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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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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Sep 26

When Using ROBS, Can a Family Member Invest or Work for the Business?

Yes, when using your IRA with the ROBS structure to invest in a business, you or any family member may invest or work for the new company. The exemption to “prohibited transactions” found under Internal Revenue Code Section 4975(f)(6)(b)(2) permit ownership or investment in the new company by any family members, friends, or colleagues.

When Using ROBS, Can a Family Member Invest or Work for the Business?

For more information, please contact us @ 800.472.0646.

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