Alternative-asset IRAs: Handle with care

Posted on May 15th, by mad121704 in 2013 tax planning.

Most IRA owners invest their funds in traditional assets, such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds. But some intrepid investors have enjoyed impressive, tax-deferred returns — or even tax-free returns in the case of a Roth IRA — by using their IRAs to hold rental real estate, business interests or other alternative assets.

Despite the appeal of earning higher returns in a tax-advantaged account, alternative-asset IRAs contain a minefield of tax traps that can quickly wipe out the potential benefits. For example:

  • Mortgaged real estate held in an IRA can trigger unrelated business income tax. Real estate may also create problems when traditional IRA minimum distributions are required (beginning after age 70½).
  • Your dealings with a business in which your IRA has an interest may violate the prohibited transaction rules, resulting in substantial taxes and penalties.
  • Transferring S corporation stock to an IRA may terminate the company’s S status and trigger corporate tax liability.

So if you’re contemplating an alternative-asset IRA, please contact us for professional advice.