Self-Directed IRAs and Disqualified Persons

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Self-directed IRAs (SDIRA) offer generous tax benefits that can help individuals plan for their retirement. While IRAs can offer some helpful tax advantages, SDIRAs afford their owners a great amount of freedom in their investments. Stocks, bonds, and mutual funds are typical offerings seen at most banks, but with your SDIRA you have access to a wider selection of alternative assets like private placements and real estate that may be unavailable at those other financial institutions.

While you have increased freedom in your alternative investment choices, there are some restrictions on who you can engage in those transactions with. Those disallowed from participating in transactions with the IRA are considered disqualified persons. The IRS has rules for SDIRAs to help the owner plan for retirement but also prevents them from benefiting personally beforehand.  Understanding prohibited transactions and who may be a disqualified person will help you avoid tax penalties or other impacts on you or your retirement account.

What are Prohibited Transactions?

Transactions that the IRS interprets to provide immediate, personal financial gain using your retirement account are considered prohibited.  Some transactions are considered prohibited due to the type of investment while others involve collusion with people who are considered disqualified. We will be focusing on disqualified persons— who they are and some examples of those transactions.

The Significance of Prohibited Transactions

For these prohibited transactions to occur, there are two parties involved – the SDIRA itself and a disqualified person. If the IRA becomes “disqualified” or loses its tax-advantaged status, it is treated as though it was fully distributed, creating a taxable event, as of January 1st of the tax year in which the prohibited transaction occurred. 

It's important to note that the specific consequences can vary depending on the circumstances and the nature of the prohibited transaction. Consulting with a qualified tax or financial professional is crucial to understanding and navigating the rules and potential consequences associated with disqualified persons and SDIRAs.

Who is a Disqualified Person?

Disqualified persons include:

  • The IRA owner
  • Beneficiaries of the IRA
  • Your family members (including spouse, ancestor, lineal descendent, or the spouse of a lineal descendent)
  •  Fiduciaries or service providers of the IRA
  • A corporation, partnership, trust, or estate where 50% or more of the beneficial interests are owned by any of the above
  • An officer, director, or 10% or more beneficial owner/partner of an entity described above


Examples of Prohibited Transactions with Disqualified Persons

The list of examples to illustrate possible prohibited transactions is inexhaustible. Generally, you cannot use your SDIRA to:

  • Sell, exchange, or lease property you already own to your IRA as an investment
  • Transfer IRA income, assets, or investments to a disqualified person
  • Lend any IRA funds to a disqualified person
  • Supply goods, services, or facilities to a disqualified person
  • Allow fiduciaries to obtain/use asset income or investments for their own interest

For example, when you as the IRA owner, attempts to do business with yourself as an individual, it is known as “self-dealing.” You cannot buy or sell property to yourself, you cannot lend money from the IRA to yourself, and you cannot pay any IRA asset expenses with your personal funds. All income and expenses from a property flow through the IRA.

Further, let’s say you have real estate in your SDIRA. You wouldn’t be able to use that asset for a personal benefit in any way – like living in it for any period of time or doing any work on the property yourself (sweat equity).

Continuing with the real estate as an example – if your son owns a construction company, hiring that company to perform any work would be considered a prohibited transaction since your son is a disqualified person because he has controlling ownership of the construction company.

While you are generally prohibited from dealing with disqualified persons, there are specific exceptions and opportunities to legally conduct business with anyone on that list. On a new transaction (first purchase of an investment) you can combine funds from your SDIRA with personal funds, another IRA, or even another disqualified person to maximize your investment-purchasing power!

Not all situations may be this straightforward so it’s important to thoroughly understand your investment, the transaction itself, and who you are engaging with.


While a self-directed IRA can be a wonderful tool for certain individuals planning their retirement, by offering tax advantages and a variety of alternative investment options that individuals know and understand, it’s important to be aware of the rules surrounding these types of accounts and transactions.

To keep people's retirement savings safe and avert unfair situations, the IRS has rules for retirement accounts. These rules prevent personal financial gain from the misuse of retirement accounts. By better understanding the rules about prohibited transactions and disqualified persons SDIRA holders can better position themselves to protect their retirement accounts and successfully execute their plan for a lucrative retirement.

How IRAR Helps

IRAR Trust Company serves as an IRA custodian for self-directed retirement accounts. We assist individuals interested in investing in alternative assets with their IRA account or Solo 401(k). While we don't provide retirement planning advice or perform due diligence on investments, we can guide you through the regulations of self-directed IRAs. Contact one of our experts to discover how you can open a self-directed IRA to invest in assets you can control.


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