Dec 06

What Does the IRS Say About Using ROBS to Start a Business?

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (otherwise known as ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code clearly allow for the use of retirement funds to acquire or invest in a new or existing business as long as the transaction complies with IRS and ERISA rules and regulations.

Business owners have been using retirement funds to help acquire or invest in a business for a number of years. A number of promoters have promoted these types of transactions under the name “ROBS”. Even though this type of transaction is permitted under IRS and ERISA rules, the IRS believed a significant number of the promoters were not taking the necessary steps to structure a transaction that is in full compliance with IRS and ERISA rules.

The October 1, 2008 Memorandum

On October 1, 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.

What Does the IRS Say About Using ROBS to Start a Business?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. The IRS believed that in too many instances the promoter was establishing a 401(k) Plan that was not adequately disclosed to all employees. Internal Revenue Code Section 401(a)(4) provides that under a qualified retirement plan, contributions or benefits provided under the plan must not discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees. In addition, the promoters were encouraging the business owner who had used their retirement funds to purchase company stock to not provide the same benefit to their employees.

The second non-compliance area of concern the IRS highlighted in the “Memorandum” was establishing an independent appraisal to determine the fair market value of the business being purchased.

Internal Revenue Code Section 4975(c)(1 )(A) defines a prohibited transaction as a sale, exchange or lease of any property between a plan and a disqualified person. Internal Revenue Code Section 4975(d)(13) provides an exemption from prohibited transaction consideration for any transaction that is exempt from ERISA Section 406, by reason of ERISA Section 408(e), which addresses certain transactions involving employer stock. ERISA Section 408(e), and ERISA Regulation Section 2550,408e promulgated thereunder, provides an exemption from ERISA Section 406 for acquisitions or sales of qualifying employer securities, subject to a requirement that 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 Section 3(18). ERISA Section 3(18) provides in relevant part that, in the case of an asset other than a security for which there is no generally recognized market, adequate consideration means the fair market value of the asset as determined in good faith by the trustee or named fiduciary pursuant to the terms of the plan and in accordance with regulations.

An exchange of company stock between the plan and its employer-sponsor would be a prohibited transaction, unless the requirements of ERISA Section 408(e) are met (the acquisition or sale of the qualifying employer securities must be for adequate consideration).

Therefore, valuation of the purchase corporate stock is a relevant issue. Since, in some cases, the company may be newly established, there could be a question of whether the stock is indeed worth the value of the purchase price exchanged. If the transaction has not been for adequate consideration, it would have to be corrected, for example, by the corporation’s redemption of the stock from the plan and replacing it with cash equal to its fair market value, plus an additional interest factor for lost plan earnings. In addition, the IRS asserts that a valuation-related prohibited transaction issue may arise where the start-up enterprise does not actually “start-up.” Many promoters have been advising clients that they do not need to secure appraisal which would seemingly contradict the IRS’s position outlined in the “Memorandum”. In addition, the promoters who have provided clients with a valuation have been providing clients with a single line valuation statement generally approximating available retirement funds, which the IRS considers inadequate.

The August 27, 2010 IRS Public Phone Forum

On 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.

The IRA Financial Group’s Solution

In light of the 2008 “Memorandum” and the most recent IRS comments outlined on the August 27, 2010 public phone forum, the IRA Financial Group’s in-house tax and ERISA professionals spent the better part of two years 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! 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 structure that would be fully compliant with IRS and ERISA rules and procedures.

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. 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.

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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Nov 01

Is Your Self-Directed IRA Protected from Creditors?

Retirement accounts have become many Americans’ most valuable assets. That means it is vital that you have the ability to protect them from creditors, such as people who have won lawsuits against you.

In general, the asset/creditor protection strategies available to you depend on the type of retirement account you have (i.e. Traditional, IRA, Roth IRA, or 401(k) qualified plan, etc), your state residency, and whether the assets are yours or have been inherited.

Using a Self-Directed IRA LLC will offer you the ability to make a wide range of traditional as well as non-traditional investments, such as real estate, in addition to offering you strong asset and creditor protection. In addition, by using an LLC wholly owned by your IRA, you will also gain another layer of limited liability protection. In this regard, using a Self-Directed IRA LLC to make investments offers you far greater asset and creditor protection versus making the investment personally. For this reason, growing and investing your retirement funds through a Self-Directed IRA LLC is a great tool to protect your retirement assets from creditors, inside or outside of bankruptcy.

Federal Protection for IRAs for Bankruptcy

Like 401(k) qualified plans, The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (“BAPCPA” or the “Act”) effective for bankruptcies filed after October 17, 2005, gave protection to a debtor’s IRA funds in bankruptcy by way of exempting them from the bankruptcy estate. The general exemption found in sec­tion 522 of the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. §522, pro­vides an unlimited exemption for IRAs under section 408 and Roth IRAs under section 408A. IRAs created under an employer-sponsored section 408(k) sim­plified employee pension (a “SEP IRA”) or a sec­tion 408(p) simple retirement account (a “SIMPLE IRA”), as well as pension, profit sharing, or qualified section 401(k) Plan wealth transferred to a rollover IRA.

Traditional and Roth IRAs that are created and funded by the debtor are subject to an exemp­tion limitation of $1 million in the aggregate for all such IRAs (adjusted for inflation and subject to increase if the bankruptcy judge determines that the “interests of justice so require”). It is understood that a rollover from a SEP or SIMPLE IRA into a rollover IRA receives only $1 million of protection since such a section 408(d)(3) rollover is not one of the rollovers sanctioned under Bankruptcy Code section 522(n).

Protection of IRAs from Creditors Outside of Bankruptcy

In general, ERISA pension plans, such as 401(k) qualified plans, are afforded extensive anti-alienation credi­tor protection both inside and outside of bankrupt­cy. However, these extensive anti-alienation protections do not extend to an IRA, including a Self-Directed IRA, arrangement under Code section 408. Therefore, since an individually estab­lished and funded Traditional or Roth IRA is not an ERISA pension plan, IRAs are not preempted un­der ERISA. Thus, for anything short of bankruptcy, state law determines whether IRAs (including Roth IRAs) are shielded from creditors’ claims.

Note – on June 12, 2014, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a Seventh Circuit decision that said inherited IRAs do not enjoy the protections of IRAs in bankruptcy proceedings.

The following table will provide a summary of state protection afforded to IRAs, including Self-Directed IRAs, from creditors outside of the bankruptcy context.

State State Statute Special Statutory Provision State Traditional IRA Exemption from Creditors State Roth IRA Exemption from Creditors
Alabama Ala. Code §19-3B-508 Yes No
Alaska Alaska Stat. §09.38.017 The exemption does not apply to amounts contributed within 120 days before the debtor files for bankruptcy. Yes Yes
Arizona Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 33-1126C The exemption does not apply to amounts contributed within 120 days before a debtor files for bankruptcy. Yes Yes
Arkansas Ark. Code Ann. §16-66-220 Yes Yes
California Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 704.115 Yes – IRAs are exempt only to the extent necessary to provide for the support of the judgment debtor when the judgment debtor retires and for the support of the spouse and dependents of the judgment debtor, taking into account all resources that are likely to be available for the support of the judgment debtor when the judgment debtor retires. No
Colorado Colo. Rev. Stat. §13-54-102 Yes Yes
Connecticut Conn. Gen. Stat. §52-321a Yes Yes
Delaware Del Code Ann. § 10-4915 Yes Yes
D.C. D.C. Code § 15-501(a)(9) & (10) Yes Yes
Florida Fla. Stat. Ann. §222.21 The debtor’s IRAs are exempt from creditors, but one Florida court has held that inherited IRAs are not exempt from creditors (Robertson v. Deeb, 16 So. 3d 936 (Fla. 2d Aug. 14, 2009). Yes Yes
Georgia Georgia Code Ann. § 44-13-100(a)(2.1) IRAs are exempt only to the extent necessary for the support of the debtor and any dependent. Yes No
Hawaii Hawaii Rev. Stat. § 651-124 The exemption does not apply to contributions made to a plan or arrangement within three years before the date a civil action is initiated against the debtor. Yes No
Idaho Idaho Code §§ 11-604A, 55-1011 Yes No
Illinois I.L.C.S. § 5/12-1006 Yes Yes
Indiana Ind. Code Ann. § 55-10-2(c)(6) Yes No
Iowa Iowa Code Ann. § 627.6(8)(e), (f) Yes Yes
Kansas Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-2308 Yes Yes
Kentucky Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 427.150(2)(f) The exemption does not apply to any amounts contributed to an individual retirement account if the contribution occurred within 120 days before the debtor filed for bankruptcy. The exemption also does not apply to the right or interest of a person in individual retirement account to the extent that right or interest is subject to a court order for payment of maintenance or child support. Yes Yes
Louisiana La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 20:33(1), 13:3881(D) No contribution to an IRA is exempt if made less than one calendar year from the date of filing bankruptcy, whether voluntary or involuntary, or the date rights of seizure are filed against the account. The exemption also does not apply to liabilities for alimony and child support. Yes Yes
Maine Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 14, § 4422(13)(E) Exempt only to the extent reasonably necessary for the support of the debtor and any dependent. Yes Yes
Maryland Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 11-504(h)(1) Yes Yes
Massachusetts Mass. Gen. L. Ch. 235 § 34A; 236 § 28 The exemption does not apply to an order of court concerning divorce, separate maintenance or child support, or an order of court requiring an individual convicted of a crime to satisfy a monetary penalty or to make restitution, or sums deposited in a plan in excess of 7% of the total income of the individual within 5years of the individual’s declaration of bankruptcy or entry of judgment. Yes Yes
Michigan Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 600.5451(1), 600.6023(1)(k) The exemption does not apply to amounts contributed to an individual retirement account or individual retirement annuity if the contribution occurs within 120 days before the debtor files for bankruptcy. The exemption also does not apply to an order of the domestic relations court. Yes Yes
Minnesota Minn. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 550.37(24) Protection limited to $60,000 (adjusts for inflation). Yes Yes
Mississippi Miss. Code Ann. § 85-3-1(e)Applies to solo 401k plans Yes Yes
Missouri Mo. Ann. Stat. § 513.430.1(10)(e) and (f) Exemption limited to extent reasonably necessary for support. Yes Yes
Montana Mont. Code Ann. §§ 19-2-1004, 25-13-608, 31-2-106 Yes Yes
Nebraska Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-1563.01 For IRAs – Limited to the extent reasonably necessary for support.Individual Retirement Accounts are generally protected from attachment and garnishment to the extent the funds contained therein are reasonably necessary for the support of the debtor or any dependent of the debtor. Novak v. Novak, 245 Neb. 366, 513 N.W.2d 303 (1994). Yes Yes
Nevada Nev. Rev. Stat. § 21.090(1)(q) The exemption is limited to $500,000 in present value held in an IRA. Yes Yes
New Hampshire N.H. Code Ann. § 511:2, XIX Yes Yes
New Jersey N.J. Stat. Ann. § 25:2-1(b) Yes Yes
New Mexico N.M. Stat. Ann. §§ 42-10-1, 42-10-2 Yes Yes
New York N.Y. Civ. Prac. L. and R. § 5205(c) Yes Yes
North Carolina N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1C-1601(a)(9) Yes Yes
North Dakota N.D. Cent. Code § 28-22-03.1(3) Retirement funds that have been in effect for at least one year, to the extent those funds are in a fund or account that is exempt from taxation under section 401, 403, 408, 408A, 414, 457, or 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. The value of those assets exempted may not exceed one hundred thousand dollars for any one account or two hundred thousand dollars in aggregate for all account. Yes Yes
Ohio Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2329.66(A)(10)(b) and (c) SEP and SIMPLE IRAs are not protected. Yes Yes
Oklahoma 31 Okla. St. Ann. § 1(A)(20) Yes Yes
Oregon 42 Pa. C.S. §§ 8124(b)(1)(vii), (viii), (ix) Yes Yes
Pennsylvania 42 Pa. C.S. §§ 8124(b)(1)(vii), (viii), (ix) 100%, except for amounts (1) contributed within 1 year (not including rollovers), (2) contributed in excess of $15,000 in a one-year period, or (3) deemed to be fraudulent conveyances. Yes Yes
Rhode Island R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-26-4(11), (12) Yes Yes
South Carolina S.C. Code Ann. § 15-41-30(12) IRA exemption limited to the extent reasonably necessary for support. For Solo 401(k) Plans, not limited to the extent reasonable necessary for support. Yes Yes
South Dakota S.D. Cod. Laws §§ 43-45-16

S.D. Cod. Laws §§ 43-45- 17

Exempts “certain retirement benefits” up to $1,000,000. Yes Yes
Tennessee Tenn. Code Ann. § 26-2-105 Distributions 100% exempt to the extent they are on account of age, death, or length of service and debtor has no right or option to receive other than periodic payments at or after age 58. Yes Yes
Texas Tex. Prop. Code § 42.0021 Yes Yes
Utah Utah Code Ann. § 78-23-5(1)(a)(xiv) The exemption does not apply to amounts contributed or benefits accrued by or on behalf of a debtor within one year before the debtor files for bankruptcy. Yes Yes
Vermont 12 Vt. Stat. Ann. § 2740(16) Yes Yes
Virginia Va. Code Ann. § 34-34 Limited to interest in one or more plans sufficient to produce annual benefit of up to $25,000 (pursuant to actuarial table in statute). Yes Yes
Washington Wash. Rev. Code § 6.15.020 Yes Yes
West Virginia W. Va. Code § 38-10-4(j)(5) Principal 100% protected. Exemption for distributions limited to the extent reasonably necessary for support. Yes No
Wisconsin Wisc. Stat. Ann. § 815.18(3) Yes Yes
Wyoming Wy. Stat. Ann § 1-20-110(a)(i), (ii). No statutory exemption for IRAs. – only mentions retirement plans No statutory exemption for IRAs. – only mentions retirement plans No No

 

IRA Asset Protection Planning

The different federal and state creditor protection afforded to 401(k) qualified plans and IRA, including Self-Directed IRAs, inside or outside the bankruptcy context presents a number of important asset protection planning opportunities.

If, for example, you have left an employer where you had a qualified plan, rolling over assets from a qualified plan, like a 401(k), into an IRA may have asset protection implications. For example, if you live in or are moving to a state where IRAs are not protected from creditors or have in excess of $1million dollars in plan assets and are contemplating bankruptcy, you would likely be better off leaving the assets in the company qualified plan.

Note – If you plan to leave at least some of your IRA to your family, other than your spouse, the assets may not be protected from your beneficiaries’ creditors, depending on where the beneficiaries live. IRA assets left to a spouse would likely receive creditor protection if the IRA is re-titled in the name of the spouse. However, you will likely be able to protect your IRA assets that you plan on leaving to your family, other than your spouse, by leaving an IRA to a trust. To do that, you must name the trust on the IRA custodian Designation of Beneficiary Form on file.

The IRA Asset & Creditor Protection Solution

By having and maintaining an IRA, you will have $1 million of asset protection from creditors in a bankruptcy setting. However, the determination of whether your IRA will be protected from creditors outside of bankruptcy will largely depend on state law. As illustrated above, most states will afford IRAs full protection from creditors outside of the bankruptcy context.

Why Work With the IRA Financial Group?

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. Over the years, we have helped thousands of clients establish IRS compliant Self-Directed IRA LLCs specifically for asset and creditor protection purposes. With our work experience at some of the largest law firms in the country, our retirement tax professionals’ tax and IRA knowledge in this area is unmatched.

To learn more about using a “Checkbook Control” Self-Directed IRA LLC to make real estate and other investments without tax, please contact one of our Self-Directed IRA Experts at 800-472-0646 for more information.

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Oct 10

New Podcast – The Trump Tax Plan and Your Retirement Account

IRA Financial Group’s Adam Bergman discusses the new tax plan announced by President Trump and the implications it has for retirement account holders.

 

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Click Here to Listen

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Aug 30

Why Use IRA Funds with ROBS to Fund a Business

When it comes to using IRA 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 (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.

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.

What Are Some of the Advantages of the ROBS Solution?

  • Save Money: The primary advantage of establishing a ROBS solution is to be able to use your retirement funds to invest in a business you will be personally involved in without having to pay tax the retirement funds you wish to use as a distribution to tax and potentially penalty. By being able to invest the retirement funds into the business without having to take a taxable distribution and a 10% early distribution penalty if under the age of 591/2, using a ROBS solution could save someone close to 45% of the distribution amount. For example, if someone under the age of 591/2 was looking to use $100,000 of retirement funds to fund a business and ended up taking a taxable distribution of that amount, that individual would likely have to pay approximately 45% of the 100,000 or $45,000 in tax to the IRS when declaring the distribution on their tax return. The tax rate could be lower if the individual was in a lower income tax bracket or the retirement funds needed were insignificant, but using a ROBS solution would save having to pay tax and potentially a 10% penalty on that amount.
  • Invest in Yourself: The ROBS solution allows one to invest their retirement funds in a business that will be actively run by the retirement account holder. As a result, one is essentially investing their retirement funds in themselves rather than on Wall Street. Of course, not all businesses are successful. According to Bloomberg, close to 80% of new businesses fail in the first 18 months. Hence, investing your hard earned retirement funds in a new business is certainly a risk. However, it is a risk that you are legally entitled to take as per the Internal Revenue Code. Using retirement funds to invest in your business is not for everyone, but for those entrepreneurs that would rather invest in themselves than Wall Street, the ROBS solution is an option.
  • Diversification: There is a growing sentiment among financial advisors, especially after the 2008 financial crisis, that in order to protect your retirement funds from a market downturn, your retirement funds should be well diversified. One can generally not eliminate investment risk completely, but one can manage your level of risk. Every investment has some amount of risk, however, having your retirement funds invested in different types of investments, such as stocks, real estate, and even private businesses, can be a way of diversifying your retirement portfolio and better protecting your retirement funds. Also, it is believed that diversification can enable a retirement portfolio to grow both when markets boom and returns crumble in one sector One should certainly work with a financial planner and tax professional when looking at investment options, especially when it comes to using retirement funds to buy a business.
  • Earn a Salary: In order for one to be a participant of a 401(k) Plan, one needs to be an employee of the business, which adopted the plan. This is the reason why if you own Apple or IBM stock but don’t work at those companies, you cannot participate in their company 401(k) plans. Hence, in order to be eligible to participate in the corporation 401(k) plan you must become a W-2 employee of the C Corporation. For many entrepreneurs the ability to earn a salary and be actively involved in the business is the reason they are using a ROBS solution versus using a self-directed IRA.
  • Benefit from having a 401(k) Retirement Plan: One of the best ways for you to save toward your own retirement and ensure your future security is through an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan. Below are some of the advantages of offering and participating ion a 401(k) Plan.
  • Matching Contributions Many employers will match a portion of your savings: It’s like passing up free money if you don’t participate. 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 of $1200 to the 401(k) plan, the employer would contribute an additional $1200 (3% of the salary) to the individual 401(k) plan account.
  • Retaining employees: with most businesses offering their employees retirement benefits, it is worthwhile for small businesses to compete for talented workers by implementing 401(k) benefits. Offering 401(k) plan benefits is a great way to retain key employees. In general, when potential hires are considering multiple job offers, they’ll compare those offers based on corporate culture, growth opportunities, and benefits packages. –
  • Easy Administration: 401(k) Plan administration is now easier and more cost-effective than ever with Internet options available to small employers. In addition, IRA Financial Group offers recordkeeping and third-party administration services for your plan allowing you to spend more time focusing on your business and less on your plan.
  • You Can Participate As Well: You are eligible to participate in the company 401(k) plan if you are an owner or an employee of the company that sponsor’s the 401(k) plan. Current regulations allow plan participants to contribute up to $18,000 ($24,000 if over the age of 50) of their income on a pre-tax basis each year. That means that in addition to your tax savings for offering the plan and providing matching contributions, you’ll receive yet another tax savings for participating in the plan. This savings can be substantial – an owner in the 35% tax bracket who made the maximum contribution would have saved approximately $6,500 in taxes in 2017.

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

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Jul 26

What The Law Says About Unrelated Business Taxable Income In Non-Real Estate Investments

The following was written by our own Adam Bergman and appeared on Forbes.com

For many retirement account investors, understanding how the Unrelated Business Taxable Income Rules work, also known as UBTI, UBIT, or debt-financed income rules, and how they may potentially apply to one’s retirement account investment has been a challenge.  The main reason is that the majority of IRA or 401(k) plan investors invest in traditional types of investments, such as equities, mutual funds, and ETFs, which do not trigger the application of the UBTI tax rules since most passive investments that a retirement account might invest in are exempt from the UBTI rules, such as interest, dividends, and capital gains.

Understanding the potential impact of the UBTI rules is crucial for retirement account investors seeking to make non-real estate alternative investments in their retirement accounts, including options, stock short sales, and commodity futures contracts.  In general, the UBTI tax rules are triggered in three instances: (i) use of margin to buy stock, (ii) use of a nonrecourse loan to buy real estate, and (iii) investment in a business operated through a flow-through entity, such as an LLC or partnership.  The tax imposed by triggering the UBTI rules is quite steep and can go as high as 40 percent.

When it comes to non-real estate transactions, such as securities and other financial products involving retirement funds, understanding the application of the UBTI or debt-financed income rules have been somewhat difficult. Neither the Code nor the Treasury regulations define “indebtedness” for purposes of the debt-financed income rules. Generally, when a retirement account borrows funds and has a clear obligation to repay the funds, the debt-financed income rules are applicable. However, many financial product type investments that involve “leverage” but not a direct borrowing are not considered debt-financed property and are not subject to UBIT.

Below is a summary of how the UBTI/debt-financed income rules apply to some of the more common type of financial product investments involving retirement funds:

Purchase of Stock or Securities on Margin:  It is well established that the purchase of securities on margin gives rise to unrelated debt-financed income (Elliott Knitwear Profit Sharing Plan v. Commissioner, 614 F.2d 347 (3d Cir. 1980).

Repurchase Agreements:  In a repurchase agreement, one party (usually a bank) purchases securities from another party (the bank’s customer) and agrees to sell the securities back to the customer at an agreed price. Such transactions are treated as a loan of money secured by the securities and give rise to unrelated debt financed income (Rev. Rul. 74-27, 1974-1)

Securities Lending Transactions: IRC Section 514(c)(8) provides that payments with respect to securities loans are deemed to be derived from the securities loaned, not from collateral security or the investment of collateral security from such loans.

Short Sales of Stock: The IRS has ruled that neither the gain attributable to the decline in the price of the stock sold short nor the income earned on the proceeds of the short sale held as collateral by the broker constituted debt-financed income (Rev. Rul. 95-8, 1995-1)

Options: IRC Section 512(b)(5) excludes from UBTI all gains or losses recognized, in connection with an organization’s investment activities, from the lapse or termination of options to buy or sell securities.

Commodities Futures Transactions: The IRS has concluded that gains and losses from commodity futures contracts are excluded from UBTI under Code section 512(b)(5). The IRS has rules that the purchase of a long futures contract entailed no borrowing of money in the traditional sense.  Likewise, the IRS found a short contract was merely an executory contract because there was no property held by the short seller that produced income and thus there could be no acquisition indebtedness.

Notional Principal Contracts: The IRS has issued regulations providing that all income and gain from notional principal contracts is excluded from UBTI. (Treas. Reg. § 1.512(b)-1(a)(1).)

The Internal Revenue Code permits retirement account investors to make a wide range of financial product investments using retirement funds. While the majority of financial product type investments would not trigger the UBTI or debt-financed income rules, (including mutual funds and options) transactions involving margin, however, would likely trigger the tax.  The burden falls on the retirement account holder to make the determination of whether the financial product type transaction triggered the UBTI rules and, if so, file the IRS Form 990-T. Therefore, it is important to work with a tax professional who can help one evaluate the financial product transaction to determine whether the transaction will trigger the UBTI or debt-financed income rules tax.

For more information about the UBTI rules, please contact us @ 800.472.0646.

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Apr 17

Beware the IRS When Using the Rollover Business Start-Up to Fund 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.

Beware the IRS When Using the Rollover Business Start-Up to Fund a Business2. 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.

It 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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Mar 28

New Self-Directed Real Estate IRA Can Be Funded By IRA or 401(k) Plan Rollovers from All Major Financial Institutions

IRA or Employer 401(k) Plan funds can be rolled over to IRA Financial Group Real estate IRA LLC without tax or penalty

IRA Financial Group, the leading provider of self-directed IRA LLC and Solo 401(k) plans, announces that its new self-directed real estate IRA LLC can now be funded by tax-free rollovers from any IRA or employer 401(k) plan. IRA Financial Group’s self-directed IRA LLC solution can be funded by IRA rollover or contribution will allow one rollover their rollover IRA or 401(k) Plan funds tax-free. IRA Financial Group’s self-directed real estate IRA LLC can make traditional as well as non-traditional investments, such as real estate from a local bank and without requiring the consent of a custodian. In order to funds the self-directed IRA LLC structure, there are generally two methods, the IRA rollover or the IRA transfer. Transfers and rollovers are types of transactions that allow movements of assets between like IRAs – Traditional IRA to Traditional IRA. An IRA transfer is the most common method of funding a Self-Directed IRA LLC or Self-Directed Roth IRA. An IRA rollover generally involves the rollover of funds form a 401(k), 403(b), 457(b), or other employer retirement plan to a self-directed IRA. “IRA Financial Group’s self-directed real estate IRA LLC can now be funded by tax-free rollovers from all IRAs, 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) offering the IRA holder checkbook control to make real estate and other investments without tax,“ stated Susan Lattimore, a self-directed retirement specialist with the IRA Financial Group.

New Self-Directed Real Estate IRA Can Be Funded By IRA or 401(k) Plan Rollovers from All Major Financial InstitutionsUsing a Self-Directed IRA LLC to make investments, such as real estate presents many exciting investment and tax deferral opportunities and can now be funded by ta-free rollover from any IRA or 401(k) retirement plan.

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 provider of self-directed IRA LLC and Solo 401(k) 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. To learn more about establishing a self-directed IRA account with the IRA Financial Trust Company please visit http://www.irafinancialtrust.com or call 800-472-1043.

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Mar 23

Tax Filing Tips To Save On Taxes And Boost IRA Savings

The following was written by Adam Bergman and first appeared on Forbes.com

With the individual tax-filing deadline date of April 18, 2017 for the 2016 taxable year quickly approaching, reviewing some of the ways one can save taxes as well as boost his or her retirement savings is always helpful.  Below are a few ways one can use the IRA contribution regime to help save taxes as well as enhance one’s retirement nest egg.

Tax Filing Tips To Save On Taxes And Boost IRA Savings

Still Time to Make IRA Contributions for 2016: The maximum IRA contribution is $5500 or $6500 if over the age of fifty and will remain the same for 2017 contributions. The deadline for making IRA or Roth IRA contributions for 2016 is April 18, 2017.  The contribution must be made by such date even if the taxpayer has filed an extension.  Contributions can be made in pre-tax, after-tax or Roth, if applicable.

Don’t Forget About Spousal IRA Contributions: Many married taxpayers are not aware that if one spouse is not working and the other spouse has earned sufficient income, the working spouse can make IRA contributions for the nonworking spouse.  In general, a nonworking spouse can make a deductible IRA contribution of up to $5,500 for 2016 ($6,500 if age 50 or older as of 12/31/16) as long as the couple files a joint return, and the working spouse has earned income that equals are exceeds the sum of the nonworking spouse’s contribution plus the working spouse’s contribution. However, if the working spouse is covered by a qualified retirement plan (via a job or self-employment), the deductibility of the nonworking spouse’s contribution is subject to phase-out based on joint adjusted gross income.

Be Aware of the Savers Tax Credit: Low- and moderate-income taxpayers are incentivized to save for retirement by becoming eligible to claim the saver’s credit, which can be worth up to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples. People age 18 and older who are not full-time students or dependents on someone else’s tax return can claim this tax credit until their adjusted gross income exceeds $62,000 for couples in 2016.

Not Too Late for Employer SEP IRA Contributions.  For sole proprietors or small business owners looking to make more substantial IRA contributions than $5500 or $6500, if over the age of 50, the SEP IRA could be your answer.  For 2016, an employer can make contributions to a SEP IRA up to the lessor of 25% (20% if sole proprietor or single member LLC) of the employee’s compensation or $53,000.  The limit increases to $54,000 for 2017.  SEP IRA contributions for the 2016 taxable year can be made by April 18, 2017 or up until the date of the tax filing extension date, if applicable.

Contributing to a pre-tax IRA or qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k), can prove to be a great way of saving for retirement while at the same time reducing ones tax liability.  The IRA contribution regime was designed by Congress to incentivize Americans to save for retirement by granting a tax-deduction for the pre-tax IRA contribution as well as offering the ability to defer taxes on any IRA income/gains until a future date.  The good news is that there is still plenty of time for taxpayers to take advantage of these benefits.

For more information about IRA contributions, please contact us @ 800.472.0646.

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Mar 20

Why Use ROBS Instead of a Self-Directed IRA to Start 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?

In 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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Feb 27

Learn How to Use ROBS with Your IRA Funds to Start 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 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 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.

Learn How to Use ROBS with Your IRA Funds to Start A BusinessWith 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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