Tag Archives: UBTI

Hedge Fund IRA Investments

Individual retirement account (IRA) investments into hedge funds are increasing rapidly.  Below are some common questions hedge fund managers have about potential investments by IRAs.

Can an IRA invest in a hedge fund?

Generally yes, however the IRA and the hedge fund must make sure to follow certain regulations which a manager should discuss with a hedge fund attorney.    A manager should not accept IRA investments into the hedge fund without first discussing this with his lawyer.

How does an IRA actually make the investment into the hedge fund?

Each IRA investment into the hedge fund needs to be made by the custodian of the IRA.  That is, the beneficial owner of the IRA cannot simply take the money out of his IRA account and then place the money in the hedge fund – this would be deemed to be a withdrawal from the IRA and would be subject to very negative tax consequences.

In order to avoid these negative tax consequences the custodian needs to directly transfer the IRA assets to the hedge fund.  Typically this is done through a self directed IRA account at a brokerage firm.  Many brokerage firms do not have these self directed programs in place.  If the brokerage firm does not have such a program in place the beneficial owner of the IRA would need to transfer the IRA to another custodian which does.  Our law firm has worked with many custodians who have these programs and we can make recommendations.

Each custodian has different requirements for an investment into a hedge fund from an IRA.  Typically the hedge fund manager is going to need to fill out a few pages of paperwork with the custodian and provide custodian with the fund’s offering documents.  After the custodian’s compliance department has reviewed the paperwork, the custodian will be able to make the investment into the fund on behalf of the IRA.  During this process the hedge fund manager is going to be spending time talking with the custodian and the compliance department.  Additionally the law firm may need to be involved with the process as well; however, this is usually to a much lesser extent.

Are there any other issues with IRA investments into hedge funds?

Yes.  There are many issues which a hedge fund manager should be aware of which include the following:

1.  The manager should be sure that the hedge fund and the management company do not engage in any prohibited transactions with respect to the fund and the IRA.  [More on this in a later article.]

2.  The manager should make sure that if it uses any sort of leverage that such activities are clearly discussed in the fund’s offering documents.  In certain circumstances where there is leverage, an IRA could be subject to tax on its unrelated business taxable income or UBTI.

3.  The manager should make sure that the fund does not stray from its investment program.  IRA are not allowed to make certain investments like investments in life insurance policies (life settlements).
As noted in an earlier article on hedge funds and ERISA, while IRAs are not specifically ERISA assets, they do count towards the 25% threshold and thus the manager needs to be aware of the amount of IRA and other ERISA assets in the hedge fund.


Because of the gravity of the tax consequences to potential IRA investors, please contact your hedge fund attorney or accountant if you have specific questions about IRA investments into your fund.  Additionally, savvy hedge fund investors will usually want to make sure that their own tax advisors have reviewed the hedge fund offering documents before investing in the fund.

Please contact us if you have any questions on the above.  Also, please read our disclaimer with regard to discussions about tax items.

Hedge Fund UBTI (unrelated business taxable income)

Hedge fund investors are always cognizant of the potential tax consequences of an investment into a hedge fund.  One of the issues which a hedge fund manager should be aware of is the concept of unrelated business taxable income or UBTI.

What is UBTI and why is it important?

As it relates to a tax-exempt investor in a hedge fund, UBTI is debt financed income derived by the hedge fund which does not relate to the activities of the tax-exempt investor.  As hedge funds are “flow through” vehicles, the designation of income as UBTI flows through the tax-exempt investor.  This is important because the tax-exempt investor must pay tax (called the unrelated business income tax or UBIT) on that portion of the income received by the fund which is UBTI.  UBTI is generally going to be taxed at a 35% rate.
Is there a way to get around UBTI?

There are two ways to make sure that tax-exempt investors do not receive any UBTI.  The first and most obvious is to make sure that the fund will use no leverage.  Because this might not be an option for some hedge funds, and because these funds would like to receive assets from tax-exempt entities, another option is for the fund to create an offshore hedge fund (either through a side by side structure or a master feeder structure).  In these structures that income does not “flow-through” to the investors like with the domestic hedge fund, but rather the income is paid to the investors through a dividend which is generally not taxable to a tax-exempt organization.  Using an offshore structure in this manner is often described as using a “blocker” because the UBTI is blocked out.

Do short sales give rise to UBTI?

Short sales alone do not give rise to UBTI.  The IRS has specifically provided guidance to the hedge fund community on this issue.  Please see Revenue Rule 95-8.  However, if a hedge fund borrowed money to engage in the short sale, this would probably give rise to UBTI.  If the fund utilizes short sales and engages in no leverage activities, then the there will likely be no UBTI with regard to the short sales.

What are the tax code provisions dealing with UBTI?

The following are links to the tax code dealing with UBTI:

Section 511 – provides for a tax on UBTI

Section 512 – defines UBTI and provides for the pass through treatment of UBTI to tax-exmpt investors in a fund (see 512(c))

Section 513 – provides a definition for “unrelated trade or business.”

Section 514 – provides additional definitional support for determining the amount of UBTI under section 512.