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What is a Self-Directed IRA Custodian?

A self-directed IRA custodian is approved by the IRS but you are allowed to direct the investments of the IRA. Many custodians claim that they allow you to self-direct your IRA investments but then only let you invest in to what they offer. A truly self-directed IRA allows you to make the decisions without restriction.

What is a Check Book IRA?

It is a step further towards putting you in full control of your IRA. You don't have to go to your custodian to get approval of the investment and get a check written. You truly have a self-directed IRA because you have checkbook control as the manager of your IRA owned special LLC!

What can I invest in if I have a Check Book IRA?

Your IRA-LLC can make any investment a regular LLC can invest in as long as you stay away from Insurance contracts and collectibles. Also you may not have any “self dealings” without a DOL exemption. Wouldn’t you love to have the option to invest your IRA in:

  1. Residential Real Estate - Raw Land - Private Notes and Loans - Limited Liability Companies (LLC) - Tax Certificates - Stocks, Bonds, Mutual Funds - FOREX Trading - Options - Futures - IPO’s - Auto loans/paper - Commercial Real Estate - Trust Deeds/Mortgages - Private Stock Offerings - Limited Partnerships - Receivables Factoring - Annuities - Currency - Commercial Paper and Many other investments

What types of retirement accounts can be moved into Check Book IRA accounts?

Traditional IRAs - Roth IRAs - 403(b)s - Qualified Annuities - Government Eligible Deferred Compensation Plans - Coverdell Education Savings (ESA) - Money Purchase Plans

Is this new?

No. These investments have been allowed by the IRS for 30 years!

Why haven’t I heard of this before?

Who would tell you? Your stock broker? They will only let you invest your IRA in investments that their firm offers. At a bank you may be limited to CDs while at a brokerage firm you will be limited to stocks, bonds and mutual funds. As a consequence, and unfortunately for many investors, it has been a well kept secret that they have other options for their IRAs. The traditional investment community has had control of over 97% percent of retirement accounts, and they have been making a great living off your accounts. Why would they want to let you know of alternatives that they wouldn’t benefit from?

As investors have become more disillusioned and frustrated with traditional investment choices, they have begun looking for alternatives. After steep stock market declines, corporate scandals and corruption (e.g. Enron, Madoff, MF Global) many investors saw their retirement accounts cut in half and are ready to take control of their own investments. They often want more tangible investments such as Real Estate. However, when they ask their current custodians / brokers, they are typically told that such investments are illegal, too complicated or that it can’t be done. But those are ignorant and self-serving responses. Although those custodians / brokers may not allow it, it can be done. It is just likely you can’t do it through your current custodian. They would financially suffer if you make a move so they aren’t going to tell you about it.

How are custodians different from each other?

The government allows certain institutions to handle the accounting and reporting of IRAs. They must ALL follow the same rules and guidelines. Under the law, all custodians can allow you to invest your IRA in the same types of investments (stocks, bonds, real estate, notes, tax liens, etc.). However, the majority of custodians have made the decision to restrict the types of investments you can make. This is not based upon law, but it is based upon what the custodian wants to offer. However, there are a handful of custodians, called “Self Directing” who allow non-traditional investments.

Do I get complete control?

Having a self-directed IRA custodian is one step toward obtaining complete control. When an account is established with a self-directed custodian, you are still required to get permission from the custodian before making each investment. This is time consuming, cumbersome and more expensive than it needs to be. To obtain a truly self-directed retirement account you need the CHECK BOOK IRA LLC. This is the structure that gives you checkbook control.

With the CHECK BOOK IRA LLC your IRA makes one investment, it owns the LLC. After that it is the LLC that makes all the investments with the tax liability flowing through to the owners - the IRA. However the profits stay in the LLC where the full untaxed amount is ready for reinvesting. Now you are able to make investments the minute you decide to without getting permission from anyone. You have the checkbook. You are in control of your retirement money.

How do I know that this is legal?

This is a question that is frequently asked by investors who have never heard that they could invest in anything other than stocks and bonds. However, we’ve shown you that Real Estate has been an allowed investment since the day IRAs were created almost thirty years ago.

Find out for yourself by going to the Internal Revenue Service’s website . Request Publication 590. On pages 40-41 you will see what investments are not allowed (see below – collectibles, life insurance, s- corporation stock, etc.). Real Estate is NOT mentioned as a disallowed investment just like stocks, bonds, mutual funds are not mentioned as a disallowed investment. Also you can look up “Swanson vs. The Commissioner”.  

Also we have a page devoted to the legal arguments called “Is an IRA LLC Legal”.

Can I use funds from a 401(k), IRA, Sep IRA, Roth IRA, or 403(b) with Check book control?

Yes. You can self direct all of these types of accounts. They can all be invested into the CHECK BOOK IRA LLC for truly self-directed investing.

Can my IRA purchase Real Estate I already own?

No. This would be considered a prohibited transaction, or “self dealing” (see IRC 4975). You many not purchase property which is currently owned by you or any other disqualified person (see below). You would need to find another piece of Real Estate that you don’t already own to purchase unless you filed for an exemption.

If I buy an income producing rental property, who gets the rental income?

The income goes back into the CHECK BOOK IRA LLC, and you retain the tax deferred or tax free status (in the case of the Roth IRA) of the investment.

Can I use leverage in buying real estate?

Yes you can use your IRA money as the down payment and then have your CHECK BOOK IRA LLC get a loan for the balance. However, you will not be able to personally guarantee the loan. It must be a non- recourse type of loan which means that if your IRA fails to make payments, the only recourse the lender has is against the property itself. Further, there will be tax ramifications to doing so; UDFI (unrelated debt financed income) tax applies when a loan is obtained. That means what ever percentage was borrowed then that same percentage of any profits is taxed in your IRA. You would want to confer with your tax professional about what forms would be necessary.

My IRA is small. Can I personally co-invest with my IRA?

It is not a prohibited transaction for you to co-invest with your IRA. However, there are certain formalities that need to be adhered to, and there are some situations where it isn’t advised.

Can my IRA co-invest with friends?

Yes. IRAs may purchase an undivided (and proportionate) interest in Real Estate. 

Join Ventures and partnerships are a great legal way to increase your buying power.

Can I be the property manager of the Real Estate?

That depends. With just a self-directed IRA the answer is no. In fact you can’t even change a light bulb on the property. But with the CHECK BOOK IRA LLC you have the ability to manage the property, collect the rent and pay the bills. Unlike just having a self-directed IRA which put restrictions on what you can do, the SELF DIRECTED IRA LLC structure allows you to advertise for renters, collect and deposit the rent checks, pay the real estate bills, etc. This saves your IRA a lot of money and helps provide a more comfortable and prosperous retirement for you.

May I use my IRA funds to make improvements or renovations?

Yes. In fact, you must use IRA funds to make the improvements and pay all expenses associated with the property. All expenses of the property are paid with IRA funds, and all profits made on the property are returned to the IRA. This makes sense because it is an investment of the IRA.

Can I buy vacation property?

Yes. Doing so would not constitute a prohibited transaction. However, you cannot vacation there.

Can I buy my dream retirement home with my IRA and then live in it when I reach the age of retirement? Yes. Your IRA would be the original owner. You would use your IRA money to make the purchase and maintain the property. Any rents generated would be returned to the IRA. However, upon reaching retirement age, the property could be distributed out to you. Of course, you would have to pay taxes at that point but without penalty.

What are the advantages to using an CHECK BOOK IRA LLC as a Real Estate IRA?

You can only receive true checkbook control with the CHECK BOOK IRA LLC. With a self-directed custodian, you get more control than you get with a traditional custodian, but you still have to get permission from the custodian for every little thing you do. This is problematic, unnecessary and annoying. Further, with any time sensitive investment it puts you at a huge disadvantage. And what Real Estate deals aren’t time sensitive. If you don’t move quickly, you will miss out on the best deals.

Can I buy Tax Liens with my Self Directed IRA?

Tax liens, tax deeds and foreclosures are sold on the courthouse steps and you need to have checkbook control or you’ll miss out. With the CHECK BOOK IRA LLC you have the checkbook, authority to write the checks and can make an investment without time delays. This ensures that your IRA is able to make the best investments at the best prices.  So, yes you can Buy Tax Liens with your IRA

With the CHECK BOOK IRA LLC your IRA will be subject to fewer and lower fees from the custodian. Thus, there is more money for your retirement, which is the whole goal of an IRA.

Are IRA Loans possible with my CHECK BOOK IRA?

Absolutely as long as they aren’t “disqualified persons”. This is done frequently, and is a great investment for your IRA because the property is the collateral.

Can I make a loan to my brother, aunt, cousin or stepchild so that they can use the money as a down payment on a home? Yes. According to IRC 4975, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousin and “step relations” are not included in the definition of disqualified persons. Thus any dealings between your IRA and these would not be a prohibited transaction. To deal with your children, grandchildren, spouse or parents you would need an exemption.

Can my CHECK BOOK IRA LLC make loans to a friend?

Absolutely. Friends are not disqualified persons under the Code, and therefore, your IRA can make a loan to them for any purpose whatsoever (boat, airplane, hot tub, home improvements, etc.). Of course, you want to make sure that there are proper formalities and reasonable terms to the loan. It is your retirement.

Can my CHECK BOOK IRA LLC make loans to a Real Estate developer?

Yes. Your IRA can loan money to a Real Estate developer to finance the purchase of property or the development of property. Developers often look for private financing so it is a great way to get your IRA involved in Real Estate development. And because developers often pay an above market interest rate, the loan can be a great investment for your IRA.

Can my CHECK BOOK IRA LLC make loans to businesses or companies?

Sure. Your IRA can make a loan to any type of business. However, be aware that there are some restrictions on loaning money to any business that you or any other disqualified person has an ownership interest in. If a disqualified person or persons have part ownership it must be less a total of 50%.

Are the gains that my CHECK BOOK IRA LLC makes taxable?

Not in most cases. If an IRA buys a piece of property and then sells it at a profit, the gains stay within the IRA. If you have a traditional IRA, the gains are tax-deferred. If you have a Roth IRA, the gains are tax free. Note, you alter that result if you use leverage through borrowing. If you borrow 1/3 of the money then 1/3 of the profits are taxed.

Can I invest outside of my state or outside the country?

Yes! Your IRA can invest outside of the U.S.A. There are many great investment opportunities in other countries. Remember it’s the LLC doing the investment so anything an LLC can invest in so can your IRA as long as it’s not a prohibited transaction or one with disqualified persons or companies. 

See our link for “Buying Foreign Real Estate in an IRA”

What are Prohibited Transactions?

Understanding what constitutes a prohibited transaction is very important when it comes to making investments within your IRA. The IRS defines a prohibited transaction as follows:

  1. “Generally a prohibited transaction is any improper use of your IRA account or annuity by you, your beneficiary or any disqualified person. Disqualified persons include your fiduciary and members or your family (spouse, ancestor, linear descendant, and any spouse of linear descendant).”          IRS Publication 590

IRC 4975 is the section that lays out the rules on prohibited transactions. Prohibited transactions generally involve one of the following:

  1. 1. doing business with a disqualified person;

  2. 2. benefiting someone other than the IRA;

  3. 3. loaning money to a disqualified person; or

  4. 4. investing in a prohibited investment.

In plain English, prohibited transactions are those transactions that violate the basic intent of the IRA. Your IRA must benefit rather than benefiting you personally. In other words, there can be no “self dealing” transactions. However, there are many ways in which you can invest your IRA and not be in violation of the prohibited transaction law. And when your IRA benefits, you benefit because it is for your retirement.

Are there investments that are prohibited?

Yes, but you probably aren’t investing in them anyway. The Internal Revenue Code does not specifically authorize investments within an IRA; rather, the code outlines what types of investments are not allowed. The Prohibited Investments include:

Artwork, Antiques, Gems, Coins, Life Insurance Contracts, Stock in a S-Corporation, Rugs, Metals, Stamps Alcoholic Beverages And certain other tangible personal property.  There is an exception made for American Eagles which allows them to be held at home by the Gold IRA LLC manager.

Who is a disqualified person?

the IRA holder and his or her spouse; the IRA holders ancestors, lineal descendants and their spouses; investment advisors and managers any corporation, partnership, trust or estate in which a disqualified person has 50% or greater interest; and anyone providing services to the IRA such as a trustee or custodian.

What are some types and examples of Prohibited Transactions and / or Self-Dealing Transactions?

Self dealing with a family member (your IRA purchases a home from your father). Self dealing with yourself (your IRA purchases a home from yourself). Personal use of IRA property (buying a rental vacation home with IRA money and then staying in the home when on vacation). Receiving personal benefit from your IRA (paying yourself for work that you do on the property such as repairing the roof).

Can I buy a business with my CHECK BOOK IRA LLC?

Yes you can buy a business with your IRA money via the CHECK BOOK IRA LLC. Please contact us for details.

Can I invest in an existing business?

Yes. This can be done as the purchase of stock or as a loan to the business.

What about S-Corporations?

S-Corporations do not allow IRAs as investors; they only allow individuals as investors. Therefore, it isn’t so much that IRAs are prohibited from investing in S-Corporations rather that S-Corporations don’t permit having an IRA as a shareholder. It is likely that the investment of the IRA would revoke the sub-s status of the corporation.

Can I buy Stocks, CDs, Bonds, Options or do FOREX trading etc.?

Yes. You can invest in any IRS permitted investment. That includes publicly traded stocks, CDs, mutual funds, annuities, bonds, stock options, futures, etc. In fact, if you are an active swing trader or day trader, you will be able to trade your IRA in a manner that your current broker does not allow you to trade using the CHECK BOOK IRA LLC. For example, you probably have asked your broker if you can buy or sell Options (Calls and Puts). Or maybe you would like to write Covered Calls or do Spreads and have been told no. The CHECK BOOK IRA LLC allows you to trade your way. You can also participate in IPOs. Remember it’s your LLC that opens the brokerage account. You can have as investments as you wish.

I have a 401(k) with an old employer. Can I move it into the CHECK BOOK IRA LLC?

Yes. You can move these 401(k) funds into the CHECK BOOK IRA LLC. You can start controlling this money yourself rather than letting your old employer control your future. We will help you with this process.

I have a 401(k) with my current employer. Can I move it into the CHECK BOOK IRA LLC?

The 401(k) plan documents will specify what you can do but most of the time you cannot move money from a 401(k) plan if you are currently working for the company.

I have several IRAs and old 401(k)s. Can I combine them?

Yes. They can all be combined and then invested into your CHECK BOOK IRA LLC so that your buying power is maximized. The only restriction on 401(k)s and that is you generally must no longer work for the employer. You can usually combine multiple retirement accounts into one account. Or in the event that they can’t be combined, such as the case of a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA, they can still be invested into the same CHECK BOOK IRA LLC

What’s this all going to cost me?

A better question is what’s it going to save me. Recently we helped a client set up a real estate closing so that the $10,000 profit went into a Roth Check Book IRA. We had to hustle to finish the paperwork in time but by doing so he saved 35% in taxes and had the entire $10,000 to reinvest as soon as the check from the Title Company was in the account. A savings of $3,500 and he has control the rest of his life!

Call us today for pricing and start saving today.

Call Jordan or Steve at

Check Book IRA Call 1-800-482-2760

Or email us at



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