IRA No-No's: Things That Aren't Allowed in IRAs

IRA No-No’s: 12 Things That Aren’t Allowed in IRAs


Written by John Rothans

Sep 18, 2020

Self-Directed IRAs offer account holders an incredible amount of freedom. This freedom is one of the biggest draws for IRAs. You have control over the asset mix. Within each asset class, you can control how much is purchased and when. You can even purchase alternative assets like IRS-eligible precious metals, real estate, and private equity.

So where does the IRS draw the line with all of this freedom? You know what can be included in an IRA. Now learn what can’t. Here are 12 things that the IRS excludes from being housed in a Self-Directed IRA and other kinds of IRAs:

  1. Alcoholic beverages (such as rare wine).
  2. Antiques. This includes rugs, furniture, silverware, and toy trains. Financial website Zacks.com notes that while you can’t hold antiques in an IRA, you can hold shares of a limited partnership that owns antiques.
  3. Artwork.
  4. Collectible baseball cards.
  5. Some collectible coins (except gold or silver coins that meet a set of requirements detailed by the Internal Revenue Code). Excluded are many foreign coins, such as British pounds and Mexican pesos. Included are American Eagle Bullion Coins, American Eagle Proof Coins, American Buffalo Bullion Coins, Pearl Harbor Coins, Australian Kangaroo/Nugget Coins, Australian Kookaburra Coins, Austrian Philharmonic Coins, and Canadian Maple Leaf Coins.
  6. Collectible comic books.
  7. Foreign assets, except American Depository Receipts (ADRs), and holdings of domestic mutual funds and exchange-traded funds.
  8. Gemstones.
  9. Life insurance.
  10. Metals other than certain gold, silver, platinum, and palladium bullion coins and bars; these are the only precious metals that are approved for IRA inclusion. Metals like rhodium, iridium, titanium, tungsten, and steel are not.
  11. Postage stamps.
  12. Properties used by the IRA account holder or their families, such as vacation homes, second homes, or business offices. Real estate held in an IRA “must be solely an investment; the taxpayer or related parties cannot use it in any way,” according to the Journal of Accountancy.

The Journal of Accountancy explains that illiquid assets, such as collectibles and some real estate types, aren’t allowed in IRAs because an ample amount of liquidity is critical when it comes to retirement assets. If too much money is tied up in illiquid assets, the Journal writes, there might not be enough cash flow available for retirees, heirs, or required distributions. Furthermore, the regulation of collectibles and real estate stored in an IRA can be fuzzy. (An IRS grandfather clause exempts collectibles acquired by an IRA before January 1, 1982.)

“Artwork [is] excluded from IRAs because during the early 1970s, some stolen art from the Nazi era was found. Due to the protection that the IRA would provide to assets held in the account, the government didn’t want to provide a vehicle that could shelter stolen artwork from being reclaimed,” says Kirk Chisholm, wealth manager at Innovative Advisory Group in Lexington, Massachusetts.

What about life insurance? The Journal of Accountancy reports that federal lawmakers didn’t want to permit life insurance policies to be included in IRAs because the retirement accounts wouldn’t offer inflation-protected returns. Furthermore, legislators hoped to shield IRA account holders from high-pressure sales tactics employed by life insurance providers.

Precious Metals in IRAs

We work hard to take the guesswork out of precious metals—which includes helping our clients understand how to add IRS-approved gold and silver to their IRAs. Browse online and call 855-889-5111 to select gold and silver for your IRA today.


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