[This is a continuation of a previous post. You should read that one first so this makes sense.]
The IRS Responds
For the first time ever, the IRS actually addressed the “financing a small business with an IRA or 401(k)” strategy. They called it “ROBS” for “roll over business startup,” and issued a letter on October 1, 2008. This letter basically stated:
- We know about the ROBS strategy
- We are concerned about it for several reasons
Celebrate and Ignore
Most ROBS promoters spun the IRS ROBS letter as a long-awaited government blessing for the strategy. They said that the concerns that the IRS listed were administrative errors, such as not filing the plan’s annual valuation report, not telling the corporation’s employees that they can also participate in the plan, and not ever launching a bona fide business in the first place. “These can be avoided. Read between the lines here.”
According to ROBS promoters, what was between the lines is that the IRS implied that the ROBS strategy was legitimate in the first place.
You would think my quest for a final answer to “Is the ROBS strategy legal or illegal?” would lead me to the IRS building in Washington, D.C… Not so. What ROBS promoters were ignoring (or unaware of) is that a strange, mostly unknown Presidential move from the 70s placed this matter outside of the IRS and onto a different government agency. In fact, the IRS letter talked around the core ROBS issue and never faced “Is the ROBS strategy legal or illegal?” head on—because, after the move in the 70s, they actually don’t have the legal authority to comment or decide on the issue.
Determined to get to the bottom of this, I went to the other government agency.
Oh yeah, let me tell you why this matter is so important: If the ROBS promoters are wrong, everyone who believed them will be subject to a tax of at least 115% of the amount of funds involved in the strategy. OUCH!