What is the IRS Code for an IRA?

What is the IRS code for an IRA

IRS rules regarding an Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, can be complex and stringent, leading to severe penalties when violated. Prohibited transactions could involve anything from purchasing property between an IRA and disqualified individuals to hiring family members using assets held within an IRA account for services performed with those funds.

These rules are essential for anyone investing in alternative assets. Learn to recognize prohibited transactions and remain compliant!


IRS policies on prohibited transactions involving IRAs have historically been lax, yet with the proliferation of self-directed IRAs investing in alternative investments like real estate and startups becoming more common, these rules are under closer scrutiny than ever. Therefore it’s essential for owners of self-directed IRAs to understand how these rules apply in order to avoid initiating prohibited transactions even when advised that an investment is permissible by financial advisors.

In general, an IRA distribution from any source may only be rolled over once every 12 months and not more than once of any type of distribution (for more details see Form 1099-R instructions).

A code of P indicates that an IRA owner is currently participating in a defined contribution plan and that his/her distribution was made from contributions vested prior to this year (rather than from current year contributions vested). This code also applies to loan offsets on distributions where outstanding balances have already been included within taxable amounts.


IRS rules dictate that any prohibited transaction between disqualified people and retirement accounts could result in both parties incurring penalties; financial organizations require those claiming disability to submit an IRS Schedule R when filing their returns.

As well as traditional stocks and bonds and funds that hold them, IRA rules prohibit investing in life insurance contracts, collectibles and S corporations – leaving plenty of leeway between these extremes for “alternative” investment types, like limited partnership investments in small (privately-held) businesses or unsecured debt instruments to fill.

Use code H, Direct Rollover to Roth IRA, when reporting distributions from non-Roth QRPs that have been directly transferred into Roth IRAs. Also applicable are direct rollovers from 401(k) plans and SEP IRAs directly into Roths. You should never combine code H with any other codes.


IRA owners typically do not incur taxes when taking distributions from their account; however, if your IRA has engaged in prohibited transactions involving disqualified parties or investments that do not adhere to traditional publicly traded security protocols, penalty taxes could apply.

IRS law mandates that each year, your trustee of an IRA provide you with a Form 1099-R that details any distributions you received, along with a distribution code to indicate their type.

Box 7 of your 1099-R identifies your distribution code for an IRA, SEP or SIMPLE account. If it lands a P code, any gross distribution will carry over into Form 1040 Line 7 as wages.

Other distribution codes include Code G for direct rollover from an employer-sponsored plan or Roth IRA to another qualifying retirement plan or Roth IRA; Code H for rollover into designated Roth accounts and Code Q for distributions after age 5912. Please see Distribution Codes in Form 1099-R instructions for further information.


IRAs are designed to encourage saving for retirement by offering tax advantages such as tax-deductible contributions and tax-free growth, however their use is restricted by the Internal Revenue Code which limits investments to traditional publicly traded stocks and bonds (or funds that hold them), prohibiting life insurance contracts, collectibles or S corporations from being included within an IRA account.

Additionally, the IRS taxes distributions from an IRA in certain ways. For instance, early withdrawals usually incur an extra 10% tax that must be paid, unless you qualify for a waiver.

Assuming you take out your RMD every year from your IRA, taking it will allow you to avoid an extra 10% tax burden. Your RMD amount depends on your age and life expectancy, which you can calculate using IRS Publication 590-B tables. Failing to do so, will incur an excise tax of 50% of what was supposed to have been taken but wasn’t.

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