What Assets Cannot Be Held in an IRA?

Your IRA comes with certain rules you cannot break; otherwise it would constitute a prohibited transaction and your account would no longer exist.

These rules, known as Plan Asset Rules, set forth how your IRA may invest in certain assets:.

Real estate

The Internal Revenue Service imposes stringent rules regarding how individual retirement accounts (IRAs) can invest in alternative asset classes like real estate. Due to these stringent rules, IRAs haven’t typically been used for investing property. A self-directed IRA looking into property investments must use a custodian that specializes in these accounts to manage transactions, paperwork and financial reporting for its investments.

Custodians must abide by the exclusive benefit rule, which mandates that no one else can use investment property owned by your IRA (excluding yourself and members of your immediate family), who are called disqualified persons. Your IRA must be the sole beneficiary and pay all expenses related to repairs or maintenance – to prevent self-dealing and avoid breach of prohibited transaction rules.


Stocks may be placed into an IRA account provided it is self-directed and fees for its custodian are charged. Investors can choose to buy individual company shares or construct a portfolio consisting of index funds and ETFs for greater diversification over time, leading to better overall returns.

An Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, allows for almost any investment imaginable, except life insurance contracts and collectibles which are prohibited. Some custodians offer self-directed IRAs (SDIRAs), providing more flexibility for alternative investments like venture capital and private equity that usually offer higher earnings potential and risk than traditional investments like stocks or bonds; these investments must however qualify as qualified retirement plans in order for tax deferment treatment when they’re withdrawn from an IRA, including dividends that might accrue.


Tax law and regulations contain the primary investment guidelines affecting IRAs, so investors must familiarize themselves with them in order to avoid prohibited transactions while making prudent, allowable investments.

Municipal bond funds issued by local government entities may be eligible for inclusion in an IRA, while high yield bonds (commonly referred to as junk bonds) can also be held within it.

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) cannot be held within an IRA due to their need to be registered with specific individuals or entities, but investors can gain exposure by buying ETFs that track inflation-protected bonds instead. Furthermore, investors should avoid investments that generate short-term capital gains as these may incur taxes upon selling.

Money market instruments

Money market instruments are short-term loans used by banks and corporations to meet immediate financial needs while giving savers an opportunity to earn interest on savings accounts. Common examples of such investments include commercial paper, treasury bills and certificates of deposit. Your IRA may invest in these instruments without violating the exclusive benefit rule, but co-investing with disqualified parties (such as family) would violate it.

Self-directed IRAs allow investors to invest in many different assets, including real estate and private equity, but the fees and charges for these investments tend to be higher than traditional IRAs. Furthermore, you should take care not to engage in prohibited transactions that result in your IRA receiving personal benefits or fiduciary violations.

Other investments

An IRA does not permit certain investments, including life insurance contracts and collectibles like art works and antiques. Furthermore, you cannot invest in capital investments like S corporations (due to special shareholder restrictions) and alcohol beverages.

An IRA must not lend money to anyone disqualified, including its owner and any direct descendent from them, as lending money in this manner constitutes a prohibited transaction, which will incur taxes and penalties upon its occurrence.

Additionally, IRAs cannot invest outside the US as this would violate IRS guidelines and require distribution from your account; any transactions would then be taxed with an associated 10% penalty fee.

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