Self-Directed IRA and 1031 Exchanges: Powerful Tools for a Real Estate Investor

We receive numerous calls regarding the use of Self-Directed IRAs and 1031 Exchanges. While many investors use one strategy or the other, savvy investors recognize that each has unique benefits, and they can be used in tandem as part of a creative investment strategy.
SDIRA and 1031 Exchanges as Tools for Real Estate Investors

What is an IRA?

IRA stands for Individual Retirement Arrangement, and Investors may make contributions to their Individual Retirement Accounts. According to the Internal Revenue Service, a traditional IRA is a tax-advantaged personal savings plan where contributions may be tax deductible. They use the word “may” because there are annual contribution limits based on age and income, and whether the investor is covered by a retirement plan at work. For 2023, the annual contribution limit is $6,500, or $7,500 if the investor is age 50 or older.

Contributions made to an IRA within the IRS limits are tax deductible, and any interest or growth on those investments is tax deferred. Withdrawals made before age 59-½ are subject to penalties, and investors must start making withdrawals when they reach age 73. When the investor starts making withdrawals, those withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income.

IRAs are held by a custodian, such as banks, brokerages, or other financial institutions, many of which have recognizable names, including our affiliate, Millennium Trust Company. There are many kinds of assets an investor may hold in their IRA (subject to several prohibitions, including collectibles and insurance policies). However, the largest brokerages and financial institutions tend to limit investments to stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. (See IRS Publication 590-A for more information on IRAs.)

What is a Self-Directed IRA?

A Self-Directed IRA (“SDIRA”) is an IRA held by a custodian that allows for investment in a broader range of assets than other IRA custodians. These “alternative assets” may include real estate, precious metals and other commodities, tax lien certificates, and others. Additionally, while the custodian administers the account, it is directly managed by the investor, which is why it is called self-directed. As with traditional IRAs, SDIRA contributions and transactions are tax deductible.

Among the more common investments in SDIRAs is investment in real estate. These investments can be in the form of single-family, multi-family, commercial, industrial, office, improved or unimproved land, or virtually any other interest in investment real estate. Foreign real estate is also permitted.

When owning real estate inside of an SDIRA, all income from the real estate belongs to the SDIRA, not to the investor. Thus, the investor cannot use any rental income from the real estate to cover personal living expenses. Additionally, when selling real estate that is owned by the SDIRA, all profits or losses belong to the SDIRA and continue to grow tax deferred. If the investor chooses to reinvest in more real estate, there are no timing restrictions, and proceeds may be held in the SDIRA until they are deployed toward the acquisition of a new asset. There are prohibitions on “self-dealing” that are essentially the same as the related party rules in a Section 1031 exchange. This rule also prohibits investors from making any personal use of an SDIRA asset.

Section 1031 Exchanges Compared to SDIRAs

Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The comprehensive set of tax laws created by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This code was enacted as Title 26 of the United States Code by Congress, and is sometimes also referred to as the Internal Revenue Title. The code is organized according to topic, and covers all relevant rules pertaining to income, gift, estate, sales, payroll and excise taxes. Internal Revenue Code allows an owner of business or investment real estate to sell old property (Relinquished Property) and acquire new property (Replacement Property) without paying any taxes on the profit (capital gains) of the sale of the old property. The principle underlying these “tax-deferred exchanges” is that by using the exchange value from one property to buy another—instead of receiving cash for that exchange value—the property owner is simply continuing the investment from the original property into the new property. As such, the IRS will not recognize the sale as a taxable event, provided that the owner (referred to in this article as the “taxpayer” or “exchanger”) adheres to the many rules governing exchanges.

As with the SDIRA, in a Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 states that "no gain or loss shall be recognized on the exchange of property held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment if such property is exchanged solely for property of like kind which is to be held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment." 1031 Exchange , real estate can be any asset class – single-family, multi-family, commercial, industrial, raw land, etc. Section 1031 rules require that both the Relinquished and Replacement Properties be “held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment”. This is similar to the prohibition on self-dealing discussed above. Moreover, Section 1031 provides for a deferral of the state and federal capital gains and depreciation recapture taxes, as well as the net investment income tax, if applicable much like the SDIRA. But the similarities largely fade after this point.

SDIRA and 1031 Exchange Differences

First, there are no limits to the amount of money that can be invested using Section 1031. Further, while rental income from SDIRA property must stay within the SDIRA, any income generated from a Section 1031 exchange property can be used by the taxpayer to pay their own personal expenses, or however they wish. Another unique requirement for a valid 1031 exchange is that upon the sale of the Relinquished Property, the proceeds must be held by a Qualified Intermediary, and the taxpayer must avoid even “constructive receipt” of the exchange funds. Lastly, there are strict time limits imposed on Section 1031 exchange transactions, including the 45-day Identification Period and the 180-day The transfer of the relinquished property to the Qualified Intermediary, and the receipt of the replacement property from the Qualified Intermediary is considered an exchange. To be compliant with IRC Section 1031, the transaction must be properly structured, rather than being a sale to one party followed by a purchase from another party. Exchange period.

Starting with the date of sale of the Those certain items of real and/or personal property described in the relinquished property contract and qualifying as “relinquished property” within the meaning of Treasury Regulations Section 1.1031(k)-1(a); The "Old Asset”, property or properties given up or conveyed by a taxpayer as part of a 1031 exchange. Relinquished Property , the taxpayer must identify a short list of potential Replacement Properties within 45 days following one of the identification rules and the taxpayer must complete the acquisition of one or more of those identified properties within 180 days (or the due date of the taxpayer’s tax return for the year that the exchange commenced).

And while foreign real estate may be part of the taxpayer’s portfolio, foreign real estate is not like-kind to domestic real estate, and they cannot be part of the same Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 states that "no gain or loss shall be recognized on the exchange of property held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment if such property is exchanged solely for property of like kind which is to be held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment." 1031 Exchange transaction.

Consult with a Professional

Since owning investment real estate inside an SDIRA is already a tax-deferred situation, the use of Section 1031 on the sale of SDIRA real estate is not necessary. But many investors who hold real estate inside an SDIRA also hold investment real estate directly, outside of their SDIRA. Owning investment real estate in an SDIRA, or outside of the SDIRA, each have merits and pitfalls. Each can be part of a successful real estate investment strategy, independently, or together. This article is not intended to be an exhaustive dissertation on the uses of these two investment strategies, but rather a conversation starter. Investors are encouraged to discuss their unique situations with their financial planner, attorney, and accountant, as well as a 1031 exchange representative at Accruit.


The material in this blog is presented for informational purposes only. The information presented is not investment, legal, tax or compliance advice. Accruit performs the duties of a Qualified A person acting to facilitate an exchange under section 1031 and the regulations. This person may not be the taxpayer or a disqualified person. Section 1.1031(k)-1(g)(4)(iii) requires that, for an intermediary to be a qualified intermediary, the intermediary must enter into a written "exchange" agreement with the taxpayer and, as required by the exchange agreement, acquire the relinquished property from the taxpayer, transfer the relinquished property, acquire the replacement property, and transfer the replacement property to the taxpayer. Intermediary , and as such does not offer or sell investments or provide investment, legal, or tax advice.