exclusions generally exclude the majority of income generating investment activities from the UBTI rules – dividends, interest, annuities, royalties, most rentals from real estate, and gains/losses from the sale of real estate.

What is an Unrelated Business?

For a Solo 401(k), any business regularly carried on or by a partnership or corporation of which it is a member/partner is an unrelated business. For example, the operation of a shoe factory by a pension trusts, the operation of a financial consulting business for high net worth individuals by a university, or the operation of an computer rental business by a hospital would likely be treated as an unrelated business and subject to UBTI.

UBTI & Real Estate Investments

Although there is little formal guidance on UBTI implications for Solo 401(k) Plans investing in real estate, there is a great deal of guidance on UBTI implications for real estate transactions by tax-exempt entities. In general, Gains and losses on dispositions of property (including casualties and other involuntary dispositions) are excluded from UBTI unless the property is inventory or property held primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of an unrelated trade or business. This exclusion covers gains and losses on dispositions of property used in an unrelated trade or business, as long as the property was not held for sale to customers. In addition, subject to a number of conditions, if an exempt organization acquires real property or mortgages held by a financial institution in conservatorship or receivership, gains on dispositions of the property are excluded from UBTI, even if the property is held for sale to customers in the ordinary course of business. The purpose of the provision seems to be to allow an exempt organization to acquire a package of assets of an insolvent financial institution with assurance that parts of the package can be sold off without risk of the re-sales tainting the organization as a dealer and thus subjecting gains on re-sales to the UBIT.

How Do I Avoid UBTI?

In general, if you make passive investments with your Solo 401(k) Plan, such as stocks, mutual funds, precious metals, foreign currency, rental real estate, etc the passive income generated by the investment will generally not be subject to the UBTI tax. Only if your Solo 401(k) Plan will be making investments into an active business, such as a retail store, restaurant, software company using a passthrough entity such as an LLC or partnership will your Solo 401(k) Plan likely be subject to the UBTI tax.

Please contact one of our 401(k) Experts at 800-472-0646 for more information.

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Apr 19

Using Your 401k to Start Your Own Business

Leaving your job or thinking of leaving your job and a have 401(k) qualified retirement plan or other type of retirement plan? Why not use your retirement funds to invest in yourself instead of a volatile stock market? While the Stock Market is doing well, who knows how long before the bubble bursts; why not use your 401(k) funds on a business you can run, manage, and even earn a salary from? Isn’t it time you placed your retirement future in your hands rather than trust Wall Street bankers?

With IRA Financial Group’s Business Acquisition structure, a new C Corporation is formed which will adopt a 401(k) Qualified Plan. Your existing retirement funds can then be rolled into the newly adopted 401(k) Plan tax-free. The 401(k) Plan will then purchase the stock of the new corporation. The new corporation will then use those funds to purchase a new business or franchise tax-free!

Using Your 401k to Start Your Own BusinessWith the IRS compliant Business Acquisition Structure (similar to that of the Rollover Business Start-up (ROBS) solution, you can earn a reasonable salary from your new business or franchise. You can also use your new 401(k) Plan to make high tax-deductible contributions – $54,000 ($60,000 if you are over the age of 50) and even borrow up to $50,000 for any purpose.

What does the IRS Say about this?

The Internal revenue Code explicitly permits the purchase of corporate stock by a 401(k) Qualified Plan. The IRS has repeatedly confirmed that the structure is legal but has expressed some concern about the potential for abuse by individuals not being properly advised by tax professionals. For example, the IRS has documented the following instances of abuse when it comes to using retirement funds to invest in a business: (i) the employees of the business are not properly informed that a 401(k) qualified plan has been adopted by the business and that they are eligible to participate, (ii) the individual that established the structure with no intention to use for business purpose and the sole purpose for establishment was to get access to the retirement funds without penalty, or (iii) the structure would be used to purchase assets for personal use with the retirement funds.

Therefore, the IRS has stressed that it is imperative that when using retirement funds to establish or finance a new or existing business or franchise, it is necessary to work with qualified tax professionals who have experience in this area and can make sure the structure is established in full compliance with IRS and ERISA rules and procedures.

IRA Financial Group’s Business Acquisition structure is an IRS compliant legal structure that one can use to invest retirement funds into a business they will operate and be employed by. Work with IRA Financial Group’s in-house tax professionals to help establish your IRS compliant Business Acquisition Solution.

Using IRA Financial Group’s Business Acquisition Solution is the only way you will be able to use your retirement fund to legally start or finance a new or existing business tax-free and penalty free! Whereas, with a self-directed IRA LLC, an individual can invest retirement funds in a private business, but not a business that he or she would be involved in – that would be considered a prohibited transaction pursuant to Internal Revenue Code 4975. While, with a Solo 401K, an individual could only borrow up to $50,000 or 50% of his or her account value whichever is less and use that loan for any purpose, including starting or financing a business. However, if an individual required more than $50,000 for a business, then the Business Acquisition structure is the only solution that will allow one to use their retirement funds to start or finance a business tax-free and without penalty!

To learn more about the advantages of using a Business Acquisition Structure to start or finance a business using retirement funds, please contact a retirement expert at 800-472-0646.

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Mar 30

Do You Have to Pay UBTI Tax on Unrelated Debt Financed Income in a Solo 401(k) Plan?

No. Unlike a Self Directed IRA LLC, when a Solo 401K Plan uses nonrecourse leverage to purchase real estate that is leveraged, it is exempt from paying any Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBTI) tax on the income or gain generated.

When an IRA buys real estate that is leveraged with mortgage financing, it creates Unrelated Debt Financed Income (a type of Unrelated Business Taxable Income) on which taxes must be paid. A Solo 401(k) plan is exempt from UDFI pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 514(c)(9).

With the UBTI tax rates at approximately 40% for 2017, the Solo 401(k) Plan offers real estate investors looking to use nonrecourse leverage in a transaction with a tax efficient solution.

Debt-financed property refers to borrowing money to purchase the real estate (i.e., a leveraged asset that is held to produce income). In such cases, only the income attributable to the financed portion of the property is taxed; gain on the profit from the sale of the leveraged assets is also UDFI (unless the debt is paid off more than 12 months before the property is sold).

Why does this Exemption Apply to 401(k) Plans and Not IRAs?

When Internal Revenue Code Section 514(c)(9) was enacted in 1980, it applied only to qualified pension, profit sharing, and stock bonus plans, but its scope was broadened in 1984 to include schools, colleges, and universities. The provision brings the history of Internal Revenue Code Section 514 full circle by exempting some organizations, such as 401(k) Qualified Plan, from tax on income from the very sort of leveraged real estate deals that provoked the enactment of the predecessor of Internal Revenue Code Section 514 in 1950. As per the legislative history, the only reason given in the committee reports for the exemption is that some people wanted it: “Trustees of these plans are desirous of investing in real estate for diversification and to offset inflation. Debt-financing is common in real estate investments.”

Please contact one of our 401(k) Experts at 800-472-0646 for more information.

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Nov 07

Is the Self Directed 401k Subject to the Same UBTI Rules as a Self Directed IRA?

Yes and No. Like an IRA, the tax advantage of a Self-Directed 401(k) Plan, also known as a Solo 401(k),  is that income is tax-free until distributed. In general, an exempt organization is not taxed on its income from an activity that is substantially related to the charitable, educational, or other purpose that is the basis for the organization’s exemption. Such income is exempt even if the activity is a trade or business. However, to prevent tax-exempt entities from competing unfairly with taxable entities, tax-exempt entities are subject to unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) when their income is derived from any trade or business that is unrelated to its tax-exempt status.

What is Unrelated Business Taxable Income?

UBTI is defined as “gross income derived by any organization from any unrelated trade or business regularly carried on by it” reduced by deductions directly connected with the business. The UBTI rules only apply to exempt organizations such as charities, IRAs, and 401(k) Plans. Congress enacted the UBTI rules in the 1950s in order to prevent charities from competing with for-profit businesses since charities do not pay tax giving them an unfair advantage over for- profit businesses. With the enactment of ERISA in 1974, IRAs and 401(k), who are considered tax-exempt parties pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Sections 408 and 401 respectively, became subject to the UBTI rules. As a result, if an IRA or 401(k) invests in an active business through an LLC or partnership, the income generated by the IRA or 401(k) from the active business investment will be subject to the UBTI rules. In other words, a 401(k) Plan that is a limited partner, member of a LLC, or member of another non-corporate entity will have attributed to it the UBTI of the enterprise as if it were the direct recipient of its share of the entity’s income which would be UBTI had it carried on the business of the entity.   For example, if a Solo 401(k) Plan invests in an LLC that operates an active business such as a restaurant or gas station, the income or gains generated from the investment will generally be subject to the UBTI tax. However, if the Solo 401(k) Plan invested in an active business through a C corporation, there would be no UBTI since the C Corporation acts as a blocker blocking the income from flowing through to the Solo 401(k) Plan. This is why you can invest IRA and 401(k) funds into a public company, such as IBM without triggering the UBTI tax. Remember that if an IRA or 401(k) Plan makes a passive investment, such as rental income, dividends, and royalties, such income would not be subject to the UBTI rules.

UDFI and The Solo 401(k) Plan

However, unlike a Self-Directed IRA LLC, in the case of a Solo 401(k) Plan, UBTI does not apply to unrelated debt-financed income (UDFI). The UDFI rules apply when a 401(k) Plan uses leverage to acquire property such as real estate. Pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 514(c)(9), a 401(k) Qualified Plan is not subject to the UDFI rules and, thus, the UBTI tax if nonrecourse leverage is used to acquire property such as real estate. With the UBTI tax rates at approximately 40% for 2016, the Solo 401(k) Plan offers real estate investors looking to use nonrecourse leverage in a transaction with a tax efficient solution.

Exceptions to the UBTI Rules

There are some important exceptions from UBTI: those exclusions generally exclude the majority of income generating investment activities from the UBTI rules – dividends, interest, annuities, royalties, most rentals from real estate, and gains/losses from the sale of real estate.

What is an Unrelated Business?

For a Solo 401(k), any business regularly carried on or by a partnership or corporation of which it is a member/partner is an unrelated business. For example, the operation of a shoe factory by a pension trusts, the operation of a financial consulting business for high net worth individuals by a university, or the operation of an computer rental business by a hospital would likely be treated as an unrelated business and subject to UBTI.

UBTI & Real Estate Investments

Although there is little formal guidance on UBTI implications for Solo 401(k) Plans investing in real estate, there is a great deal of guidance on UBTI implications for real estate transactions by tax-exempt entities. In general, Gains and losses on dispositions of property (including casualties and other involuntary dispositions) are excluded from UBTI unless the property is inventory or property held primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of an unrelated trade or business. This exclusion covers gains and losses on dispositions of property used in an unrelated trade or business, as long as the property was not held for sale to customers. In addition, subject to a number of conditions, if an exempt organization acquires real property or mortgages held by a financial institution in conservatorship or receivership, gains on dispositions of the property are excluded from UBTI, even if the property is held for sale to customers in the ordinary course of business. The purpose of the provision seems to be to allow an exempt organization to acquire a package of assets of an insolvent financial institution with assurance that parts of the package can be sold off without risk of the re-sales tainting the organization as a dealer and thus subjecting gains on re-sales to the UBIT.

How Do I Avoid UBTI?

In general, if you make passive investments with your Solo 401(k) Plan, such as stocks, mutual funds, precious metals, foreign currency, rental real estate, etc the passive income generated by the investment will generally not be subject to the UBTI tax. Only if your Solo 401(k) Plan will be making investments into an active business, such as a retail store, restaurant, software company using a passthrough entity such as an LLC or partnership will your Solo 401(k) Plan likely be subject to the UBTI tax.

Please contact one of our 401(k) Experts at 800-472-0646 for more information.

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Oct 11

Why Use ROBS Opposed to a Self Directed IRA to Fund a 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 purchase a new or existing business with retirement funds and be active in the business without triggering any of the IRS prohibited transaction rules. The ROBS solution qualifies for a special exemption set forth under IRC 4975(d) to certain prohibited transaction rules, which do not apply to a Self-Directed IRA structure.

How Does the ROBS structure work?

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 401(k) Plan funds in the stock of the new C Corporation. The funds are then deposited in the C Corporation bank account and are available for use for business purposes.

The following is how a typical ROBS structure works:

  • 1. Jim, an entrepreneur or existing business owner, establishes a new C Corporation in the state where the business will be operating. The ROBS structure must involve a C Corporation and not an LLC or S Corporation because the exemption to the IRS prohibited transaction rules under IRC 4975(d) involves the purchase of “Qualifying Employer Securities”, which is defined as stock of a Corporation. Using an LLC would not satisfy this definition and only individuals can be shareholders of an S Corporation and a 401(k) Plan is a trust.
  • 2. The new C Corporation adopts a prototype 401(k) plan that specifically permits the plan participants, including Jim, to direct the investment of their plan accounts into a selection of investments options, including employer stock, also known as “qualifying employer securities.
  • 3. Jim elects to participate in the new 401(k) plan and, as permitted by the plan, directs a rollover of a prior employer’s 401(k) Plan funds into the newly adopted 401(k) plan.
  • 4. Jim 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 Jim wishes to invest in the new business).
  • 5. Jim also invests personal funds equal to more than 1% of the purchase price so that the structure is not considered an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP).
  • 6. The C Corporation utilizes the proceeds from the sale of stock (the amount of rollover funds and personal funds used) to purchase the assets for the new business.
  • 7. Joe would be able to earn a salary from the revenues of the business as well as personally guarantee any business loan.

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

Why Use ROBS Opposed to a Self Directed IRA to Fund a BusinessIn a lot of respects, using a Self-Directed IRA LLC or a 401(k) Plan to purchase stock in a corporation would seem to be subject to the same rules. However, as described above, using 401(k) Plan funds and not IRA funds allows one to take advantage of the prohibited transaction exemption under IRC 4975(d) for “Qualifying Employer Securities.”

The recent U.S. Tax Court case Peek v. Commissioner, 140 T.C. No. 12 (May 9, 2013), highlights the risk and limitations involved when using a Self-Directed IRA to purchase business assets. In the Peek case, the taxpayers used IRA funds to invest in a corporation that ultimately purchased business assets. Because Mr. Peek used an IRA and not a 401(k) Plan to purchase the C Corporation stock, Mr. Peek 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.

The limitation of using a Self-Directed IRA LLC to buy a business is that the individual retirement account business owner would not be able to be actively involved in the business, earn a salary, or even personally guarantee a business loan. Whereas, if the business owner used a ROBS strategy, that individual would be able to be actively involved in the business, earn a salary, as well as personally guarantee a business loan without triggering the IRS prohibited transaction rules.

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

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Sep 19

Will an Individual 401(k) Benefit You?

The Individual 401(k), also known as a  Solo 401(k) plan, is unique and so popular because it is designed explicitly for small, owner only business. It’s a tax efficient and cost effective plan that offers all the benefits of a Self Directed IRA plan, and includes additional benefits, such as high contribution limits (up to $59,000) and a $50,000 loan feature. There are many features of the Solo 401(k) plan that make it so appealing and popular among self employed business owners. A Solo 401(k) Plan is typically used by owner owned business for the following purposes:

  • High Contribution Limits: Under the 2016 Solo 401(k) contribution rules, a plan participant under the age of 50 can make a maximum employee deferral contribution in the amount of $18,000. That amount can be made in pre-tax or after-tax (Roth). On the profit sharing side, the business can make a 25% (20% in the case of a sole proprietorship or single member LLC) profit sharing contribution up to a combined maximum, including the employee deferral.For plan participants over the age of 50, an individual can make a maximum employee deferral contribution in the amount of $24,000. That amount can be made in pre-tax or after-tax (Roth). On the profit sharing side, the business can make a 25% (20% in the case of a sole proprietorship or single member LLC) profit sharing contribution up to a combined maximum, including the employee deferral, of $59,000.
  • Loan Feature: While an IRA offers no participant loan feature, the Solo 401k allows participants to borrow up to $50,000 or 50% of their account value (whichever is less) for any purpose.
  • Finance a Business or investment: Borrow up to $50,000 to finance a business or make an investment.
  • Flexible Investment Options: You can invest in almost any type of investment, including real estate, private business entities and commercial paper and channel the gains back into your 401(k) tax free.
  • Roth Type Contributions: With IRAs, those who earn high incomes are disallowed from contributing to a Roth IRA or converting their IRA to a Roth IRA. The Solo 401(k) plan contains a built in Roth sub-account which can be contributed to without any income restrictions.
  • Cost Effective Administration: In general, the Solo 401(k) plan is easy to operate. There is generally no annual filing requirement unless your Solo 401(k) plan exceeds $250,000 in assets, in which case you will need to file a short information return with the IRS (Form 5500).
  • Exemption from UDFI: When an IRA buys real estate that is leveraged with mortgage financing, it creates Unrelated Debt Financed Income (a type of Unrelated Business Taxable Income) on which taxes must be paid. A Solo 401(k) plan is exempt from UDFI.

Retirement Saving Consolidation Through Rollovers

A Solo 401(k) plan can accept rollovers of funds from another retirement savings vehicle, such as an IRA, a SEP, or a previous employer’s 401(k) plan.

Please contact one of our 401(k) Experts at 800-472-0646 for more information.
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