How to Fund Your Business with Self-Directed IRA Investors

Private companies need start-up funding.
There are trillions of dollars in retirement plans across the United States. These funds can be invested in your business.
Most entrepreneurs and investors don’t know this. Which is a shame, because everybody who owns a retirement fund is a potential source of financing. Most people who have a retirement account don’t actually know what their retirement package is invested in. This is an untapped resource just waiting for your pitch.
Industry surveys show that there are over one million self-directed retirement accounts invested in private companies, real estate, venture capital, private equity, hedge funds and start-ups.

Investing with Self-Directed IRA Funds

So how can you tap this wellspring? If you ask your CPA or your lawyer, they’re going to tell you that it’s possible but inadvisable. This is because they don’t have any idea how to do what you are asking them to do, or they are too shortsighted to see why you want to. Your financial adviser is going to tell you this is a bad idea because he doesn’t get the fee that he collects on your mutual funds, annuities and stocks. I’m not going to tell you this is a conflict of interest, but it does lower your adviser’s motivation for alternative investments. He’s trying to make money too after all.
There are different sets of risks in private investment, so self-directed IRA investors need to be strategic. Keep a diverse profile. Don’t hitch your entire wagon to an unproven company. There will be tax and legal issues, so make sure you get help when and where it is necessary.
Selling corporate stock or LLC units to self-directed IRAs can generate capital in exchange for stock or equity in other companies. You can offer shares or units in your retirement account without going public.
This was what employees at Google, PayPal, Domino’s, Sealy, and Yelp did. They invested their self-directed IRAs before their companies were publicly traded and made enough money to retire very nicely.
Popular investment options include:

  • Equity investments that purchase shares or units where the IRA becomes a shareholder.
  •  Note investments where the IRA becomes a lender.

You must be in compliance with state and federal securities laws when raising money from investors.

Avoiding Prohibited Transactions/UBIT

Be careful to avoid prohibited transactions. For example, you cannot invest your retirement money with close family members. If an error occurs, an investor will have their ENTIRE ACCOUNT DISTRIBUTED. Don’t make this mistake.
You may also be subject to an Unrelated Business Income Tax. A UBIT applies to an IRA when it receives business income. Learn more from our previous article about the UBIT.
Generally, IRA’s and 401k’s don’t pay tax on gains because they’re considered investment income. When you wander outside of standard investments, such as mutual funds and annuities, you may find yourself in the cold wilderness outside of investment income parameters. UBITs are very costly at 39.6% of $12,000 of taxable income. That’s steep.
The most common situation where a self-directed IRA will be subject to a UBIT is when the IRA invests in a business that does not pay corporate tax.
If you are trying to raise capital from retirement funds, you should have a section in your documents that notifies people of potential UBIT on their investment. This doesn’t cost you, but it does cost the investor, and at 39.6% you might do some damage to someone’s retirement plans if you aren’t clear with them.
If the investment from a self-directed IRA was via a note or debt instrument, then the profits are considered interest income. This income is always considered investment income, which is not subject to a UBIT.
Many companies raise capital from IRAs for real estate or equipment purchases. These loans are often secured with the assets being purchased. In this case, the IRA ends up earning interest like a private lender.
So, to Recap (because that was a lot!)
There are trillions of dollars in retirement plans across the U.S.
These retirement accounts can be used to invest into your private company, start-up or small business.
You must comply with the prohibited transaction rules.
Anyone can invest into your company, except you & your close family members.
There may be UBIT, depending on the structure of the company.
UBIT usually arises within IRAs that operate businesses structured as LLCs where the company doesn’t pay a corporate tax on their net profits. This income gets passed down to IRA owners & can cause UBIT liability.
Retirement account funds can be a huge source of funding and investment for your business, so it’s worth the time and effort to learn how to access them as investment capital. Just make sure you follow the rules.
How you handle your retirement money matters at money matters.

Scott Royal Smith is an asset protection attorney and long-time real estate investor. He's on a mission to help fellow investors free their time, protect their assets, and create lasting wealth.

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