Maybe this topic has been discussed, but I couldn't find it. So...Does anybody have experience with and/or recommendations regarding self-directed IRA custodians? (And by "self-directed" in this context, I mean a custodian that allows private placements in LLCs [or investing in real estate or whatever]. So, a stock brokerage doesn't count.)The basic summary of my situation is this: there's an LLC into which I want to invest IRA money. This would be the 1 and only investment I figure on making outside of the regular stock market. But making a "private placement" investment requires an IRA custodian that allows such oddities. These custodians exist, but there don't seem to be very many, and they seem frankly a bit esoteric -- including their fee structures.So, I wonder if any Fools have some Foolish experience they can share. If so, have you hit any "hidden" fees that were outlandish? And whatever the fees, how satisfied are you with the company as a whole?Here's the list of such IRA custodians that I've found thus far:"The Entrust Group" - mostly a flat fee structure, but with a 0.5% termination fee. In my case, it looks like it would cost: $145 initially, plus $250/year. Apparently the termination fee has no cap; so let's say my IRA ends up with $1M, they would take $50K when I close the account! :-O"Equity Trust Co." - fee based on asset size. In my case, it looks to cost: $50 initially, plus $440/year -- but that would change with the (hoped-for) growth of the assets over time. Apparently no termination fee."Pensco Trust" - fee based on asset size. For my case: initially $50; annual about $550 (again changing over time), plus an unstated amount for administration of the required "Cash Reserve Account"; termination $150 flat."Trust Administration Services Corp." - flat fees. For me, initially $55; annually $85; termination capped at $300."Guidant Financial" - flat fee, but I'm not sure what it is yet. Looks like only $130/year for the custodial part. However, Guidant mostly sets up an LLC for my IRA. That part is a one-time fee, which I don't know how much it is.There's also a "FiServ", but their website was sufficiently dense that I didn't even want to try to find the fee structure. And also a "Trust America" which didn't list fees [so far as I could find, anyhow].Any thoughts about these companies? Do you know of others worth checking into?Thanks,MeowPS: Hmmm... not sure if this detail is necessary, but for the curious, I'll supply it:The overall steps are thus:1. Create an IRA account at a self-directed IRA custodian.2. [Optionally, create my own LLC.]3. Rollover the desired $ from my existing IRA account at my stock brokerage, to the newly-created IRA.4. Invest from the new IRA to the LLC.5. [If step #2 is taken, invest from my LLC into the target LLC.]Hope that makes sense. [To state the obvious, one must be careful not to violate IRS regulations with any of this -- esp. with creating one's own LLC. That's what lawyers are for.]
Do you know of others worth checking into?... I don't know anything about the companies that you list but on doing a Google search [search parameters: bank IRA custodian], the following link was one of many banks that showed up. http://www.communitynationalbank.net/retirement_ira.aspxYou might want to talk the the people at your bank to see what services they offer in comparison to those you have already found ...... BTW, I don't think any of the companies that your list or any other custodian would allow your created LLC (item #2) within an IRA but that's just on guess on my part...
Found another company, Sterling-Trust, that also handles Self Directed IRAs...no idea on fee structure.Company web-site does mention The ability to hold a wide array of both public offerings and private placement investments http://www.sterling-trust.com/Default.aspx?tabid=389Hohum
In addition to these custodians, make very, very sure you have an experienced tax advisor.buzman
The overall steps are thus:1. Create an IRA account at a self-directed IRA custodian.2. [Optionally, create my own LLC.]3. Rollover the desired $ from my existing IRA account at my stock brokerage, to the newly-created IRA.4. Invest from the new IRA to the LLC.5. [If step #2 is taken, invest from my LLC into the target LLC.]It seems to me that step 2 could potentially disqualify the entire IRA for self-dealing. Make sure that you have no personal interest in any LLC the IRA would invest in. IMHO, these types of accounts are a potential minefield. You need really expert tax and legal advice before proceeding.foolazis
Good find. It's amazing what adding 1 term to the search does -- I hadn't thought of using "bank", because most banks don't allow private placements. Incidentally, adding "private placement" yielded another surprising find:www.nafep.com - which appears to be quite a likely candidate for helping set up an LLC.Thanks,Meow
Thanks. Sterling Trust has a line that says they don't allow investing in "single-member LLCs" -- which would seem to rule out what I'm looking to do.Good idea, though.-Meow
A hearty "amen" to both foolazis and buzman. You are correct -- expert advice is a necessity. I'm already in contact with lawyers experienced in the concept.I suppose, for the sake of anyone else reading this, I should list the options that I've run across for the legal & tax advice to set up an LLC for your IRA. Mind you, I can't *recommend* any of them, as I'm just starting out on this venture -- but here are the ones that look promising (in the order I happened to discover them):www.kkolawyers.comwww.guidantfinancial.comwww.nafep.comThanks,Meow
Sterling Trust has a line that says they don't allow investing in "single-member LLCs" -- which would seem to rule out what I'm looking to do.Why do you think you need to set up an LLC in your IRA? Off the top of my head, I can't think of a reason for that.--Peter
Re: EQUITY TRUSTI've had money with Equity Trust for a few years now. They do have fees associated with almost anything you can think of (anytime you move money in or out or redirect money to a new investment) in addition to that annual maintenance fee which rises with the amount that you have invested in the IRA each year. They have a customer service line which always answers my calls within a 2-3 minutes and the representatives have been very knowledgeable and helpful when I've called them on 3 or 4 occasions over the 2 years giving me direct answers within 5-10 minutes.Unfortunately I didn't use the IRA in the way that I intended to when I opened the account so my money hasn't grown the way I had planned for it to grow. From my experience, the annual fees and incidental fees for "self-directing" your money take a huge bite out of the earnings unless you're doing large transactions (such as real estate) and netting lots of income with it each year. But if you're looking into a self-directed ROTH I'm sure you're aware of that. It has been a great experience from a customer-service standpoint but I haven't done much with the account.SweetP
Well, it isn't an absolute necessity, but it does have some benefits.1. It ensures that the company in which I'm invested (i.e., my very own LLC) is properly defined to receive IRA investments. [Obviously, this entails proper legal advice in getting the LLC set up.]2. It apparently removes the necessity for the target LLC (i.e., the LLC that I really want to invest in) to modify its Operating Agreement so as to allow IRAs to invest in it. [Actually, I need to ask the lawyer about this one, cuz it doesn't entirely make sense to me. But that was his initial implication.]3. It delays paying UBIT -- in the event that the target LLC generates any "active income". Such income results in UBI tax (to the tune of almost 35%) being due when my IRA receives the income. By inserting my own LLC in between, the income can be held 1 step away from my IRA. Thus, the IRA doesn't receive the UBI until my LLC decides to pass it on. [Meanwhile, the money must be reinvested in something else; but that's ok.]4. It does enable me to easily invest into some other unusual investment, if I should want to. That is, I'd already have the LLC set up & could easily move into some new investment down the line. I guess most people use such an LLC to invest in real estate. Not my cup o' tea, but who knows what the future holds.4.a. For those who are doing real estate, it lets you pay the day-to-day expenses [e.g., the plumber] from the LLC, without having to go thru your IRA Custodian [hassle, slow, fees]. Since I'm not doing real estate, this makes no difference to me.5. It potentially saves on fees to the self-directed IRA custodian. From the standpoint of the custodian, your IRA has only 1 investment -- in your LLC. Within that LLC, you could in fact have many investments. But your IRA custodian only sees 1 investment and thus only charges the fees for 1 static investment.The drawbacks are (at least so far as I know):1. It costs a bit to set up the LLC.2. You have to also set up an IRA account at a self-directed IRA custodian. With the associated costs.3. There may be accounting hassles down the road -- I'm very vague on this, so far.4. It's always possible that you'll (a) do something that the IRS says is naughty, or (b) simply draw the attention of the IRS. (a) can be avoided if you proceed carefully; (b) I have no idea.I think that summarizes my understanding to this point.-Meow
Cool! A voice of experience answering my original query! (To not lose that original track: If there are others out there who have experience with these custodians, I'm all ears.)Thanks,Meow
KittyWhat you propose sounds interesting, but I suspect the IRS will see right through it, and 'pierce the vail' of the corporate wall you're trying to create. This has happened many times before when corporations have been set up as work-arounds to the tax code.Now, I'm no tax attorney, and you'd need to get the advice of one who has considerable experience working with the IRS, but I do agree with your concern that the IRS's attention to your approach would almost certainly be unwanted. Thus, getting a Private Letter Ruling would seem to be a necessity here.Good luckBruceM
meowkittymeow: "I suppose, for the sake of anyone else reading this, I should list the options that I've run across for the legal & tax advice to set up an LLC for your IRA. Mind you, I can't *recommend* any of them, as I'm just starting out on this venture -- but here are the ones that look promising (in the order I happened to discover them):- www.kkolawyers.com- www.guidantfinancial.com- www.nafep.com"From you first link:"Essentially, it is important to be very careful how the transaction is structured in order to prevent a "prohibited transaction" under IRC § 4975. The tax on a prohibited transaction can be quite onerous. Our office works in this area of tax planning and has consulted with hundreds of real estate professionals on how to properly structure their transactions. We help our clients from start to finish in utilizing the proper operating agreement for their LLC, structuring the ownership percentages of the IRA(s) and parties involved, and giving written guidance on prohibited persons and property when they manage their LLC. The only other issue that may apply occurs when the LLC may have debt financing on the property it owns. Any profits on the project will generate the Unrelated Business Income Tax ("UBIT") or Unrelated Debt Financed Income ("UDFI"). Both the UBIT and UDFI are taxes that are applied to IRAs when leveraged and must be paid from the IRA."www.kkolawyers.comGiven the potential penalty, I would want no part of this without a PLR from the IRS.From the second website:"However, there are unique requirements when using a self directed IRA and leverage. The "prohibited transaction" rules state that you as a disqualified person cannot extend credit to an IRA or IRA asset. This means that if your IRA gets a loan on a piece of real estate – you cannot personally guarantee the loan. This would be viewed as extending credit. Refer to IRC § 4975(c) (1) (B) for more specific information.An IRA must secure what is called a non-recourse loan. This type of loan is given solely based on the property. A bank who lends money this way is lending money based on the investment rather than lending to a borrower who has a great credit score. Because banks do not have any recourse against the IRA or IRA holder, they typically require a high down payment. In the past we have seen banks require 50% down with marginally high interest rates. Banks are not in the business of foreclosing on homes, so they need to make sure if your self-directed IRA cannot make the payments that it is in a protected position and will not lose its investment.To rectify this type of situation, Guidant Financial Group has built a working relationship with a national banking institution which will require as little as 30% down with very reasonable interest rates for non-recourse loans in all 50 states."www.guidantfinancial.comBut at what interest rate?"If you have a "traditional" self-directed IRA then the answer is no. Using Guidant's Auriga™ Truly Self-Directed IRA, you can manage the property, collect the rent, screen tenants, perform general maintenance, and more."Again, I see the need for a PLR in order to feel comfortable."Q: Can I mix personal funds with IRA funds to purchase a piece of real property?A: Yes, if it is structured correctly. You must be very careful to whom you are listening. The prohibited transactions code prohibits an individual from using personal or IRA cash to benefit the other. This can be easily violated through "formation issues". If you are considering using your personal funds to invest in real estate with your IRA either through Tenant-in-Common or a Partnership Entity, consult with Guidant Financial Group first. Do not be a test case for an inexperienced professional."Id.And ditto.And your third URL did not discuss any disadvantages or discuss the prohibitions on self-dealing.I would be leary.Regards, JAFO
Last year, I did a bit of research on self-directed IRAs, because I was going to invest in private LLC that invested in local high-technology start ups. I had a recommendation to use Pensco, but Guidant looked like it a cheaper alterative. I was pleasantly surprise to see that Schwab offered a similar service and the pricing was ~$200-$250 and $100/year with additional fees if the LLC generate more than $1,000 in UBIT, and for making additional investment, for my invest $25K/year spread over 3 years with a 10 year life, Schwab was the cheapest. After the fact, I also noticed that Vanguard offers a similar service and also fairly low fees.I ended making the investment through Schwab, since the vast majority of my money is with them. One significant difference is that I was not setting up my own LLC rather I was investing in somebody elses.
Thanks for another response to my original query. I'll keep Schwab and Vanguard in mind -- although I have no account with either of them, at this time.-Meow
Wow, thanks for looking in on this. I certainly agree that I need to be careful -- and that's why I'm consulting lawyers on the whole process.I do think that, because I tried to keep the topic general enough to make it useful to others, the discussion has strayed into issues that don't probably apply to my case.My goal is pretty simple: find a way to invest in this particular "target LLC" from within my IRA. [Because I don't have enough $ outside of my IRA to make an investment of this nature.]Since my stock broker doesn't allow private placements, I definitely will need to find a self-directed IRA custodian -- which was my initial question, here on the TMF board. In addition, as I'm talking with a lawyer familiar with these IRA investments, it appears that I may need or want to form "My IRA's LLC" (which I blithely and imprecisely call "my LLC").Now that is all fairly complicated -- but within that concept, what I'm doing is very simple. There will be no personal funds. There will probably be no "active income" and thus no UBIT. Neither I nor my IRA will borrow any money at any time. I will not buy real estate. There are no IRA disqualified persons involved [except for me being the director of My IRA's LLC -- but this is an established precedent & is ok & involves no $]. There is no IRA self-dealing involved. The complicating factors are only that: (a) it is just *possible* that there could be UBIT from the target LLC; (b) it is quite possible that the target LLC will borrow money -- which could result in my IRA needing to pay UDFI on a portion of any related profits.So, in summary: given the potential for error and the painfulness of the consequences, I think we can all agree that consulting lawyers and CPAs experienced in these particulars, is an absolute necessity. But given their help, I believe that what I'm doing is really pretty safe(*) -- and if I can believe these lawyers & websites, then there have been adequate IRS rulings setting precedent, already. In case anyone was concerned, I assure you that there's no IRS hanky panky going on here. It's just another IRA investment in another company -- which happens to be private. The only item that might cause IRS consternation is holding UBI at arm's length from my IRA, so as to delay paying the 35% UBIT now and paying it at a later time -- but since there probably won't even *be* any UBI for me, that is just a hypothetical curiousity for now. (And worst case, my IRA could just go ahead & pay the 35% immediately; no harm, no foul.)Anyway, I really do appreciate everyone's help. And even those aspects that don't apply to my case -- well, they could help others who read this later.-Meow(*) By "safe" I mean, "safe in terms of violating IRS rules." The investment itself carries its own risks, of course.
And at last, the epilog. After having stepped into this venture, I can now update the above thoughts. Just in case anyone else can benefit from the discussion.First, a couple corrections to things I had stated in the above dialog. (1) my calculation was off by a decimal place: the termination fee of Entrust Group is 0.5%, which would amount to only $5K on a $1M investment -- not $50K. Oops. My bad.(2) When I questioned my lawyer further on the topic of delaying the payment of the 35% business tax, he back-peddled. He said that, yes, it could be done -- but only in certain special circumstances; and I should instead count on my IRA paying that tax immediately. (I interpreted this, at the time, to mean that he had researched it after our first conversation that had touched on the topic.)OK, now, here is what I can report as to experiences. First, I did create my own LLC. I used the kkolawyers, and am satisfied with their services. I would mention one thing, if you do want to pursue such a path: forget trying to email them. They are very unresponsive to email -- expect a 2-week delay. On the other hand, they are surprisingly VERY responsive to phone calls. So if you want to use their services, just pick up the phone & call them.Next, I went with Entrust Group for my IRA custodian. I was initially concerned about some of their fees, but in talking with a local ... um, I'll call him "branch manager" though I doubt they use that title... he was willing to work with me & make it satisfactory. Furthermore, he was familiar with kkolawyers & their LLC forms. So that made it easier to set everything up. I am also satisfied with Entrust's services. (I used the one in Georgia, because of their familiarity with kkolawyers.)Comparatively, I should also mention GuidantFinancial. I looked into their services & it appeared reasonable. There is, however, a big difference in fee structure. Guidant has a high up-front cost, and lower yearly fees. I went with the kkolawyers/Entrust combination, which has lower up-front fees, but higher annual costs. (My time horizon is fairly short. One deal, which we hope to end before very many years have passed.)Furthermore, I can mention that in talking with Guidant, one gets the very distinct impression of talking to a commission-based salesman. [And in fact, I still get emails from Guidant with special sales prices, and so on.] Not to say they may not have a fine service behind that salesman. But you definitely are working in that kind of a structure. Whereas with Entrust and KKOLawyers, you are dealing directly with the real people. No salesmen involved.To give some specific numbers -- creating the LLC at kkolawyers cost almost $1700 in my (fairly simple) case. Then the Entrust fees are as noted in an earlier post (and corrected above in this post). At Guidant, it was going to run about $5000-$6000 up front, for the specifics of what I needed to set up. I don't recall the yearly fees at Guidant, but it was less than at Entrust. (So if one were planning on a long venture, the Guidant option might prove to be cheaper in the long run.)Disclaimer: your mileage may vary.There you have it. The Epilog. The Denouement. The Final Wrap. (Is there a TMF award for the longest delay in posting a follow-up message??? :)-Meow
-Meow,Hope you win the award...Any more follow up on the success of this plan?
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