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Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) and Real Estate Investments

Many savers have the idea that if they invest their IRA savings into Real Estate, they will make good profits and increase their retirement savings ultimately. However, there are many pitfalls that could get you in trouble if you do not follow the IRA rules.

Prohibited IRA Transactions

Some specific investments are prohibited in IRAs. These investments are called “collectibles” and include items such as:

  • Artwork
  • Antiques
  • Coins
  • Collectible Stamps
  • Gems

Real Estate is not prohibited, but certain rules and pitfalls can easily make your IRA Real Estate Investment into a prohibited transaction.

Prohibited Real Estate Transactions

  • You can’t sell property to your IRA, nor buy property from your IRA
  • You can’t loan money to your IRA or borrow money from it
  • You can’t use your IRA Savings as Loan Collateral
  • You can’t receive goods and services from your IRA nor provide them from your IRA

Beware, some companies promote real estate investments for IRAs by not properly disclosing all the related rules and prohibitions as stated by the law.This is because they do not want to lose business and you as a client/customer.

Examples of Prohibited Transactions

For example, imagine your IRA purchases a broken-down house that needs lots of repair work and remodelling. You use funds from your IRA to do the remodelling and add value to the house. Later, you sell it at a profit. That is NOT a prohibited transaction yet. However, if the remodelling is done by yourself, or your relative’s local shop, this means you are providing “services” to your IRA. Now THIS is a prohibited transaction.

Another example of a prohibited transaction is when you buy a rental property and also do the work of finding tenants, collecting rent and property management. If you or your relatives do this, you are providing services to your IRA.

Year End IRA (Individual Retirement Account) Statements

If you own a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA, your IRA Administrator must mail you atleast one year end statement every year. The deadline for this statement is usually January 31st, of the following year. Some of the year end statements you should receive include:

  • Fair Market Value (FMV) Statement
  • IRS Form 1099-R
  • IRS Form 1099-Q
  • Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) Form

Fair Market Value (FMV) Statement

The Fair Market Value Statement, as the name implies, will tell you the fair market value balance of your IRA assets as of December 31st, of the previous year. The Fair Market Value Statement will also calculate your Minimum Required IRA Distributions (RMD) that you must take out. This statement will also include a note that the fair market value of your investments will be reported to the IRS for tax purposes.

Required Minimum Distribution Notice

If at any year you reach the age of 70 and 1/2 and above, you will receive a Minimum Required IRA Distributions notice from your IRA Administrator. For example, if you turned 70 and 1/2 in the year 2004, you will receive this notice by a maximum date of January 31st, 2004. This notice will tell you exactly how much of required distributions you must take out.

IRS Form 1099-R

IRS Form 1099-R reports any distributions over $10 from any pension plans, Individual Retirement Account (IRAs), 403b plans, annuities, etc. Any IRA Re-Characterizations (change from a Roth IRA back to a Traditional IRA) will also be reported on this form.

Roth IRA Contribution Limits & Individual(k) Limits for Self Employed People

The Roth IRA contribution limits for the years 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 were greatly influenced by the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2002, which advocated for the increase in these Roth IRA contribution limits. A provision of the act known as the “Sunset Provision” made it official these that increases in contribution limits will only last till the year 2010, so now’s a good time to get into the Roth IRA! In 2010, the Congress will look at the total decline in revenues generated from these increased Roth IRA contribution limits, and whether these increases will become permanent or not.

The Roth IRA contribution limits are summarized in the table below:

Year Traditional Roth Traditional Roth Catch Up Simple Simple Catch Up 401k and 403b Plans 401k and 403b Catch Up Plans
2005 $4000 $4500 $10,000 $12000 $14000 $18000
2006 $4000 $5000 $10,000 $12500 $15000 $20000
2007 $4000 $5000 (Indexed) (Indexed) (Indexed) (Indexed)
2010 $5000 $6000
2009 $5000 $6000

Starting 2005, the Roth IRA contribution limits will be $4000, and will increase to $5000 in the year 2010. After 2010, the contribution limit will be incremented by $500 a year to adjust for cost of living and inflation. Therefore, the $5000 you are seeing for the 2009 column may not be entirely accurate, we will probably see $5500 in the column.

Why Should Young People Invest in a Roth IRA?

If you follow the Roth IRA Rules, any contributions you make towards a Roth IRA will grow tax-free for years to come, and with the power of compound interest, your money will grow at even a faster pace! Upon retirement, you will NOT have to pay taxes on your Roth IRA earnings as well. Furthermore, Roth IRAs allow you to invest in many different investments such as Bonds, Stocks, Real Estate, Derivatives, Mutual Funds and more.

A Roth IRA account can be opened until April 17th of the current tax year, and contributions can made starting from the previous year. The current maximum Roth IRA limit for 2006 is $4000. From 2010, the maximum Roth IRA contribution limit will rise to $5000.

Compound Interest & Roth IRA?

If a young saver at the age of 25 invests $4000 a year into a Roth IRA and earns 8% a year on his investment, he will have a huge nest egg of $1.1 million upon retirement (at the age of 65). What’s more, none of this $1.1 million nest egg is taxable upon retirement!

Consider a contra-example scenario. If that same 25 year old young saver invests $4000 a year into a regular taxable savings account earning 8% interest, he would grow a nest egg of $800,000 upon retirement (at the age of 65) – assuming a 15% tax rate.

Characteristics of a Roth IRA Account

  • Distributions or Withdrawals on your contributions from a Roth IRA account can be taken out at any time without incurring the 10% early withdrawal penalty fee in 401k accounts, as well as no taxes payable.
    Note: A Roth IRA is meant for saving towards retirement and withdrawals from your retirement savings account are always discouraged (unless for emergencies and unexpected circumstances).
    Note: Also note that withdrawals from your Contributions are non taxable. However, any earnings you have made on those contributions (such as the 8% interest earnings) is taxable at your local state & federal taxes and subject to 10% early withdrawal penalty fee (if withdrawn before the age of 59 and 1/2).

Differences between Traditional IRA & Roth IRA – 8 Exceptions to the 10% Early Withdrawal Penalty

Interestingly, there are 11 different types of IRAs ranging from Individual Retirement Accounts, Employer and Employee Association Trust Account, Spousal IRAs, Rollover Conduit IRA, etc. The most common are the traditional IRAs and the Roth IRA. In this article, we will explain the differences & similarities between the two.

Traditional IRA

In Traditional IRA, the contributions you make towards the account are not taxed. Whatever capital gains & earnings you make on your IRA are also not taxed up until retirement, when you withdraw money from your account. For example, imagine you made $50,000 this year and contributed $5000 to a traditional IRA. You will be taxed on $50,000 – $5000 = $45,000. Furthermore, your $5000 contribution will grow tax-deferred for many years, until you retire and decide to withdraw it. The setback with this is that your $5000 (which would have probably grown to $50,000 upon retirement) will then be taxed at your ordinary income tax rate.
Note: You can only withdraw this money after you turn 59 and 1/2 years or older. Any withdrawals made before this age will be subject to income taxes as well as a 10% early withdrawal penalty. However if you use the withdrawn funds to finance higher education expenses or for the below list of 8 exceptions, you will not have to pay the 10% early withdrawal penalty.

8 Exceptions that Eliminate the 10% Early Withdrawal Penalty

There are 8 exceptions to the 10% early withdrawal penalty (i.e. withdrawals that are taken before the age of 59 and 1/2). They are for distributions that:

i) Are taken because of the IRA owner’s disability

ii) Are taken because of the IRA owner’s death

iii) Are a series of loan repayments made over the life expectancy of the IRA investor

iv) Are used to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of the adjusted gross income of the IRA owner

v) Are used to pay for medical insurance premiums if the IRA investor has been unemployed for more than 12 weeks

vi) Are used to pay for the purchase of a principal residence (maximum of $10,000 can be withdrawn). Also, the IRA investor must not have previously owned a home within the last 24 months.

vii) Are used to pay for higher education expenses of the IRA owner or eligible dependants/family

viii) Are used to pay back taxes of an IRS levy placed against the IRA

Traditional IRAs are commonly associated with the old way of investing: certificates of deposits. This stereotype is because most banks sell CDs and they are the ones that offer Traditional IRA accounts for investors. But remember, you are not limited to investing Certificates of Deposit or bonds only, you can make higher risk investments such as cyclical stocks, commodities, futures, ETFs, etc.

What Is an IRA (Individual Retirement Account)? – Introduction, Contribution Limits, Early Withdrawal Penalties, Advantages/Disadvantages

Also known as an Individual Retirement Arrangement, an IRA is a retirement savings plan available to anyone who receives taxable employment income or compensation in a given year. Examples of taxable income include wages, salaries, bonuses, taxable alimony, commissions, fees & tips. An individual can have multiple IRA accounts but the total contribution limits are outlined in the table below.
Note: An individual’s IRA contribution is limited to the lesser of total taxable compensation, or the normal annual contribution limits, whichever is lower.

Year Regular Contributions Catch Up Contributions
2001 $2000 $0
2002 $3000 $500
2003 $3000 $500
2004 $3000 $500
2005 $4000 $500
2006 $4000 $1000
2007 $4000 $1000
2010 $5000 $1000
2009 $5500 $1000

Beginning in 2009, annual IRA contribution limits will increase by $500 adjusted for inflation. All contributions to an IRA are tax-free until withdrawn at the age of 59 and 1/2. Any withdrawals made prior to that are subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty as well as income taxes owing. There are 8 exceptions to this, see the 8 exceptions below.

Traditional IRA contributions may or may not be tax deductible depending on the tax filing status of the investor. This also depends on the adjusted gross income (AGI) and eligibility to participate in a qualifed IRA retirement plan. Deductibility of contributions becomes zero if the IRA investor’s income falls in between these adjusted gross incomes (AGIs).

Year Filing as Single Filing as Joint
2001 $33,000 – $43,000 $53,000 – $63,000
2002 $34,000 – $44,000 $54,000 – $64,000
2003 $40,000 – $50,000 $60,000 – $70,000
2004 $45,000 – $55,000 $65,000 – $75,000
2005 $50,000 – $60,000 $70,000 – $80,000
2006 $50,000 – $60,000 $75,000 – $85,000
2007 $50,000 – $60,000 $80,000 – $100,000

A working spouse who is not enrolled in employer sponsored IRA can make a tax-deductible contribution of a maximum of $2000 to an IRA each year, even if the other spouse is enrolled in an employer sponsored IRA. When the couple’s combined adjusted gross income reaches $150,000, tax deductibility for such contributions lowers. At an AGI of $160,000, it becomes $0!

Making Roth IRA Contributions – Single, Head of Household and Married Filing Joint – Eligibility & Examples

Making Roth IRA contributions has gotten ever more complex with increased rules & regulations that control your contribution limits, eligibility, modified adjusted gross income, etc. In this article, we will explore Roth IRA contributions in greater detail and compare them with making contributions to other IRAs.

A Roth IRA investor can make an annual non tax-deductible contribution to a Roth IRA that may not exceed

i) the maximum Roth IRA contribution limit set by the IRS or

ii) 100% of the individual’s earned income for the year


iii) the sum of all contributions to all other individual retirement plans for that year (other than an Education IRA).

Do you see how a simple Roth IRA concept can get so complicated? Let’s explain these clauses. This means that the total contributions you make towards both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA cannot exceed the defined contribution limit for that year. It is therefore better to pick only 1 out of the two options; traditional IRA or Roth IRA and make the total allowable contribution to it. For example if John has $5000 to contribute towards his IRAs, he would be better off putting all the $5000 to a Roth IRA, as opposed to contributiong $1500 to a traditional IRA and $3500 to a Roth IRA. This eliminates the administrative costs of maintaining & signing up for two different retirement programs, as well as broker fees, etc.

Here are 2 important notes to remember about Roth IRA contributions:

i) You can contribute to a Roth IRA and a Simple/SEP/Education IRA at the same time. The annual contribution limit to IRAs is applicable only to traditional & Roth IRAs; not the Simple/SEP/Education IRAs. Therefore if you have the money to make 100% of allowable contributions to a Roth IRA as well as a Simple or SEP or Education IRA, then by all means you can do so!

ii) You can contribute to a Roth IRA even if you are already enrolled in a company sponsored 401k/profit sharing plan.


Consider Mohammed who is a programmer and earns $60,000 a year. Mohammed contributes to his employer sponsored 401k plan as well as the company’s pension plan. In his spare time, Mohammed runs an auto detailing shop from his basement that nets him an extra $10,000 a year. Mohammed will therefore make an SEP IRA contribution based on his net business income. Mohammed also contributes to an Education IRA for the benefit of his son, Ahmed. The beauty of Roth IRAs is that despite of all these contributions to a 401k, SEP IRA and an Education IRA, Mohammed can contribute a further $5000 to a Roth IRA for the year 2010. This is because $5000 is the total allowable contribution that can be made to a Roth IRA in 2010.

Note: A qualified rollover contribution to a Roth IRA does not count in the maximum annual contribution limit. In the example above, Mohammed could make a qualified rollover contribution from his SEP IRA to his Roth IRA and that amount would not count as part of the $5000 contribution limit; meaning MOhammed could contribute an additional $5000 on top of his qualified rollover contribution. Beauty!