FAQs

Answers to some of the most frequently asked investing questions (FAQs) about IRAs, self directed IRA, Roth IRA and related investments.

General

What does Quest IRA, Inc. do?
Quest IRA, Inc. (www.QuestIRA.com) is a third party administrator of self-directed IRAs in Houston, Austin, and Dallas, Texas. Quest IRA, Inc. is the leading provider of self-directed retirement account administration services. Quest IRA has been in business since 2003 with over $2 Billion in assets under management. As a neutral party, Quest IRA does not offer any investments and therefore has no conflicts of interest with what our clients want to do with their IRAs. Quest allows you to be in total control of your retirement wealth.
Who is H. Quincy Long?
H. Quincy Long is the President of Quest IRA and works in the Houston corporate office. Quincy has been a licensed Texas attorney since 1991, specializing in real estate, and has been a fee attorney for American Title Company. In 1990, Quincy received his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Houston, and continued his education, receiving his Masters of Law in 1997. He has sat on the board of directors of the Realty Investment Club of Houston (RICH), the second largest real estate club in the country, and maintains the title of Certified IRA Services Professional, CISP. Quincy is also the author of numerous articles on self-directed IRAs and other real estate related topics, many of which can be found on the Quest IRA website, and in addition, Dyches Boddiford and George Yeiter, CPA, co-authored with Quincy to write the book “Real Estate Investment Using Self-Directed IRAs and Other Retirement Plans.”
Widely known for his enthusiasm, attention to detail and knowledge of the Self-Directed retirement industry, he is one of the most sought after key note speakers in the nation. Quincy can often be spotted in his office reading and learning more to prepare for one his many, highly-attended lectures on topics including self-directed retirement plans, real estate, unrelated business income tax, land trusts, mortgage foreclosures, etc. Quincy enjoys reading, hiking and spending time with family and friends in his free time.
What is the difference between a “self-directed IRA” and a regular IRA?
There is no legal distinction between a “self-directed IRA” and any other IRA. The difference is simply this: Quest lets you take control of your retirement by letting you invest your IRA in what you know best. There are 2 different sets of rules that govern what you can do with your IRA. First, there is the Internal Revenue Code, which has surprisingly few restrictions. Second, there is your account agreement with the custodian. With most custodians you are restricted in the type of investments you can buy in your IRA. Quest allows you the maximum amount of control and flexibility. Almost anything that can be documented can be held in your Quest self-directed IRA.
Which types of IRAs does Quest IRA offer?
Quest offers almost all types of retirement plans, including:

  • Traditional IRAs
  • Roth IRAs
  • SEP IRAs
  • SIMPLE IRAs
  • Individual 401(k)s, including the NEW Roth 401(k)
  • Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (formerly Education IRAs)
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
How much can I contribute to my IRA?
Roth and Traditional IRAs – $5,500 for 2016  plus $1,000 catch-up if you are age 50 or over by the end of the year.

SEP IRAs – 25% of your wages (or up to 20% of your net earnings from self-employment) up to a maximum of $53,000 for 2016. Contributions can be made up to the employer’s tax filing deadline, including extensions (if you are self-employed, you are the employer).

SIMPLE IRAs – $12,500 salary deferral plus $3,000 catch-up if you are 50 or over for 2016 and plus up to 3% of your salary matched by your employer.

Profit Sharing/401(k)s – $18,000 in salary deferral for 2016, plus catch-up deferral of $5,500 if you are age 50 or older by the end of the year plus 25% of your wages (or 20% of your net earnings from self-employment) up to a maximum of 53,000.

Coverdell ESAs (formerly Education IRAs) – $2,000 per year until the child is age 18.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) – $3,350 for individual coverage and $6,750 for family coverage in 2016  plus $1000 catch-up if you are over age 55.

What kinds of investments can be made in an Quest IRA self-directed IRA?
You have the broadest possible choice of investments, including:
Real Estate, including debt-financed and foreign real estate
Deeds of Trust
Real Estate Options
Lease Options
Unsecured Notes
Oil and Gas Interests
Small, non-publicly traded corporate stock
Limited Liability Companies
Limited Partnerships
Factored Invoices
Discounted Commissions
Security Agreements and Notes
Tax Lien Certificates
Foreclosure Property
Joint Ventures
Race Horses
and a whole lot more…
It should be made clear that you are not taking a distribution to purchase these assets. All assets are purchased within the IRA, and all profits stay in the IRA!
As a real estate professional, how can knowledge about self-directed IRAs put money in my pocket now?
For those of you who are investors, you can make other people aware that they actually have more money to invest in real estate than they thought since they can use their IRAs to buy real estate. In other words, your knowledge of self-directed IRAs can increase your pool of eligible buyers for your properties. Also, you can help others transfer their retirement funds into a self-directed IRA, then you can borrow those funds to make your own investments – in other words, you can create your own private bank! Finally, you can make your own retirement wealth grow with your knowledge and experience in real estate by buying and selling through your own self-directed IRA.
Is it really legal to buy real estate in your IRA?
Yes, absolutely! The Internal Revenue Code does not tell you what you can do with your IRA, only what you cannot do. Besides restrictions on purchasing life insurance and most collectibles in your IRA, nearly everything else is fair game. Unless your IRA is self-directed, however, your custodian may not allow investments in real estate.

Getting Started

How do I open a self-directed IRA?
The process of opening a self-directed IRA with Quest IRA, Inc. is a very simple process.
Just complete the application or contact one of our world famous IRA Specialists at 800.320.5950.
(Get your application here!) 
How long does it take to open an account?
The Individual Retirement Account will be established within approximately 24-48 hours of receiving the properly filled out application.
What are the different ways I can fund my Quest IRA Account?
Rollover/Direct Rollover : Rollovers can be done from employer plans or other IRAs. To avoid taxes or penalties, make sure the rollover is done within 60 days from the time you took the distribution.
Transfer: Transfers can be done to move funds over from like accounts. If you have an existing IRA at a different custodian, we can move the funds (cash & privately held assets) via transfer.
Deposit: Your IRA can be funded via annual contributions.
How are my funds protected?
All un-invested funds are FDIC insured up to $250,000. All investments carry risk including loss of principal. For more tips on doing your due diligence, click here.
What Fees Will I incur with my Self-Directed IRA? Who can I name as a Beneficiary to my IRA?
A beneficiary can be any person or entity the owner chooses to receive the benefits of a retirement account or an IRA after he or she dies. Beneficiaries of a retirement account or IRA must include in their gross income any taxable distributions they receive.
Will My Will or Trust Override Who I list As My Beneficiary?
Your will or trust will not override what is named on the beneficiary designation of your IRA. The only time a Will would control a non-probate asset is if no beneficiary is designated or the estate is named as the beneficiary.
When Does My Spouse Need to Sign the Beneficiary Form?
If you do not list your spouse as 100 percent primary beneficiary AND you live in a community property state, your spouse must sign the spousal consent section on our Beneficiary Form.
If you live in Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington or Wisconsin and you have named your spouse as 100% Primary Beneficiary directly by name, your spouse does not need to sign the “Spousal Consent” signature section. Note: If you are naming a Trust 100% Primary and your spouse is the trustee, your spouse does need to sign.
If you do not live in Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington or Wisconsin; regardless of what your beneficiary is, you do not need to have your spouse sign the “Spousal Consent” signature section.

Real Estate

How fast can Quest IRA purchase an investment?
We pride ourselves in our fast processing time of 24-48 hours. Please note that our processing begins when we have received the completed Direction of Investment form as well as any supporting documentation (example: properly vested sales contract).
How can I take funds out of my IRA to buy Real Estate, without having to pay taxes and penalties?
When using your IRA for the purposes of purchasing Real Estate, you are not actually taking the funds out. Similar to how your IRA can purchase an asset of a stock, your IRA can also purchase an asset of Real Estate. Quest IRA specializes in helping our clients purchase RE through their retirement accounts.
What are the differences between buying real estate personally and buying real estate with my IRA?
a) Title of the property: When using your IRA for RE investments it must be titled in the name of your IRA. When using a Quest IRA, the title will read “Quest IRA, Inc. FBO (Your Name) IRA (Account number)”
b) Funds- When your IRA is used to purchase an asset, the funds must come from the IRA. This includes any expenses that are related to the investment. Likewise, any gains or earnings must go back to the IRA.
c) Signatures- Because investments are made in the name of the IRA, Quest IRA is actually the one that signs the documents.
Can my IRA purchase Real Estate I currently own?
No. Although the IRS has very few restrictions on the types of investments which are permissible in an IRA, there is a list of “disqualified persons” who are prohibited from dealing with your IRA or benefiting from its investments. The list of disqualified persons includes you, your spouse, your parents, your children, their spouses, certain business partners and key employees and persons providing services to your plan, among others. Interestingly enough, the definition of disqualified persons does NOT INCLUDE non-lineal descendants or ascendants, so if the transaction is an arms length transaction your IRA may be able to transact business with your brother or sister, aunt or uncle, cousins, etc. However, you should be aware that there is an element of danger in transacting business with any person in whom you may have an interest which affects your best judgment as a fiduciary of your IRA, as this could be considered to be a prohibited transaction.
Are the gains or income taxable from IRA Real Estate investments?
The answer is NO – in most cases. If an IRA buys Real Estate and then sells it at a profit, all income generated while it was held in the IRA and all the gains resulting from sale WILL be either tax-deferred (traditional IRA) or possibly tax-free (Roth IRA), IF the purchases were all cash with IRA funds.
However, if the IRA purchased Real Estate that is debt financed, the IRA could be subject to taxation. The tax applied is called Unrelated Debt Financed Income tax or UDFI tax.
Can my IRA make loans to others who want to buy Real Estate?
Yes, your IRA may loan to any person, as long as they are not a disqualified person. These loans involving Real Estate are generally referred to as Promissory Notes. They are usually secured by the deed to the property that serves as collateral for the loan if the borrower fails to meet the loan obligations. For more Information visit our Promissory notes webpage.
Can I partner with my IRA or with other peoples IRAs?
Your IRA can always partner with other people individually or with other people’s IRAs. Under certain circumstances you personally may be able to partner with your IRA. However, the burden of proving that you received no impermissible benefit from your IRA’s participation in the investment will be on you if the IRS ever questions the transaction. The transaction still must be an arms-length transaction, and the investment remains subject to the same restrictions as if the entire investment were in your IRA. In general it is better to separate your IRA’s investments from your own investments.
I only have a small IRA. How can I buy real estate?
There are at least 4 ways you can participate in real estate investment even with a small IRA. First, you can wholesale property. You simply put the contract in the name of your IRA instead of your name. The earnest money comes from the IRA. When you assign the contract, the assignment fee goes back into your IRA. If using a Roth IRA, this profit is tax-free forever! Second, you can purchase an option on real estate, which then can be either exercised, assigned to a third party, or canceled for a fee. Third, you can purchase property in your IRA subject to existing financing or with a non-recourse loan from a bank, a hard money lender, a financial friend or a motivated seller. Profits from debt-financed property in your IRA may incur unrelated business income tax (UBIT), however. Finally, as mentioned above, your IRA can be a partner with other IRA or non-IRA investors.
Can an IRA buy debt-financed property?
Yes. Any debt must be non-recourse to the IRA and to any disqualified person. An IRA may have to pay UBIT on its profits from debt-financed property. In general, taxes must be paid on profits from an IRA-owned property that is debt-financed, including profits from the sale or disposition of the property, in the same proportion that it had debt. For a simplified example, if the IRA puts 50% down, then 50% of its profits above $1,000 will be taxable. Although at first this sounds terrible, in fact leverage can be an extremely powerful tool in building your retirement wealth. The same leverage principle applies inside or outside of your IRA. You can do more with debt-financing than you can without it.
Can I use my IRA funds to buy a foreclosed property?
Yes, IRAs can indeed purchase foreclosures. However, you will want to be aware of the specific foreclosure purchase process. Contact our office for more information!
If I am a Realtor, can I receive a commission for property bought or sold by my IRA?
No, for the same reasons stated in the prior answer. Anything that creates a possible conflict of interest with your IRA is likely to be a prohibited transaction. Why take money that is tax-free or tax-deferred and pay taxes on it now anyway?
Can I cut the funding check directly to the seller and then get reimbursed?
No, because this is an IRA owned property, all of the funds must come directly from the IRA. You may complete a Direction of Investment form that will instruct Quest IRA as to where to send the funds.
Can I receive a fee for managing property owned by my IRA?
No. The prohibited transaction rules are intended to make sure that you receive no current benefit from your IRA other than as the beneficiary of the IRA. Investments must be arms-length and exclusively for the benefit of your IRA.
Can I live or work in a property my IRA owns?
No, this would be considered a prohibited transaction. Complete guide to Prohibited Transactions.
Can I collect the rents for my IRA rental property?
Yes and No. You can have the renters forward the rent checks to you, BUT made payable to your IRA. They cannot be made out to you, nor can you deposit them, even if you plan to reimburse your IRA. If you do collect the rent checks, make note, and forward the check over to Quest IRA.

UBIT/UDFI

Is it really legal to buy real estate in an IRA?
Yes. Even the IRS agrees that real estate is a permitted investment. In its answer to the question “Are there any restrictions on the things I can invest my IRA in?” the Internal Revenue Service states “IRA law does not prohibit investing in real estate but trustees are not required to offer real estate as an option.”
Can my IRA buy real estate with a loan or take over a property subject to an existing loan?
Yes. An IRA may borrow money to acquire real estate or take over a property subject to an existing loan, provided that the loan is non-recourse to the IRA and to any “disqualified person.” This means that typically the lender may only foreclose on the property in the event of a default. Even if there is a deficiency, the lender cannot come after the rest of the IRA’s assets, nor can the lender come after the IRA owner or any other disqualified person. Neither the IRA holder nor any other disqualified person is permitted to sign a personal guarantee of the debt.
Where can I get a non-recourse loan for my IRA?
There are at least four sources for financing which do not violate the non-recourse requirements for IRA’s. First, there is seller financing. Most sellers understand that if the loan goes into default they get the property back anyway, so asking for the loan to be non-recourse should not be too difficult to negotiate. Second, there is private financing from financial friends. If you cultivate a reputation as a professional real estate investor, there should be no reason that your financial friends would not loan your IRA money on a non-recourse basis, either from their own funds or from their own IRA’s. I have seen IRA’s borrow the money for both the purchase and the rehab on a non-recourse loan! Third, there are banks and hard money lenders. Non-recourse loans are not the norm, so many banks will turn you down. However, there is at least one bank that lends in all 50 states, and in Houston I have had at least 3 local banks and 2 hard money lenders make non-recourse loans to IRA’s. Finally, as mentioned above, you could take over a property subject to an existing loan, provided the originator of the loan is not you or another disqualified person.
Is there any tax effect of having an IRA own debt financed real estate?
Yes. Income and gains from investments in an IRA, including real estate, are normally not taxed until the income is distributed (unless the distribution is a qualifying distribution from a Roth IRA, a Coverdell Education Savings Account, or a Health Savings Account, in which case the distribution is tax free). However, if the IRA owns property subject to debt, either directly or indirectly through an LLC or a partnership, it may owe tax on the net income from the property or partnership.
If the profits from an investment are taxable to an IRA, does that mean it is prohibited?
Absolutely not! There is nothing prohibited at all about making investments in your IRA which will cause the IRA to owe taxes.
But if an investment is taxable, why do it in the IRA?
That is a good question. To figure out if this makes sense, ask yourself the following key questions. First, what would you pay in taxes if you made the same investment outside of the IRA? The “penalty” for making the investment inside your IRA, if any, is only the amount of tax your IRA would pay which exceeds what you would pay personally outside of your IRA. Unlike personal investments, the IRA owes tax only on the portion of the net income related to the debt, so depending on how heavily leveraged the property is the IRA may actually owe less tax than you would personally on the same investment. Second, does the return you expect from this investment even after paying the tax exceed the return you could achieve in other non-taxable investments within the IRA? For example, one client was able to grow her Roth IRA from $3,000 to over $33,000 using debt financed real estate in under 4 months even after the IRA paid taxes on the gain! Third, do you have plans for re-investing the profits from the investment? If you re-invest your profits from an investment made outside of your IRA you pay taxes again on the profits from the next investment, and the one after that, etc. At least within the IRA you have the choice of making future investments which will be tax free or tax deferred, depending on the type of account you have.
If the IRA pays a tax, and then it is distributed to me and taxed again, isn't that double taxation?
Yes, unless it is a qualified tax free distribution from a Roth IRA, a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA). The fact is that you still want your IRA to grow, and sometimes the best way to accomplish that goal is to make investments which will cause the IRA to pay taxes. Keep in mind that companies which are publicly traded already have paid taxes before dividends are distributed, and the value of the stock takes into consideration the profits after the payment of income taxes. In that sense, even stock and mutual funds are subject to “double taxation”.
If the IRA makes an investment subject to tax, who pays the tax?
The IRA must pay the tax.
What form does the IRA file if it owes taxes?
IRS Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return.
What is the tax rate that IRA’s must pay?
The IRA is taxed at the rate for trusts. Refer to the instructions for IRS Form 990-T for current rates. For 2005, the marginal tax rate for ordinary income above $9,750 was 35%. Capital gain income is taxed according to the usual rules for short term and long term capital gains.
Is there any way to get around paying this tax?
Yes. In some ways it may be considered a “voluntary” tax, since investments can often be structured in such a way as to avoid taxation. Some ways to structure your IRA investment to avoid taxation include loaning money instead of acquiring the real estate directly or purchasing an option on the real estate, then assigning or canceling the option for a fee. These techniques have a disadvantage in that they may not result in as much profit to the IRA, but will generally be free of tax. There is also an exemption from this tax for 401(k)’s and other qualified plans in certain circumstances.
Where can I find out more information?
Visit our website at www.QuestIRA.com for more information. Also, Unrelated Business Taxable Income and Unrelated Debt Financed Income are covered inIRS Publication 598, which is freely available on the IRSwebsite at www.irs.gov. The actual statutes may be found in Internal Revenue Code §511-514.
There is one general truth that applies both inside and outside of an IRA – you can do more with debt than you can without it. Despite the increased risk from debt and the taxes due on income from debt financed property, a careful analysis may lead to the conclusion that having your IRA pay taxes now may be the way to financial freedom in your retirement. Be sure to have your IRA pay the tax if it owes it, though. As I always say, “Don’t mess with the IRS, because they have what it takes to take what you have!”

See below for more information:

  • Top Ten Things You Need to Know When Investing in Real Estate Notes with Your IRA

    Investing in real estate notes with your IRA is one of the most popular self-directed IRA investments available. But with this popularity comes common mistakes when people lend their IRA (and non-IRA) money out, secured by liens on real estate. Follow these 10 tips to avoid potentially costly mistakes when ...

  • Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Self-Directed IRAs

    There is a lot of confusion over self-directed IRAs and what is and is not possible. In this article I will discuss some of the most important things you need to know about self-directed IRAs.   1) IRAs Can Purchase Almost Anything. A common misconception about IRAs is that purchasing anything other ...

  • Buying Real Estate in Your IRA

    1.  Who is H. Quincy Long and why do I care? H. Quincy Long, who holds the designation of CISP (Certified IRA Services Professional), is CEO/President of Quest IRA, Inc., a self-directed IRA third party administrator with offices in Houston, Dallas, and Austin, Texas as well as Mason, Michigan.  Mr. Long has been ...

  • Frequently Asked Questions About Buying Debt Financed Real Estate in an IRA

    Good news!  You can buy real estate in your traditional, Roth, SEP, or SIMPLE IRA, your 401(k), your Coverdell Education Savings Account for the kids, and even in your Health Savings Account.  Even better, your IRA can borrow the money for the purchase or even take over a property subject ...

  • The Truth About Self-Directed IRAs and Other Accounts

    There is a lot of confusion over self-directed IRAs and what is and is not possible.  In this article we will disprove some of the more common self-directed IRA myths.   Myth #1 – Purchasing anything other than CDs, stocks, mutual funds or annuities is illegal in an IRA. Truth:  The only prohibitions ...

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