Self-Directed IRAs Provide Both Flexibility and Risk

Dec 5, 2023 | Financial Planning, Tax & Accounting

Traditional and Roth IRAs can be relatively “safe” retirement-saving vehicles, though, depending on what they’re invested in, they limit your investment choices. For more flexibility in investment choices but also more risk, another option is a self-directed IRA.

Gaining More Control

A self-directed IRA is simply an IRA that provides greater control over investment decisions. Traditional and Roth IRAs typically offer a selection of stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Self-directed IRAs (available at certain financial institutions) offer greater diversification and potentially higher returns by permitting you to select virtually any type of investment, including real estate, closely held stock, limited liability company and partnership interests, loans, precious metals, and commodities (such as lumber, oil and gas).

A self-directed IRA can be a traditional or Roth IRA. The tax-free growth Roth accounts offer makes them powerful estate planning tools.

Navigating Tax Traps

To avoid pitfalls that can lead to unwanted tax consequences, exercise caution when using self-directed IRAs. The most dangerous traps are the prohibited transaction rules. These rules are designed to limit dealings between an IRA and “disqualified persons,” including account holders, certain members of their families, businesses controlled by account holders or their families, and certain IRA advisors or service providers.

Among other things, disqualified persons can’t sell property or lend money to the IRA, buy property from the IRA, provide goods or services to the IRA, guarantee a loan to the IRA, pledge IRA assets as security for a loan, receive compensation from the IRA, or personally use IRA assets.

The penalty for engaging in a prohibited transaction is severe: The IRA is disqualified, and its assets are deemed to have been distributed on the first day of the year in which the transaction took place, subject to income taxes and, potentially, to penalties. This makes it very difficult to manage a business, real estate or other investments held in a self-directed IRA. Unless you’re prepared to accept a purely passive role with respect to the IRA’s assets, this strategy isn’t for you.

Considering the Option

If you’d like to invest in assets such as real estate, precious metals, or other alternative investments, a self-directed IRA may be worth considering. But it’s critical to understand the risks.

Recent Posts

Traveling for Business in 2024? What’s Deductible?

Traveling for Business in 2024? What’s Deductible?

If you and your employees will be traveling for business this year, there are many factors to keep in mind. Under the tax law, certain requirements for out-of-town business travel within the United States must be met before you can claim a deduction. The rules apply...

How to Secure a Tax Benefit with the QBI Deduction

How to Secure a Tax Benefit with the QBI Deduction

QBI may sound like the name of a TV quiz show. But it’s actually the acronym for “qualified business income,” which can trigger a tax deduction for some small business owners or self-employed individuals. The QBI deduction was authorized by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act...

Tracking Down Donation Substantiation

Tracking Down Donation Substantiation

If you’re like many Americans, your mailbox may have been filling up in recent weeks with letters from your favorite charities acknowledging your 2023 donations. But what happens if you haven’t received such a letter for a contribution? Can you still claim a deduction...

There May Still Be Time to Lower Your 2023 Tax Bill

There May Still Be Time to Lower Your 2023 Tax Bill

If you’re preparing to file your 2023 tax return, you may still be able to lower your tax bill – or increase your refund. If you qualify, you can make a deductible contribution to a traditional IRA right up until the original filing deadline, April 15, 2024, and see...