Posted over 6 years ago

Compare: Self-Directed Solo 401k vs. Self-Directed IRA

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The most popular self-directed retirement accounts include the solo 401k and the self-directed IRA.  In this blog, we cover the similarities and differences between these two vastly popular self-directed retirement accounts.

The Self-Directed IRA and Solo 401k Similarities

  • Both were created by congress for individuals to save for retirement;
  • Both may be invested in alternative investments such as real estate, precious metals tax liens, promissory notes, private company shares, and stocks and mutual funds, to name a few;
  • Both allow for Roth contributions;
  • Both are subject to prohibited transaction rules;
  • Both are subject to federal taxes at time of distribution;
  • Both allow for checkbook control for placing alternative investments;
  • Both may be invested in annuities;
  • Both are protected from bankruptcy creditors;
  • Both are prohibited from investing in assets listed under I.R.C. 408(m); and
  • Neither may be directly invested in your own business startup-click here to learn about the ROBS 401k/PSP which may be invested in your business.

The Self-Directed IRA and Solo 401k Differences

  • In order to open a solo 401k, self-employment, whether on a part-time or full-time basis, is required;
  • To open a self-directed IRA, self-employment income is not required;
  • In order to gain IRA checkbook control over the self-directed IRA funds, a limited liability company (self-directed IRA LLC) must be utilized;
  • The solo 401k allows for checkbook control outside the LLC;
  • The solo 401k allows for personal loan known as a solo 401k loan;
  • If you borrow from your own IRA, it will be deemed a taxable distribution;
  • Unlike an IRA, a Solo 401k can invest in life insurance;
  • The solo 401k allow for high contribution amounts (for 2015; the solo 401k contribution limit is $53,000, whereas the self-directed IRA contribution limit is $5,500);
  • The solo 401k business owner can serve as trustee of his or her solo 401k;
  • The self-directed IRA participant/owner may not serve as trustee or custodian of his or her IRA; instead, a trust company or bank institution is required;
  • Unlike an IRA, generally when distributions commence from the solo 401k a mandatory 20% of federal taxes must be withheld from each distribution and submitted electronically to the IRS by the 15th of the month following the date of each distribution;
  • Rollovers and/or transfers from IRAs or qualified plans (e.g., former employer 401k) to a solo 401k are not reported on Form 5498, but rather on Form 5500-EZ, but only if the air market value of the solo 401k exceeds $250K as of the end of the plan year (generally 12/31);
  • When funds are rolled over or transferred from an IRA or 401k to a self-directed IRA, the amount deposited into the self-directed IRA is reported on Form 5498 by the receiving self-directed IRA custodian, generally by May of the year following the rollover/transfer.
  • Rollovers (provided the 60 day rollover window is satisfied) from an IRA to a Solo 401k or self-directed IRA are reported on lines 15a and 15b of Form 1040;
  • Pre-tax IRA contributions on reported on line 32 of Form 1040;
  • Pre-tax solo 401k contributions are reported on line 28 of Form 1040;
  • Roth solo 401k funds are subject to RMDs;
  • A Roth 401k may be transferred to a Roth IRA--from a planning perspective, it may be advantageous to transfer Roth Solo 401k funds to a Roth IRA before turning age 70 ½ in order to escape the Roth 401k  RMD requirement;
  • Roth IRA funds are not subject to requirement minimum distributions (RMDs);
  • The fair market value (FMV) of assets held in a self-directed IRA is reported on form 5498;
  • The fair market value of assets held in a solo 401k are reported on Form 5500-EZ;
  • At termination, the solo 401k is required to file a final Form 5500-EZ and 1099-R; and
  • At termination, the self-directed IRA is only required to file a form 1099-R.

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For additional information surrounding the solo 401k or self-directed IRA click here.  



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