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The Best Retirement Plans for Investors: The Battle Between the Solo(k) and IRA

The Best Retirement Plans for Investors: The Battle Between the Solo(k) and IRA

4 min read
Amanda Han

Amanda Han has been a CPA specializing in tax strategies for real estate, self-directed investing, and individual tax planning for over 18 years. She’s been investing in real estate herself for over 10 years with a focus on long-term hold residential and multifamily assets across multiple states.

As both a tax strategist and real estate investor, Amanda combines her passion of real estate investing with her expertise in tax. Her goal is to help investors with strategies designed to supercharge their wealth-building using entity structuring, self-directed investing, and income offset opportunities to keep more of what they make.

Her highly rated book Tax Strategies for the Savvy Real Estate Investor is amongst Amazon’s bestseller list. Amanda is also a frequent contributor, speaker, and educator to some of the nation’s top investment and self-directed IRA companies.

Amanda and her husband Matt MacFarland have a passion for animals and founded Animals for Armed Forces, a non-profit organization that has helped to place over 1,800 shelter pets with forever homes.

Her cutting-edge tax strategies have been featured in prominent publications, including Money Magazine, Realtor.com, and AllBusiness.com. Amanda was a speaker at “Talks at Google” that features influential thinkers and creators. Amanda has also appeared in CNBC’s Smart Money Talk Radio, as well as BiggerPockets podcasts.

She is a 40 under 40 honoree by CPA Practice Advisor, showcased amongst the best and brightest talent in the accounting profession. Her firm Keystone CPA, Inc. was awarded a two-time winner of the Top CPA of Orange County Award by OC Metro Magazine.

She is certified by the CA State Board of Accountancy and is a member of the prestigious American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) with clients across the nation.

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There has been a lot of buzz in the real estate community about some of the benefits of “QRPs.”

What exactly are QRPs?

Do these benefits really exist?

Or is it another scam of the month that we should all be weary of as real estate investors?

The good news is… QRPs do actually offer a lot of the tax benefits that a traditional IRA does not, and may be one of the best retirement plans for investors. In this article, we will discuss some of the key differences and what you need to know as we approach the end of the 2013 year.

To start off, there are a handful different “types” of QRPs (qualified retirement plans). Some of the most commonly seen are 401(k)s, Simple 401(k)s, Safe-Harbor 401(k)s, and Self-Directed Solo(k)s. Each of these types of qualified retirement plans have different attributes in terms of contribution amounts, limits, and investment options. Of the above, the most commonly used vehicle for real estate investors is the Self-directed Solo(k).

Is the Solo(k)s the Best Retirement Plan?

There are several key differences to note when comparing the Solo(k) to the traditional IRA. One is the difference in contribution limits. While a traditional IRA generally has an annual contribution limit of up to $5,500 per person per year, the Solo (k) can allow for retirement contributions of $50,000 or more per person per year. Businesses with a spouse on the payroll can also contribute to the Solo(k). This means potentially being able to have retirement contributions of $100,000 or more each year that can reduce your taxes and be used for real estate investing. As you can see, this is significantly higher in dollar amount as compared with an IRA or a Roth IRA. This is a very significant difference especially if you are someone who is looking to maximize your tax deferred investing potential.

Another advantage that a Solo(k) has over the IRA is with respect to tax free Roth money. You may be familiar with the current income limitation that is in place to disallow higher income taxpayers to make contributions to Roth IRAs.  The Solo (k) on the other hand, typically comes built-in with a Roth bucket.

Taxpayers generally can contribute to the Roth bucket of their Solo(k) without any income limitations. Essentially, the Roth Solo K allows businesses owners, regardless of their income level, to contribute and participate in Roth Solo K contributions. Depending on your age, income, and investment preference, the ability for a high income taxpayer to have a Roth Solo(k) growing tax free may be one of the best gifts from the IRS.

On the topic of investment preferences, those of you who have self-directed IRAs may be familiar with its restriction from investing funds in S Corporations. Fortunately for a loophole in the tax law, you can use your Solo (k) money to invest in S Corporations. In addition to the traditionally off-limit S Corporation, Solo (k) funds can also invest in most other types of legal entities such as LLCs, Partnerships, and C Corporations.

On top of the seemingly endless types of investments offered by the ability to self-direct, Solo(k) plans also allow for an almost limitless opportunity to invest in most types of legal entities.

Who Can Have a Solk(k)?

Now that we’ve  talked about some of the benefits of the Solo(k), let’s discuss “who” can have a Solo(k).

The Solo(k) is a retirement plan designed for the small business owner.

How small is small you may be wondering? You qualify if you are a business owner or self-employed individual with no full time employees other than you and your spouse. One thing to note is that employing independent contractors in your business does not disqualify you from establishing a Solo 401k. Sole proprietors, independent contractors, C corporations, S corporations, partnerships and LLCs can qualify for this plan if the above requirement is met.

Two Deadlines for the Solo(k)

If you feel that a Solo(k) is a great investment vehicle for you, then you must be mindful of the two following deadlines:

1. The account itself must be set-up before December 31, 2013 in order for contributions to reduce your 2013 taxes, and

2. If you plan on making employee contributions, the employee deferral must generally also be made by December 31, 2013.   Keep in mind, you may also be able to make employer contributions to further decrease your tax bill for 2013.  The good news is that these contributions may be made as late as September or October of 2014 to still count as a tax deduction for 2013….the main thing is that the account itself must be set-up by December 31, 2013.

Here are a Few Key Take-away Points:

  • There are several different types of QRPs. The most common type used by real estate investors is the Solo(K)
  • Solo(k) can allow the account holder to potentially contribute more towards retirement each year than the traditional IRA
  • Solo (k) has more flexibility for investment choices as compared to an IRA and can allow taxpayers to put money towards a Roth bucket regardless of their income level.
  • Solo(k)s are available to small businesses as defined by the IRS. No legal entity is required to set-up a Solo(k).
  • Be wary of deadlines to open accounts and make contributions. There are ways to take a deduction up front and contribute at a later date if you set-up your plan correctly.

If you do not qualify for the Solo (k), don’t be discouraged. As we discussed earlier, there are a handful of other Qualified Retirement Plans (QRPs)  that offer similar benefits which you may be able to take advantage of. It’s best to speak with a professional about what the best retirement plans are for you.

Retirement investing is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to tax savings. Having the right type of retirement account could be the key to supercharging your wealth building.
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