Can I hold MLPs in my IRA?
Yes, but MLPs may not represent the best investment for a retirement plan. First, an MLP offers significant tax benefits that are better utilized in a taxable account. Secondly, an IRA (or any tax-exempt entity earning income from an outside business) is subject to the “unrelated business income tax” (UBIT) after the first $1,000 of net income from a business that is unrelated to its exempt purpose (unrelated business taxable income, or UBTI). Since an MLP is a pass-through entity, the IRA would be considered to be “earning” the MLP’s business income, which is almost always considered to be unrelated to the IRA’s exempt purpose. If the IRA’s UBTI from all sources is over $1,000, the fund custodian will have to file a return and pay tax on the excess out of the IRA’s funds. Most advisors feel that unless there is reasonable certainty that the net income received from MLPs will be less than $1,000 each year, it is better not to hold them in an IRA. This is equally true of regular and Roth IRAs.