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Self-Directed IRA Rules and Regulations

U.S. tax codes require an IRA to be a trust or a custodial account built in the United States for the sole benefit of a person or the person’s beneficiaries. The account has to be regulated by written instructions and satisfy a few requirements which are related to contributions, holdings, and the trustee’s identity. Such requirements and regulations birth a special type of IRA referred to as self-directed IRA (SDIRA).

Self-Managed vs. Self-Directed IRA – The Differences

All IRAs allow account owners to pick from investment alternatives possible under the IRA trust agreement, as well as to buy and sell those investments as the account owner desires, provided the sale proceeds will stay in the account. The limitation on investor choice comes from IRA custodians being allowed to choose the types of assets they will handle within the limitations imposed by tax regulations. Most IRA custodians only permit investments in greatly liquid, easily valued products, like bonds, ETFs and CDs, mutual funds, etc.

However, some custodians are willing to handle accounts that hold alternate investments and to equip the account owner with enough control to “self-direct” such investments within the limits of stax regulations. There is an expansive list of alternative investments, limited only by a few IRS prohibitions against illiquid or illegal activities under self-directed IRA rules, and a custodian’s willingness to manage the holding.

The most frequently given example of an SDIRA alternative investment is direct ownership of real estate, which can involve property rental or redevelopment. Direct real-estate ownership strongly differs from publicly traded REIT investments, because the latter is often available through more conventional IRA accounts.

Advantages of a Self-Directed IRA

The benefits associated with an SDIRA are related to an account owner’s capacity to make use of alternative investments to attain alpha in a tax-fortunate manner. At the end of the day, success in an SDIRA depends on the account owner’s unique knowledge or expertise meant to capture returns which, after bending for risk, exceed market returns.

An overarching premise in self-directed IRA rules is that self-dealing, where the owner or manager of an IRA uses the account for personal satisfaction or in a way that disrespects the tax law, is not allowed. Crucial elements of self-directed IRA rules and regulations and compliance include the identification of disqualified personalities and the transactions types they are prohibited from initiating with the account. Violating transaction rules can have harsh consequences, including the full IRA being declared as taxable by IRA at the beginning of the year when the illegal transaction ensued, meaning the taxpayer may have to pay deferred taxes plus a ten percent early withdrawal penalty.

Other than the IRA owner, self-directed IRA rules define a “disqualified person” as any person controlling the assets, disbursements, receipts and investments, or those who have an influence on investment decisions.

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