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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Jul 17

Is the Rollover Business Startup (ROBS) Legal?

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.

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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Jul 07

New Fiduciary Rule Complicates Matters For Self-Directed IRA Private Fund Investors

Here’s another article from Forbes.com from our own Adam Bergman –

On June 9, 2017, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) final rule meaningfully expanded when a person is deemed to be treated as a fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code (Code) as a result of providing investment advice.  The final rule was initially set to become applicable on April 10, 2017, but the DOL delayed the final rule’s applicability date for sixty days, until June 9, 2017 and also issued a new temporary enforcement policy for the transition period commencing on June 9th and ending on December 31, 2017.

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Under the Fiduciary Rule, various marketing activities and investment “recommendations” that previously were not regarded as investment advice will now be treated as such.  In the context of private fund investments, the final rule affects common marketing and other related activities involving ERISA plan and/or individual retirement account (IRA) investors, prospective investors, clients and/or prospective clients. Anyone that engages in these activities will be considered advice fiduciaries of the retirement plan investors.  The rule was intended to increase safeguards for retail IRA investors, with the focus towards establishing fiduciary obligations on brokers and other advisors not previously subject to ERISA.  However, it is highly uncertain whether, and to what extent, the fiduciary rule would apply to private funds, such as private equity sponsors or hedge fund managers.

In general, private fund managers do not offer fiduciary investment advice, as they do not advise retirement plan investors on how to invest.  Whereas, they traditionally manage pooled assets from multiple investors, which may or may not include retirement investors. The new rule limits the definition of “recommendation” to communications to a specific advice recipient regarding the advisability of a particular investment or management decision.

Based on the way private funds are structured, they should not be subject to these new fiduciary rules when making investment decisions on behalf of the fund.  Private funds were likely not the intended target of these new rules, however, they could get pulled into the framework of the rules under certain circumstances, particularly for IRA investors. Private funds could avoid the rules by meeting at least one of two ERISA exceptions: (i) The Venture Capital Operating Company Exemption (the “VCOC”), or (ii) the 25% percent rule.

Both ERISA exceptions are complicated, but generally, under VCOC, an investment vehicle that holds at least 50 percent of assets invested in operating companies does not hold plan assets and if the retirement plan assets represent less than 25% of the fund equity, the funds is not treated as holding plan assets under ERISA.  If the fund meets one of these exceptions, then it would be deemed to not hold plan assets and the new fiduciary rules should not be triggered.  However, the new fiduciary rules created some uncertainly as to the application of the fiduciary rules for private funds to potential investors prior to the completion of the fund raising transaction.

For private funds, satisfying one of the two ERISA exemptions should limit their exposure to the new fiduciary rules once the fund has already been launched.  However, the majority of all marketing for private funds occur prior to the fund raising closing.  The application of the new fiduciary rules to the marketing of a new private fund is still quite unclear.  As a result, the DOJ expanded the definition of the so called “seller’s exception,” also known as the “expert fiduciary exclusion,” which was designed to exempt recommendations and materials provided to independent fiduciaries with financial expertise.

In order to take advantage of this exception, the potential investor must be an independent fiduciary with financial expertise, which would include (a) a bank, (b), an insurance company, (c) an entity registered as an investment adviser under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 or registered as an investment adviser with the state in which it has its principal office, (d) a broker-dealer registered with the SEC, or (e) an independent fiduciary that holds, or has under management or control, at least $50 million.

For more information, please contact an IRA Expert @ 800.472.0646.

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Jun 01

The Law Concerning the Rollover Business Startup Solution

You may use your retirement funds to start your own business using the Rollover Business Startup Solution, also known as ROBS.  The Internal Revenue Code and ERISA have firmly codified the ability to use retirement funds to invest in the stock of a sponsoring company as long as certain IRS and ERISA rules are followed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 25

What Exactly is a Rollover IRA?

To permit tax-free transfers of retirement savings from one type of investment to another, as well as to increase the portability of qualified plan rights for employees moving from one job to another, Congress included a complicated web of rollover provisions in ERISA. These provisions cover transfers from one IRA to another, transfers from qualified pension, profit-sharing, stock bonus, and annuity plans to IRAs, and transfers from IRAs to qualified plans. An IRA may also, under limited circumstances, make a rollover distribution to a health savings account (HSA). In other words, if you receive a distribution from a qualified plan, you might decide to put some or all of the distribution amount into an IRA. The IRA that receives the qualified plan distribution is called a rollover IRA.

What Exactly is a Rollover IRA?

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

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Dec 11

The Rollover Business Startup Explained

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rollover Business Startup ExplainedThe 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 strategy, please contact a retirement tax expert at 800-472-0646.

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Nov 17

Potential Drawbacks of Using ROBS to Fund Your Business

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

So How Does the ROBS Solution Work?

The structure typically involves the following sequential steps:

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

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

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

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

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

Four Disadvantages of Establishing a ROBS

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

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

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

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

Regulations and Formalities

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

401(k) Plan Administration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 27

Using Your IRA to Buy a Business – How Does it Work?

The legality of using retirement funds to purchase employer corporate stock is firmly established in the Internal Revenue Code and under ERISA law. The IRA Financial Group’s in-house retirement tax professionals have spent the last two years developing an IRS and ERISA compliant structure for using retirement funds to acquire or invest in a business tax-free! 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. The retirement tax professionals at the IRA Financial Group have developed a process that ensures speed and compliance, by using standardized procedures that work via phone, e-mail, fax, and mail. Your funds will be ready for investment into your new or existing business within 14-21 days.

Step 1 – Establishment of New Corporation

IRA Financial Group’s in-house tax and ERISA professionals will establish a corporation and ensure that the incorporation process is completed accurately in accordance with state law. Our in-house retirement tax professionals have significant experience with the incorporation process in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Your corporation will be incorporated in the State where you will conduct business or in multiple states if the business will be conducted in more than one state. The IRA Financial Group’s retirement tax professionals will assist you in satisfying all internal corporate formalities, such as establishing a board of directors, appointing officers, and completing the corporate resolution and minutes. Upon the incorporation of the entity, our in-house retirement tax professionals will acquire an Employer Tax ID Number with the IRS for your new corporation.

Step 2 – New Corporation Adopts 401(k) Plan

The IRA Financial Group’s in-house ERISA professionals will establish an IRS approved 401(k) Plan for your new corporation. Plan documents will be drafted so that the new corporation will be the sponsor of the new 401(k) Plan. The Plan documents will appoint the new business owner as the trustee of the plan and will be customized based on the financial goals of you and the business. The Plan will be specifically drafted to allow for investment in your new corporation.

Using Your IRA to Buy a Business - How Does it Work?Step 3 – Rollover/Transfer of Funds to your New Corporation

The IRA Financial group’s in-house ERISA professionals will guide you through the process of opening a bank account for your new 401(k) Plan (the account can be opened at any local bank, credit union, or financial institution) as well as helping you complete the necessary transfer/rollover documents to transfer your retirement funds from your previous employer or IRA to your company’s new 401(k) Plan tax-free. Our in-house ERISA professionals will guide you through the entire rollover/transfer process so your retirement funds will be transferred to your new 401(k) Plan in an expedited and tax-free manner.

Step 4 – 401(k) Plan Invests in the new Corporation

The IRA Financial Group’s in-house retirement tax professionals will draft a customized stock purchase agreement detailing the 401(k) Plan’s purchase of new company stock. The IRA Financial Group will coordinate with the selected independent business appraisal to assure that the stock purchase agreement is in compliance with IRS and ERISA rules. Once the 401(k) Plan has purchased stock in the new corporation, the corporation will have the funds to purchase new business assets or help grow the business.

Step 5 – Compliance with IRS and ERISA Rules

Once your retirement funds have been invested in your new business, the retirement tax professionals at the IRA Financial Group will continue to work with you to ensure that the structure remains compliant with IRS and ERISA rules and procedures. In the case of a corporation with employees, the IRA Financial Group will work with a third-party administrator to ensure that the Plan remains compliant so that the structure continues to meet IRS and ERISA rules and requirements.

Work Directly with our on-site tax and ERISA professionals!

Each client of the IRA Financial Group is assigned an individual retirement tax professional who will customize a structure that satisfies his or her financial and retirement needs while ensuring the structure is developed in full IRS & ERISA compliance!

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

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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Jun 11

Using Your IRA to Buy a Business – The Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 02

How Does the Self Directed IRA LLC Structure Work?

Working with our IRA Experts, establishing a Self-Directed IRA LLC is quick and easy. Our IRA Experts will take care of everything for you. The whole process can be handled by phone, email, fax, or mail. Our expert tax and ERISA professionals are on site greatly reducing the set-up time and cost.

1. Tax-Free Transfer of Funds.

Our IRA Experts will assist you in transferring your retirement funds tax-free from your current custodian to a new FDIC backed/IRS approved Passive Custodian that allows for truly Self Directed IRA investments. With a Self Directed IRA LLC with “checkbook control” you no longer have to pay excessive custodian fees based on account value and transaction fees. Instead, with a “checkbook control” Self-Directed IRA LLC, an FDIC backed IRS approved passive custodian is used. The custodian in the “checkbook control” Self Directed IRA LLC structure is referred to as a “passive” custodian largely because the custodian is not required to approve any IRA related investment and simply serves the passive role of satisfying IRS regulations. By using a Self Directed IRA LLC with “checkbook control” you can take advantage of all the benefits of self-directing your retirement assets without incurring excessive custodian fees and custodian created delays.

What Type of retirement Funds May be Transferred Tax-Free?

  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • SEP
  • SIMPLE
  • 401(k)
  • 403(b)
  • Plans for Self-Employed (Keoghs)
  • ESOPs
  • Money Purchase Pensions Plans

Our IRA Experts will assist you in completing all the necessary custodian documents so your retirement funds are transferred to the new passive custodian quickly and without any tax.

All the Passive Custodians we work with are FDIC backed and IRS approved. Once your custodian has transferred your retirement funds to the Passive Custodian, the Passive Custodian will immediately transfer your funds to your new IRA LLC where you as manager of the LLC will have “Checkbook Control” over those funds.

2. Creation of the Self-Directed IRA LLC:

Our in-house tax professionals will form your customized Self-Directed IRA LLC in the state of your choosing. Typically the LLC is formed where the initial IRA investment will be made. Because your IRA and not you will be the member of the LLC, your state residence is not relevant in determining the state in which your LLC will be formed. In addition, a specially drafted Self-Directed IRA LLC Operating Agreement, which is required, will be drafted by our tax professionals as well a Tax ID# will be acquired as part of the LLC formation process.

Our IRA Experts will consult with you on the formation of the new Self-Directed IRA LLC to assure that the LLC is formed in the appropriate state.

3. Open a local bank account for the LLC

Our tax professionals will provide you with the appropriate LLC documents so you can open your IRA LLC checking account at any bank or credit union of your choice.

4. Transfer of IRA Funds to New LLC Bank Account

You, as IRA owner, will direct the Passive Custodian to transfer the IRA funds to your new Self-Directed IRA LLC bank account. The IRA would then become a member of the Self-Directed IRA LLC.

5. Appointment of Manager of LLC

As the Manager of the Self Directed IRA LLC with “Checkbook Control”, you will have the freedom to make all investment decisions for your Self Directed IRA LLC quickly and without custodian consent. As Manager of the Self Directed IRA LLC, you will be able to write a check or wire money from the LLC bank account to make an Investment.

6. Self-Directed IRA Investment is Made

As manager of the LLC, you will have the authority to make investment on behalf of your IRA LLC. The Investment must be made in the name of your Self Directed IRA LLC. All income and gains generated by your IRA LLC will generally flow back to the IRA tax-free!

For additional information on the advantages of using a Self-Directed IRA LLC with “checkbook control” to make investments, please contact one of our IRA Experts at 800-472-0646.

Self Directed IRA LLC Structure

To view a diagram of the Self Directed IRA LLC structure, please select the image below.

Chart

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