Best Practices for Maximizing Your Tax Benefits With a Self-Directed IRA

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes(Last Updated On: August 28, 2014)

Self-directed IRAs are a powerful tool to help individuals build the largest possible retirement nest eggs. Obviously there is great value to being able to choose from the widest possible range of investment options. But the greatest upside of having a self-directed IRA and making regular contributions to it is the fact that it provides you with long term tax-deferred (or, in the case of a Roth IRA, tax-free) growth.

Here are some of the best practices for maximizing all the available tax benefits you have with a self-directed IRA.

Current Year Tax Deductions for Contributions

If your self-directed IRA is structured as a traditional account, then you may be able to take a current year tax deduction for the value of your annual contributions, depending on your income and whether you are covered by a retirement plan at work. While you’ll be subject to taxation on withdrawals from your traditional self-directed IRA once you reach retirement (which wouldn’t be the case for withdrawals from a Roth account), you may decide that the current year tax advantage is worth it to you.

Hold Tax-Advantaged Investments in Your Taxable Accounts

Because all investment income and capital growth that happens within a self-directed IRA is tax-advantaged, holding investments that have built in tax-advantages is redundant and wasteful in terms of tax benefits. Therefore, if you invest in tax-free government bonds then those assets would be better held in a taxable account, and not your self-directed IRA.

Avoid UBTI

Also in the same category of avoiding mistakes is making sure used to your clear of unrelated business taxable income (UBTI). In the context of self-directed IRAs, UBTI most often becomes an issue when an account holder borrows money to make an investment – commonly by taking out a mortgage in order to buy real estate. Borrowing money to invest is outside of the statutory authorizations of any IRA, so it’s important to avoid any transactions that would lessen the tax benefits of your account.

Maximize Tax Free Growth

In order to maximize the benefits of tax-deferred or tax-free growth within your self-directed IRA, it’s important to let your account grow for as long as possible. One implication is that you should try to avoid taking any early withdrawals from your account. Even if you fall within one of the penalty-free exemptions for doing so, by reducing the amount you have invested you reduce the amount of tax benefit you’ll achieve in the years leading up to retirement.

Consider a Conversion to a Self-Directed Roth IRA

Finally, if you truly want to maximize your tax benefits, consider converting a traditional self-directed IRA into a self-directed Roth account. You’ll need to pay taxes on the conversion amount, but if you can afford that current year tax hit, and you have a number of years before retirement, it may be the best long-term decision.

Of course, tax laws evolve and change over time, so it’s also very important that you stay up-to-date on all the rules and regulations regarding self-directed IRAs.

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