How to Use a Business Trust With a Self-Directed IRA

An individual retirement account, or IRA, is a vital way to save for your future. An IRA allows account owners to invest in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. While those avenues can create a large nest egg, a self-directed IRA, also known as a SDIRA, gives investors a range of options that are worth looking into.

Investment Opportunities with a SDIRA

A SDIRA has many benefits, including investment opportunities in real estate, foreign currency and precious metals. For many, however, the opportunity to invest in real estate is one of the biggest draws. When the decision is made to invest in real estate, you can choose between two options:

  • Holding the title in your SDIRA account, or
  • Creating a business entity into which your SDIRA funds will be invested.

While it is ultimately your choice, most experts agree that establishing an entity is the best way to protect your finances and identity from potential issues and lawsuits.

Entities and SDIRAs

As the owner of a SDIRA, there are several types of entities you can create. A business trust is one option. With a business trust, when you invest in a property’s title, you are investing in the “beneficial interest” of the entity. Often, a SDIRA owner acquires 100% of the beneficial interests of a business trust. When this occurs, the SDIRA becomes both the “trustor” and “beneficiary” of the business trust.

It is important to remember that the IRS has many complex regulations that govern a SDIRA account. While you, the owner, are the account manager, it is always a good idea to get professional legal help to ensure you do not violate any regulations.

How to Use Your Business Trust

Establishing your business trust is fairly easy. In fact, while state laws and banking institutions may have their own rules, the process can be typically broken down into four steps.

Step 1: Establish the “Declaration of Trust”

Unlike many other entity options, you do not have to publicly file when you form a business trust. This helps to protect the confidentiality and identity of the owner. Therefore, the first step of forming a business trust is to prepare a document known as the “Declaration of Trust”. Often referred to as a trust agreement, this document’s establishes the purposes and objectives of the trust itself. Making appropriate investments that are for the exclusive benefit of the SDIRA is, of course, the purpose of the business trust. The trust agreement will also establish the rights and duties of the beneficiary and trustee. Typically, both the beneficiary and trustee will be given broad powers. Because the SDIRA itself is the beneficiary, the trustee will be granted independent authority to make investment and management decisions. Doing so means that, if you want to make an investment, you do not need the approval of your custodian to do so. (This is particularly important because your custodian is prohibited by the IRS from making financial decisions regarding your SDIRA.)

Step 2: Obtain an EIN

Once you have create the trust agreement, you will want to file for a tax identification number, also known as an EIN. This number, provided by the IRS, is required. In today’s world, you can easily file the required SS-4 Form online to request your EIN.

Step 3: Open a Bank Account

After you obtain an EIN, your business trust should establish a bank account. This bank account, opened in the name of the business trust itself, will authorize the trustee to be the signor. As you are filing for an account on behalf of a business trust, the bank will require that you fill out a “Certification of Trust.” This form establishes several things: you are the trustee, there is a Declaration of Trust, and you have the authority to open the account. In providing a Certification of Trust, you do not have to provide the actual trust agreement. In the end, opening a bank account in the name of your business trust will give you complete checkbook control over investment decisions.

Step 4: Transfer the SDIRA Funds

Finally, you would provide your custodian with the directions necessary to transfer the funds from your SDIRA account to the business trust’s bank account. For most account owners, a wire transfer of the funds is the preferred method and can be quite easily accomplished.

Business Trust Taxation Classifications

When it comes to filing tax returns, a business trust is classified as a partnership, which is subject to both federal and state income taxes. However, if you are the sole owner and investor of the beneficial interests, the business trust becomes a “disregarded entity.”

As such, the business trust becomes exempt from filing federal or state income tax returns. Additionally, there are no franchise taxes for a business trust. Avoiding a franchise tax, which is typically charged by a state in order to gain approval to do business within its borders, means you keep more money in your account for investment purposes.

Tax regulations can be quite complicated and hard to understand, which is why hiring a custodian is highly recommended.

Your SDIRA, Your Business Trust, Your Future

Establishing a SDIRA is a great financial decision for those who want to invest in more than just stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. With the increased potential for diversity and higher returns, SDIRAs are becoming increasingly popular.

However, as with most things in life, higher rewards often come with bigger risks. When investing in real estate, establishing an entity will help protect your confidentiality, finances, and investment potential.

Last Updated: 
April 22, 2018

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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