The IRA LLC for Real Estate Investing: Using Checkbook Control

By now I am sure you’ve heard that it is legal, permissible, and profitable to invest in real estate using your self-directed IRA, SEP, or Roth IRA. If you’ve been using this technique, you know the drawbacks – delays in funding, fees from your custodian, potential lawsuits against your IRA.
Well, there’s a solution… the IRA LLC.

Instead of investing directly from your IRA, we set up a single-member LLC that is owned by your IRA. Your IRA account is the MEMBER of the LLC. The LLC is a legal entity that has powers and protections that are not possessed by any individual or by any regular IRA.

The combination of the self-directed IRA custodian and the LLC produces great results. This is an entirely new type of LLC, not your run-of-the-mill LLC you may have done before. It generally requires an attorney to draft the operating agreement and provide an opinion letter to your IRA custodian. If the LLC operating agreement is improperly drafted, the entire IRA-LLC may be disqualified and taxed.
Lawsuit Protection of Your IRA Account

A single member LLC (Limited Liability Company) is a business entity that gives the liability protection of a corporation but is “disregarded” (ignored) for federal income tax purposes. It is a separate legal entity under state law, so creditors of your LLC (as in the case of a tenant injured on the property) cannot go after the member (your IRA account) or you (the Manager). To further protect your properties, you can either form subsidiary LLCs for each asset or consider forming a SERIES LLC.
“Checkbook” Control

As manager of your IRA LLC, you can write checks as you need to for purchasing property, paying property expenses, or loaning money. If you want to do a deal in a hurry, you can run down to your bank and get a wire or certified funds the SAME DAY, as in the case of a foreclosure auction.

Keep in mind that any transaction you can’t do in your IRA account you are also prohibited from doing in your IRA-LLC. You should not attempt any transaction in your IRA-LLC without competent tax and legal advice.

Steps to Form Your IRA-LLC

First, you need to transfer your existing IRA to a custodian that allows complete self-direction of your account. Big firms like Fidelity and Schwab generally don’t allow you to direct your account into real estate investments.

Second, you need to hire a professional to create the LLC.

Third, you “fund” the LLC by directing the money from your IRA custodian to the LLC’s bank account.

Fourth, you start investing in your LLC owned by your IRA (making sure you get qualified advice as to the legality of each transaction).

Custodial fees are much lower because the IRA only has one asset, the LLC.
Is this all Legal?

The legality of an IRA owning an LLC is based on the case Swanson vs. Commissioner in 1996. In Swanson, the court ruled in favor of the taxpayer using a corporation owned by his IRA, where he was the president. The LLC, by implication, should be the same.

Should you have any questions about the legality of your IRA-LLC, speak with a qualified attorney to advise you on the process.

checkbook ira

Watch this video on the Checkbook-IRA

About the Author Attorney William Bronchick

Attorney William ("Bill") Bronchick, host of Legalwiz.com, has authored six best-selling books and is sought nationwide for his 25+ years of real estate and legal knowledge. He has been interviewed by numerous media outlets, such as CNBC, TIME Magazine, USA Today, Investor Business Daily, Forbes, and the LA Times, to name a few. William Bronchick is the co-founder and past President of the Colorado Association of Real Estate Investors and the Executive Director and founder of the College of American Real Estate Investors. Click on the "About" link above for more information on William Bronchick.

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