Internal Revenue Code Section 514(c)(9) permits a few types of exempt organizations to make debt-financed investments in real property without becoming taxable under Code Section 514. Note – the exemption only applies to real estate and not to other types of non-recourse financing.
The Section 514 exemption applies to any “qualified organization,” a term that includes (1) schools, colleges, universities, and their “affiliated support organizations,” (2) qualified pension, profit sharing, and stock bonus trusts, and (3) title holding companies exempt under § 501(c)(25). In general, indebtedness incurred by a qualified organization in acquiring or improving real property is not acquisition indebtedness if the transaction navigates through a long list of prohibitions. In other words, a 401(k) Plan or a Solo 401K, Individual 401K, or Self Directed 401K Plan can use non-recourse leverage when purchasing real property with 401(k) Plan assets and not be subject to the Unrelated Debt-Financed Income rules, which in-turn trigger an Unrelated Business Taxable Income tax (approximately 35%). Note – only non-recourse leverage can be used when acquiring property by a 401K or Solo 401K Plan since, a disqualified person (401(k) plan participant or trustee) cannot personally guarantee the loan (recourse loan) since that would violate the prohibited transaction rules pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 4975. It is important to remember that this exemption would not apply to an IRA since an IRA is not a qualified pension, profit sharing, and stock bonus trusts.
To satisfy the exemption under IRC 514, the price paid by the organization for the property or improvement must be fixed when the property is acquired or the improvement is completed, neither the amount nor the due date of any payment under the indebtedness can be contingent on the revenue, income, or profits from the property, and the property may not be leased to the person who sold the property to the organization or to any person related to the seller within the meaning of Code Section 267(b) or Code Section 707(b). If the organization is a qualified pension, profit sharing, or stock bonus trust, the property may not be purchased from or leased to the employer of any of the employees covered by the trust or any one of several persons related to the employer. Financing for the property may not be received from the person who sold the property to the organization, a person related to the seller within the meaning of Code Section 267(b) or Code Section 707(b), or, if the organization is a qualified employee trust, an employer or related person who is disqualified from being seller or lessee under the rule described in the preceding sentence. The property must usually be owned directly by the qualified organization, except that an interest in a partnership or other pass-through entity qualifies if all of the partners or other owners are qualified organizations and each partner or other owner is allocated the same distributive share of every item of partnership income, deduction, and credit.
History of IRC 514 and UBTI
When § 514(c)(9) was enacted in 1980, it applied only to qualified pension, profit sharing, and stock bonus plans, but its scope was broadened in 1984 to include schools, colleges, and universities.
Many people ask why this exemption only applies to 401K Plans and not IRAs. The only reason given in the committee reports for the exemption is that some people wanted it: “Trustees of these plans are desirous of investing in real estate for diversification and to offset inflation. Debt-financing is common in real estate investments.” The provision was originally limited to qualified employee trusts on the theory that the income would eventually be taxed to employees and their beneficiaries.