Who is a disqualified person according to the IRS? How do I avoid prohibited transactions with them?

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Self-Directed IRA Rules dictate that you cannot do business with a disqualified person like your parents, spouse, children, children's spouses... and companies where you or a disqualified person owns 50% or more. Review this family tree.


You are also a disqualified person.

Remember to keep your IRA separate from any conflicts of interest, just as you would from any family member. Your IRA and your retirement account should benefit from investments and business activity, not you.


Who is not a disqualified person in my family?

“Children” that were are not legally adopted, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, brothers, sisters, and non-blood-related family friends.

Prohibited Person


What if a person changes in status through marriage?

It is wise not to continue doing more self-directed business with that person. You should not be funding additional deals, adding equity, or seeking new deals with a disqualified person. If you want the investment to continue, you should not be changing or negotiating new deal terms other than letting the deal reach maturity and exiting it. A "transaction" is when money enters or leaves an IRA, or deal terms are renegotiated. 

If you want to be extra careful, you should maybe find a way to exit the transaction with that person before this concern happens.


Key persons at a company you own can be disqualified

If you or disqualified persons for your IRA own over 50% of a company, the CEO, offices/directors, employees that own over 10% and highly compensated employees can all be disqualified.

If other disqualified people, such as your children or spouse, own parts of the company, this counts in addition to your own toward the 50% limit.

For example, if you owned 15% of a friend’s company, but your children owned 40%, that company and certain key persons would be disqualified from doing business with your IRA.

Can I invest in the company I work at?


Why are these rules in place?

Generally, the laws are designed so that a person cannot attempt to avoid or unfairly reduce generational transfer or business owing taxes.


The investment I want to make is associated with disqualified persons. How do I avoid a prohibited transaction?

You can aim to make an investment with someone who is not a disqualified person, or search for a similar investment opportunity that is free from a disqualified person's involvement. Doing business with a disqualified person puts your IRA at risk of a forced distribution and other penalties by the IRS.


What are some of the possible penalties of a prohibited transaction?

  • Forced distribution of the IRA or Roth IRA.

  • Early withdrawal penalties if you are below 59 and 1/2, which can be 10% plus ordinary income taxes for IRAs.

  • Putting all of your investment gains in a Roth IRA up for taxation from an early withdrawal.

  • The IRS may assign excise taxes of up to 15% for the amount involved for an error that was created unintentionally, which can increase to a full distribution if it is not fixed.

  • The IRS may also assign excise taxes to Solo 401(k)s up to 15%.

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