Ever since I read about Peter Thiel and his $5M Roth IRA, I have been fascinated at the amount of generational wealth his family can enjoy tax-free. He managed this fantastic feat by purchasing pre-IPO PayPal stock in his Roth IRA, which had explosive growth resulting in his huge Roth IRA balance.
Roth IRAs are significant tax-saving investment vehicles since the earnings grow tax-free, and you never have to pay tax on it again.
If you and I are not entrepreneurs with access to pre-IPO stock, very few income-producing assets have had explosive growth over the last decade.
Only one comes to mind.
Bitcoin has produced an average annualized return of 230% over the last decade. More than ten times higher than the second-ranked asset class, the Nasdaq 100 stocks.
I am sure you must be wondering if you can make an IRA investment in cryptocurrency? Is investing in cryptocurrency in your retirement account safe and legal?
Few people knew about cryptocurrencies as just fanciful digital coins for a while, but that’s beginning to change.
Indeed, people haven’t fully embraced cryptocurrencies, but they are certainly more legitimate today than before. Their legitimacy continues to grow so much that some folks are considering crypto-based retirement accounts.
Some may wonder what a crypto IRA is? Let us look at the pros and cons of Cryptocurrency IRA and the pros and cons of investing bitcoin in your IRA.
What Is Cryptocurrency IRA?
A crypto IRA is a type of individual retirement account (IRA) developed for individuals who want to profit from the digital currency market without giving up the tax shelter benefits of an IRA. A Cryptocurrency IRA is invested in Bitcoin, Ethereum, or other cryptocurrencies.
The broader adoption of cryptocurrencies coupled with their meteoric price gains has led individuals to wonder if investing their IRA in assets like cryptocurrencies is possible.
Cryptocurrency IRAs, sometimes known as Bitcoin IRAs, are self-directed retirement accounts. You select the investments, and the invested assets are kept secure by a custodian responsible for IRS reporting. An exception to the custodian requirement is a crypto IRA held within a limited liability company (LLC).
Why Invest In Cryptocurrency in an IRA
Since 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has considered bitcoin and other virtual currencies property. It means the IRS will tax these digital coins when you sell or trade them.
As a result, there are several considerations for investing IRA contributions in cryptocurrencies.
Possible Growth Potential
Asset A will grow 20%, while Asset B will grow 200%.
Since the amount of money you can invest every year in tax-sheltered accounts like IRA, 401(k), Roth IRA, etc., is limited, you have to choose if you place Asset A or Asset B in the tax-sheltered account.
Before the emergence of Cryptocurrencies, you would place stocks in tax-sheltered accounts and buy bonds in taxable accounts. The advent of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies has led us to rethink the most optimal investment option in tax-sheltered accounts.
Easy Tax Reporting For Trades
Although you may prefer HODLing bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, several individuals choose to trade crypto frequently. The volatility of virtual currencies makes it an attractive target for individuals who want to sell high and buy low.
If you trade virtual currencies outside of a tax-sheltered account, you would have a nightmare at filing taxes with keeping track of all the transactions. Most cryptocurrency exchanges do not create neat tax reporting forms like the brokerages do for stock trades. You might have to manually keep track of all your costs and profit/loss generated.
You’ll have to complete numerous tax forms, including 1040, Schedule D, and Form 8949. Every trade (buy or sale) must be documented with the buy price and date and the selling price and date.
Besides the tax reporting nightmare with trading outside of tax-sheltered accounts, you would also need to pay taxes on your profits. Your profits are taxed under either a short-term or long-term capital gains regime.
However, investing your crypto in a Traditional or Roth IRA may be a tax-advantageous scenario.
A cryptocurrency IRA is treated similarly to other self-directed IRAs regarding taxes. You won’t pay capital gains taxes until you start taking withdrawals from your account during retirement. Your tax bracket should be lower, offering tax savings.
Furthermore, if you buy and sell bitcoin and other cryptos within a tax-sheltered account like a Roth IRA, you don’t need to pay taxes even on distribution.
Remember, even trading one virtual currency for another is a taxable event to be reported. So if you exchange Bitcoin for Doge in your taxable account, that transaction is considered a sale of Bitcoin, and you will be taxed on it if done in a taxable account.
The taxes you pay for trading in a taxable account would be determined based on your holding period. Like stocks, you would pay short-term gains taxed at your regular income tax rates if held for less than a year. And if you sell cryptocurrencies after more than a year, you receive a favorable long-term capital gains tax rate.
If you’re OK with taking a risk now in exchange for larger payouts later, as well as some significant tax benefits on the way, opening a crypto IRA may be an option to consider.
How To Invest In Cryptocurrency In Your IRA?
Many financial advisors will tell folks to avoid crypto investment in an IRA. Crypto is still quite volatile, making it a scary thing to invest in, especially if it has anything to do with a person’s retirement.
Also, it can get a little complicated for those trying to buy crypto in IRA. Hence, folks thinking of making this move should hire a custodian to help with the transition and management of such a move.
One should pause here because this step comes with an obstacle. The issue is not many custodians are willing to accept crypto in an IRA. Thankfully, there’s a way around this issue. Folks who want to add crypto in their IRAs can have self-directed IRAs or SDIRAs, which usually allow for these sorts of unorthodox properties.
A self-directed IRA (SD-IRA) allows investors to choose their investments rather than being limited to traditional assets such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit (CDs). Individuals have used the SDIRA accounts to invest in real estate, partnerships, tax liens, etc.
Now you can invest in virtual currencies through a self-directed IRA cryptocurrency account.
How Does a Cryptocurrency IRA Work?
A cryptocurrency IRA functions similarly to a traditional IRA, except that you invest in cryptocurrency instead of stocks and bonds. Traditional and Roth self-directed IRAs are available, each with its own set of tax benefits. The annual contribution limits for a Cryptocurrency IRA are the same, and you can rollover funds from a traditional IRA or 401(k) to a self-directed IRA.
Self-directed IRAs are somewhat similar to IRAs at traditional brokerages, but they have a few crucial distinctions. With a crypto IRA, you generally won’t get the one-stop-shopping experience offered by most brokerages, where you can set up an IRA and purchase and sell equities all in one location.
Due to the nature of cryptocurrency IRA being a self-directed IRA, you have to be aware of 3 areas
• The custodian is in charge of your IRA and is obligated to maintain it according to IRS and government rules. Banks and other financial institutions typically play this role with traditional IRAs.
• A crypto exchange is similar to the stock market in that it’s a marketplace where cryptocurrencies may be bought and sold. Your cryptocurrency account is connected to a particular exchange. You can buy and sell only the cryptocurrencies traded on that exchange.
Since cryptocurrency exchanges attract hackers due to their high prices, many cryptocurrency custodians also provide cold storage wallets and insurance for your crypto IRA accounts.
The Pros Of Cryptocurrency IRA
Some of the pros of cryptocurrency investing are
We have already discussed some of the pros or advantages of cryptocurrency investing in these IRAs. Investments held within a retirement plan like a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA gains grow without being subject to taxes. If you want to obtain your distributions tax-free, they should invest crypto in Roth IRA.
Investments made within an IRA are sheltered from taxable events when you buy and sell one cryptocurrency for another or even fiat currency.
Simplified Tax Reporting
You are not required to disclose cryptocurrency transactions of every trade you make if you invest in cryptocurrency through an IRA. You report contributions made to the account to the IRS for tax benefits. Your IRA custodian handles other tax reporting.
The second major perk of opening up a cryptocurrency IRA account is diversification.
In a rapidly changing world, it’s wise to seek stability. Diversification offers stability, and that’s attractive to anyone. The advantage of a self-directed crypto IRA is amplified because it’s cryptocurrency.
Some folks may wonder why this is the case. It has to do with cryptocurrency being almost wholly disconnected from the world.
Fiat money is affected more directly by conflicts among nations, central bank printing, or bad government decisions, such as Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). Digital coins are virtually immune to all that, giving a self-directed IRA crypto an edge.
While it is true that more people are starting to trust digital coins, the reality is most people still don’t.
Fiat money dominates the world; most people have this kind of money in their pockets; it’s what most folks get paid with. Since most people haven’t embraced crypto yet, some can get coins at a bargain.
Remember that crypto love continues to grow and find ways to legitimize itself. There are charities accepting Bitcoin or some other crypto coins. More companies are taking it as payment.
Credit card companies like Visa have started issuing cards permitting users to accumulate rewards in bitcoin. All of this is pointing towards the future. And it’s telling investors that the time for cryptocurrency is maybe coming.
Although cryptocurrency has been in the news lately, it was only invented eleven years ago and is still in its infancy. It is why some financial advisors tell people to get a self-directed IRA for cryptocurrency. It is a retirement account anyways. It gives crypto a longer time to settle and find its footing.
It doesn’t mean everything will be golden since this is a cryptocurrency, after all. Of course, the market is still quite volatile and unpredictable.
A person who’s determined to do this should never put all of their eggs in one basket. Diversification matters, so look at other parts of the economy like real estate crowdfunding or investing in stocks.
The Cons Of Cryptocurrency IRA
Some of the cons of cryptocurrency investing are
Of course, there are some disadvantages. Some of these are widely known like that crypto is volatile. Anyone who invests in it will feel like they are on a never-ending rollercoaster, and that’s no way to live, especially for a retiree.
The price for some digital coins was at an all-time high back in 2017, only to plummet right after. It took a few years to recover, but it did, and it hit another all-time high in 2021. Stability is hard to reach with crypto, so many retirees aren’t comfortable with a crypto self-directed IRA.
Another disadvantage to point out has to do with the fact that no one can predict the future. While it’s true that more businesses and organizations are adopting crypto, it still hasn’t been fully embraced.
Some say that digital currency will take over the world, but it’s been years. Fiat money is still king. Maybe digital currency will take a little longer to take hold, or perhaps this is as far as it’s going to go.
The reality is that no one knows. Crypto could reach price stability by the time a person retires, or it might not happen by that time. That kind of uncertainty doesn’t feel so great.
It’s not all bad news, though. There are signs of good things to come. For example, countries like El Salvador, and a few others, are investing significantly in crypto. The countries taking this step have been smaller countries, but there’s movement nonetheless.
Most likely, these countries are doing this because they want to be a part of the future. They are tired of relying on the whims of the IMF and other countries. There’s no telling what could happen in the future, but it seems like it can go either way for folks who take the risk and get involved with cryptocurrency.
The next significant disadvantage deals with fees. We have all been spoilt with investment platforms like M1Finance who charge no fees for auto-investment in stocks and other free features like auto-rebalancing, pies of hedge funds, etc. You can read my complete M1Finance Review here.
But because of the additional regulatory reporting requirements and paperwork involved with self-directed IRAs, most Cryptocurrency IRA accounts charge fees. No one loves paying more for anything, yet that’s what crypto owners have to worry about, including folks who are adding some to their retirement portfolio. Even if one finds the best self-directed IRA for cryptocurrency, those fees will still be there.
I consider fees as the cost of doing business. Since Cryptocurrency IRAs provide me the convenience of investing my tax-sheltered money into crypto, I am OK with paying fees. But you might not be.
Some companies will charge an initial setup fee, while others may charge a custodian fee. Some may charge an annual maintenance fee or trading fees for every buy/sell order. Costs vary from company to company.
Life can throw a punch at an individual out of nowhere. Even if the intent was to avoid touching the retirement account, life might have other plans, and there is still a chance that an owner might need to withdraw from their account prematurely.
If this happens, these individuals may have to worry about taxes linked to capital gains that can be significant. Also, cryptocurrencies might be in a bear market when you need to withdraw prematurely, so factor in that risk.
Lack Of Government Insurance
The FDIC deposit insurance or SIPC protects your money in the event of a bank failure. The FDIC or SIPC does not cover cryptocurrency. Most IRA providers who specialize in digital assets provide high-value insurance to cover coins in the case of a breach. Different firms offer varying levels of coverage, so check the limits.
Coins Limited By Exchange
Most Cryptocurrency IRA accounts are linked to one exchange. If you want to trade an obscure coin not available on that particular exchange, you won’t be able to buy it.
Can’t Deduct Losses
In a regular taxable account, you can offset losses against gains and even deduct up to $3,000 in capital losses against your income every year and carry forward the remaining losses to future years.
In an IRA account, you also can’t do tax-loss harvesting, in which you sell your assets at a loss to offset gains. You can’t deduct losses in a tax-advantaged account. Similar rules apply to even stocks in retirement accounts; however, just something to be aware of with crypto IRA accounts.
How Do Cryptocurrency IRA Taxes Work?
To understand crypto IRA taxes, you must realize how IRS views crypto and also the tax treatment of various IRA accounts.
Remember, the IRS currently considers Bitcoin to be property. Therefore it is usually subject to the same forms of capital gains taxation as other asset classes.
IRAs are tax-advantaged, and the tax benefit depends on the type of IRA you select. The most typical forms of retirement accounts are traditional and Roth IRAs, which have their respective tax advantages. There are annual contribution limits according to your filing status and yearly income.
Traditional crypto IRA
A Traditional Crypto IRA allows you to subtract your annual contributions from your taxable income and reduces your tax liability. As a result, you can deduct your yearly contributions from your taxable income and don’t have to pay taxes on what you earn until you take it out. When you withdraw funds from your Crypto IRA at retirement age, you will have to pay taxes since you received the tax benefit when you contributed.
Roth crypto IRA
You don’t have to pay capital gains taxes on your earnings, and all retirement distributions are tax-free. Unlike a Traditional IRA, you cannot deduct the money you put into your account from your income.
So why would anyone get a Roth IRA with crypto? The answer is that some people choose this route because they want to avoid capital gains taxes on what they earn.
With a crypto Roth IRA account, you won’t have to worry about taxes when the distribution phase begins at retirement. Opting for Roth IRA crypto means less tax, which many Americans seem to want.
Best Cryptocurrency IRA Companies
Alto CryptoIRA is a self-directed IRA provider that provides 24/7 real-time trading and allows you to invest in alternative assets inside your IRA such as cryptocurrency. You can roll over or transfer funds from an existing traditional, Roth, SEP, or SIMPLE IRA, as well as 401(k), or 403(b), subject to applicable legal limits.
- Low minimum investment of only $10.
- It has one of the largest coin selections of any crypto IRA (over 125 coins)
- No setup or monthly fees
- Because of the integration with Coinbase, you don’t have to go through the hassle of setting up an LLC, creating a wallet, or choosing an exchange.
- Solo 401(k) not supported
Bitcoin IRA founded in March 2015 was one of the world’s first cryptocurrency IRA platform. It has over 100,000 account holders and is a full service self directed IRA provider.
- One of the first Crypto IRAs created
- Automated investment option since cryptocurrencies are volatile and dollar cost averaging helps smoothen the rise.
- Offline storage of Crypto assets
- The high fees are a negative compared to other options like Alto Crypto IRA
- Number of coins are limited compared to Alto Crypto IRA. Although I prefer to only have the larger coins in my retirement accounts; it is nice to have the option for trading other altcoins.
- Solo 401(k) not supported
Rocket Dollar is a self-directed IRA and solo 401k provider. LLC creation is a complex process but the process is simplified by Rocket Dollar
- Permits Solo 401(k) in addition to Self Directed IRA (SDIRA).
- Greater flexibility in alternative asset investing since you are not limited by only one exchange
- Even if Rocket Dollar has a simplified process; you need to be aware of how a SDIRA works to avoid breaking any IRS rules.
- Higher fees compared to Alto CryptoIRA
I have summarized all the top cryptocurrency IRA providers based on various features. But since the information changes often; please refer to their respective websites for most current details.
|Rocket Dollar||Bitcoin IRA||Alto CryptoIRA|
|Types of retirement account||Solo 401K and Self Directed IRA||Traditional, Roth and SEP||Traditional, Roth and SEP|
|Funding||Invest new money or rollover from existing accounts. Contact their support team.||Invest new money or rollover from existing accounts. Contact their support team.||Invest new money or Transfer assets from an existing traditional, Roth, SEP, or SIMPLE IRA, as well as 401(k), or 403(b) subject to applicable legal limits|
|Number of coins||Dependent on the exchange you open the SDIRA LLC account||Over 60 coins supported||Over 125 crypto coins directly available|
|Exchanges||Not limited by an exchange since this is a SDIRA with checkbook control. However they provide maximum support for Gemini crypto exchange||None specified||Coinbase|
|LLC needed||Yes. Rocket Dollar creates a Colorado IRA LLC||No||No|
|Minimum investment||Not specified|
1) Minimum deposit $100 with recurring contributions of at least $100 OR
2) $3,000 for Transferred IRA Or without recurring contributions
|Interest||You can register for a service like Gemini Earn, Celius Network, or Blockfi as they can all take an IRA LLC or Solo 401(k) trust in their entity signup. All staking interest must be credited to the IRA.||Upto 6% interest on your crypto and cash||Staking services currently not offered|
|Support||Extensive knowledgebase and support team available||Email and phone support||Free concierge service to help walk you through setting up and funding your account|
|Fees||Setup Fee: $360|
Account Fee: $15 (Monthly)
Trading Fee: 2%
|Setup Fee: 5.99% of initial deposit|
Account Fee: 0.08% (Monthly)
Trading Fee: 2%
|Setup Fee: $0|
Account Fee: $0
Custody Fee $0
Trading Fee 1.5%
|Insurance||Cash is held in trust FDIC insured bank accounts at the partner banks.||Bitcoin IRA uses BitGo Trust as its custodian. All assets under BitGo Trust custody are insured for up to $700 million. Cold storage technology is used for some assets.||Cash in your Alto CryptoIRA is held in FDIC-insured accounts.|
Funds transferred to Coinbase, whether held in cash or invested in cryptocurrencies, are secured in hot and cold storage. Coinbase maintains a commercial crime policy that provides an insurance coverage limit of $320 million (per incident and overall), as well as a $3 million cybercrime insurance policy.
FAQs On Cryptocurrency IRA
What is a Cryptocurrency IRA?
A Cryptocurrency IRA is a self-directed IRA invested in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Who manages a Crypto IRA?
Investors manage their own Crypto IRAs through third-party services that facilitate the transaction from start to finish. It may include opening an account with a digital wallet company. And establishing an account with a cryptocurrency exchange that facilitates investments in cryptocurrencies and related assets.
Can you trade Bitcoin in an IRA?
As long as you have followed all the rules in setting up the IRA to appropriately trade cryptocurrencies; you can then trade Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. Make sure you follow the instructions provided by the respective Cryptocurrency IRA companies.
Can you buy crypto in an IRA account?
A crypto IRA is a type of retirement account in which you can invest in cryptocurrencies, similar to Roth and other IRAs. As long as you have followed all the rules in setting up the IRA to trade cryptocurrencies appropriately, you can buy cryptocurrencies. Make sure you follow the instructions provided by the respective Cryptocurrency IRA companies.
How do I open a Cryptocurrency IRA?
What is a self-directed IRA?
A self-directed IRA allows investors to choose their investments rather than being limited to traditional assets such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit (CDs).
What are the benefits of investing in a Cryptocurrency IRA?
A cryptocurrency IRA offers the possibility to diversify portfolios by allowing investors to buy Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies for their retirement accounts without any need to transfer money into different investment vehicles. Investors also don’t have to pay taxes on profits or capital gains if they select the Roth IRA structure.
What is a digital wallet?
A digital wallet is an online storage system that allows users to store and exchange virtual currencies such as Bitcoins. With a retirement account invested in crypto, it is advisable not to keep the crypto in a hardware wallet in your possession to avoid the risk of IRS prohibited transaction rule. A better option could be to store the crypto in the centralized exchange accounts hot or cold storage.
Are there any fees associated with setting up a Cryptocurrency IRA?
There are several fees involved in creating traditional and Roth IRAs, such as annual management fees, commissions, and more. A self-directed IRA also involves setup costs that can include preparing required documents, establishing the custodian of the IRA or LLC in line with state laws, and operating a business in some cases.
What are the other ways to add Cryptocurrency to an IRA
Unfortunately, there are not many good options besides Crypto IRA accounts to add Crypto to an IRA. The Spot Bitcoin ETF has not yet been approved. The only Bitcoin ETF approved is a futures product trading at a premium to the current bitcoin price. The Grayscale GBTC is a close-ended fund that also does not accurately track the price of Bitcoin.
What is a self-directed custodian?
A self-directed custodian is an individual or organization that holds funds in place for an IRA account and allows investors to buy alternative assets such as real estate, tax liens, private equity, and small business start-ups.
Can I make a withdrawal from my cryptocurrency IRA?
Crypto IRAs follow the same withdrawal rules as regular IRAs invested in stocks and bonds. Usually, you can only take funds out once you reach retirement age after turning 59.5 years. You can rollover funds similar to other IRA accounts based on IRS regulations.
How do I transfer my IRA into a Crypto IRA?
Transferring assets into an investment vehicle is similar to removing assets from one account and putting them into another. Investors must contact their current IRA custodian and the receiving custodian to ensure a smooth transfer.
Is it legal to invest in Crypto IRAs?
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) currently has no specific cryptocurrency IRA rules. Cryptocurrency is considered taxable property by the IRS, making it suitable for an IRA investment. The IRS allows investors to use bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for retirement purposes. Still, specific guidelines include how to invest and keep records of these transactions and avoid prohibited transactions. Make sure you open accounts with crypto IRA platforms operating in the U.S. to ensure IRS compliance.
Can I rollover my 401k or 403b into a Crypto IRA?
Yes, it is possible to rollover a 401k or 403b into a Cryptocurrency IRA. The process is similar to transferring money from one retirement account to another; however, you will need to speak with your financial advisor and an accountant when taking this step or reach out to the Crypto IRA platforms before you begin.
Which cryptocurrencies are eligible to be included in an account?
The cryptocurrencies eligible for investing in your IRA depend on selecting a checkbook control IRA or one of the platforms tied to a specific exchange. If you choose the single-member LLC in the name of your IRA, also known as a checkbook control IRA, you would have maximum flexibility. However, you need to be prepared for the additional costs, complications, and compliance requirements accompanying the single-member LLC.
Should You Open a Cryptocurrency IRA?
A Crypto IRA may not be the most prudent choice for investors in their sixties or seventies due to the cryptocurrency’s volatility. Crypto can drop by over 30% in a day for no reason.
However, for those with a longer time horizon and higher risk tolerance, investing a tiny amount of their retirement assets in alternative assets such as Bitcoin or other cryptos might provide potential gains. Based on your risk profile you should consult a financial advisor and decide.
Since cryptocurrencies are volatile, it is always best to start small and only invest money you can afford to lose.
Final Thoughts On Cryptocurrency IRA
Traditional assets have continued to dominate retirement account investments, but the complex financial climate has caused investors to seek alternatives to equities and bonds.
Cryptocurrency is a new and exciting way to invest, but it can be challenging for the average person to buy it in an IRA or Roth IRA.
Companies like Alto CryptoIRA, BitcoinIRA, and RocketDollar have simplified the process of investing in cryptocurrency for you. You can now buy Bitcoin, Ethereum, or several cryptocurrencies directly from your IRA account. The platforms make it easy to comply with IRS guidelines while enabling you to make regular IRA contributions.
Since cryptocurrencies are volatile, it is always best to start small and only invest money you can afford to lose.
Readers, have you considered diversifying your retirement accounts by investing in cryptocurrencies? Do you believe virtual currencies provide an asymmetric bet on the future?
John Dealbreuin came from a third world country to the US with only $1,000 not knowing anyone; guided by an immigrant dream. In 12 years, he achieved his retirement number.
He started Financial Freedom Countdown to help everyone think differently about their financial challenges and live their best lives. John resides in the San Francisco Bay Area enjoying nature trails and weight training.
Here are his recommended tools
M1 Finance: John compared M1 Finance against Vanguard, Schwab, Fidelity, Wealthfront and Betterment to find the perfect investment platform. He uses it due to zero fees, very low minimums, automated investment with automatic rebalancing. The pre-built asset allocations and fractional shares helps one get started right away.
Personal Capital: This is a free tool John uses to track his net worth on a regular basis and as a retirement planner. It also alerts him wrt hidden fees and has a budget tracker included.
Streitwise is available for accredited and non-accredited investors. They have one of the lowest fees and high “skin in the game,” with over $5M of capital invested by founders in the deals. It is also open to foreign/non-USA investor. Minimum investment is $5,000.
Platforms like Yieldstreet provide investment options in art, legal, structured notes, venture capital, etc. They also have fixed-income portfolios spread across multiple asset classes with a single investment with low minimums of $10,000.