Solo 401k: Achieve checkbook control without a custodian or LLC
Background on IRA and 401k
While some self directed IRA investors utilizing LLC structure to achieve “Checkbook Control” of their retirement accounts, many may find this article about Self-Directed Solo 401k as great news.
Solo 401k retirement plans provide checkbook control without the use of an LLC or custodian. The concept of custodian comes from Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 408(a)(2) and is defined in Section 408(n). This entire IRC section 408 is devoted to Individual Retirement Arrangements, or IRAs. The code explains that an IRA is normally a trust, and the trustee must be a bank. Then it defines bank as a bank, trust company, or any company specifically approved by the IRS. This capacity of trustee to an IRA is known as “Custodian”. This trustee role is simply that of investing the plan as directed by the account holder.
A Solo 401k plan is a type of 401k that is designed for self employed individuals or small business owners whose businesses have no full time employees. All 401k plans are qualified plans and qualified plans do not have any special restrictions on who can serve as trustee.
The significant difference is that with a Solo 401k provided by Sense Financial, the participant can actually be the trustee and handle the investment transactions themselves. This can serve to simplify operating the plan because no third party is introduced. This arrangement eliminates third party Custodian fees.
Checkbook Control – “The Drawback”
You may hear about potential problems of checkbook control, such as recordkeeping and legal compliance. The fact is that the only reporting required for a Solo 401k is annual filing of Form 5500-EZ, which is only required after plan assets exceed $250,000 in value. An accountant can prepare this form for a nominal fee. The issue of checkbook control legal compliance is quite simple. All self directed accountholders and participants must avoid prohibited transactions. This requirement and responsibility rests solely on you, the trustee of the plan, regardless of whether you have checkbook control and regardless of whether you are using and IRA or Solo 401k. The facts are that when using a self-directed, self-administered, self-trusteed Solo 401k meeting the reporting requirements is simple, and it’s inexpensive to have Form 5500-EZ prepared for you, there is no unique risk of legal noncompliance that would otherwise be eliminated by using a custodian.
Titling of Assets
When making an offer, as trustee of your Solo 401k Plan, make sure to list your Solo 401k as the buyer. Remember that your Solo 401k is a separate investor from you, and therefore its name needs to be listed on all purchasing and contracting documents. The Solo 401k’s title should read as follows for example:
XYZ Solo 401k Trust FBO John Smith, Trustee
When your self-employed 401k purchases property, your Solo 401k is required to fund any necessary deposit or earnest funds.
At closing, you, as trustee of the Solo 401k, will approve and sign all documents and then submit them to the closing agent along with check or wire funds for purchase.
Vesting of all documents
XYZ Solo 401k Trust FBO John Smith, Trustee
Purchases should be transacted under Solo 401k’s own EIN
Solo 401k plans are much easier and less expensive to operate compared to Self-directed IRA. A client can serve roles of employer, employee, plan participant, plan administrator, and plan trustee. Serving the role of employer and employee allows him to contribute up to $50,000 per year to his account (or $55,500 if he’s over age 50). If client’s wife works in his business, she can participate as well and contribute to the plan.
In my opinion, a Solo 401k where the same person serves all roles involved is the simplest, most effective and direct way for that person to self direct their retirement account. It opens doors to the most flexible options possible. This allows for investment into residential and commercial real estate, tax deeds and tax liens, precious metals, start-up business and many other investments that some custodians will not allow.
So if you’re self employed (through your own Corporation, LLC, or even Sole Proprietorship) and you have no full time employees, you qualify for a Solo 401k – The Ultimate Retirement Account for the Self-Employed!