EQRP® & QRP: What Are EQRP®, QRP, Solo 401k & SDIRA?

eQRP® – a marketing term registered to Total Control Financial, LLC – QRP and Solo 401k generate excitement and interest within the self-directed investor community. From crypto-enthusiasts, gold & silver precious metals investors, and tax lien & deed buyers to real estate syndicators, QRP and Solo 401k, as an alternative to SDIRA, is creating incredible buzz. But, there appears to be extensive misunderstanding of QRP and Solo 401k, so we’re providing an educational resource for self-directed investors.

For analysis, review, and FAQ about  QRP, QRP-LLC, Solo QRP, Solo 401k, SDIRA, & Checkbook Control read on.

What does QRP stand for? What is a Qualified Retirement Plan?

  • QRP stands for Qualified Retirement Plan.
  • A QRP, or Qualified Retirement Plan, is a retirement plan that is tax-favored under Section 401 of the Internal Revenue Code, also referred to as the Tax Code or the IRS Code. The title of the Section is: Qualified pension, profit-sharing, and stock bonus plans.
  • Some of the most powerful tax strategies exist within this section of the tax code, which covers many types of tax-sheltered QRP plans.
  • 401(k) plans, defined benefit plans, cash balance plans, profit-sharing plans and pension plans that meet the requirements of the tax code are all types of QRPs.

Who is eligible for a QRP?

  • A QRP can be sponsored or created by:
    • an employer for the exclusive benefit of his employees or
    • by a self-employed individual.
  • If there’s no employer or self-employment, as defined in the tax code, the retirement plan is not a QRP or Qualified Retirement Plan.
  • A retirement plan that is not “qualified” in the eyes of the IRS does not provide any tax benefits or tax sheltering, even if the plan documents say “QRP,” “401k,” “Solo 401k,” “Qualified Retirement Plan, “EQRP®,” “eQRP ®”* or words of similar import.
  • Rolling-over funds from a Self-Directed IRA to a “QRP” that’s not actually a Qualified Retirement Plan in the eyes of the IRS may result in substantial taxes and penalties, which greatly exceed any purported UDFI benefit of a QRP or Solo 401k over an SDIRA.
  • The definition of self-employment for QRP purposes, as outlined in Section 401 of the Tax Code and the Code of Federal Regulations there-under, is tied to earned income from a trade or business.
  • The IRS and tax courts have put forth extensive parameters  to define what counts as earned income from a trade or business. This is a technical and legal tax question that must be addressed when establishing a QRP.
  • Too often, we encounter investors who may not meet the criteria for establishing a Qualified Retirement Plan that have adopted some form of Qualified Plan.
  • For a helpful and educational video about this QRP & SDIRA topic, click here.

ReSure aims to assist you with integrity and provide you with educational resources of the highest quality, whether you’re establishing a Checkbook QRP, Checkbook IRA, or Checkbook 401k.

Because ReSure creates, assists, and consults on every self-directed structure available – Checkbook IRA, Checkbook QRP, and Checkbook 401k accounts – we are free of bias and have no need to sell you on a QRP, Solo 401k, or SDIRA that may not be a good fit for you.

QRP vs. SDIRA: Is a QRP better than a Self-Directed IRA?

  • A QRP is better than a Self-Directed IRA, or SDIRA, for those that meet the IRS guidelines for creating and funding a QRP.  
  • However, for businesses that have full-time employees, operating a QRP costs a lot more than operating an SDIRA.
  • The determination of whether-or-not there are non-owner employees that must be covered by the plan can be complex. Self-directed QRP investors must be aware of:
    • The Controlled Group Rules
    • The Affiliated Services Group Rules
    • The Family Attribution Rules
  • A QRP is not better than an SDIRA for those that IRS rules won’t allow use of a QRP.

QRP vs. Self-Directed IRA: What are some QRP features not available to an SDIRA?

A QRP has the following features, making a QRP more attractive than a self-directed IRA – for those that qualify:

  • Much higher contribution limits. For example, 401k annual contribution limits are about $60,000 – far higher than IRA contribution limits.
  • No financial institution custodian is required for a QRP. In contrast, an SDIRA must have a financial institution custodian.
  • (For our SDIRA clients, we set up Checkbook IRAs – IRA-LLCs & IRA-Owned Trusts – to marginalize the custodian and give you total checkbook control, along with enhanced asset-protection and anonymity. However, those structures should only be employed based on each investor’s risk-reward profile.)
  • QRP participants can take personal loans from the plan, of up to $50,000 – to be used for any purpose.
  • Prohibited Transactions do not disqualify a QRP. Of course, QRP prohibited transactions do have adverse tax consequences and must be corrected, but those are not nearly as harsh as the repercussions of a prohibited transaction in a Self-Directed IRA.
  • The option of having Roth 401k & Traditional 401k within a single-plan, as opposed to SDIRAs that require totally separate accounts for Traditional SDIRA and Roth SIDRA.
  • QRPs do not generate UDFI from real estate acquisition indebtedness, which can be valuable to retirement account real estate investors and help them avoid UBIT taxation issues.
    • Note: This is a limited UDFI exemption that applies only to certain types of real estate investment structures. All non-real estate investments – and real estate investment structures that don’t meet the QRP UDFI real estate exemption parameters –  generate UDFI, even to a QRP or Solo 401k.
    • Note: The impact of UDFI on real estate investment returns are often grossly overstated. When properly understood, UDFI is seldom the determining factor in self-directed retirement account structuring. Rather, the optimal account structure is determined based on the investor tax profile.
  • QRP plan participants can take a personal plan loan for up to $50,000, which is a disqualifying prohibited transaction for a self-directed IRA.

What are some drawbacks of a QRP?

A QRP, especially one that’s required to cover non-owner employees of a business, is extremely complex and costly to run. The IRS and DOL compliance requirements are incredibly complex, and if those rules are not followed it gets 10x more costly. A QRP that covers non-owner employees is an “ERISA Plan.”

QRP vs. Solo 401k: Compare Solo 401(k) to QRP

  • A Solo 401k is just a QRP that does not have non-owner employees as eligible plan participants.
  • There are some plan providers that have simplified QRP documents for such owner-only plans, which are not compatible with a business with full-time employees, and call those a “Solo 401k Plan.”
  • Click here for an IRS Solo 401(k) definition.
  • The IRS calls a Solo 401k a “one-participant 401(k) plan,” but acknowledges that it may also be referred to as:
    • Solo 401(k)
    • Solo-k
    • Uni-k
    • One-participant k
  • Of course, what really determines whether a plan is a Solo QRP plan or “full ERISA QRP” is the presence or absence of non-owner employees, not the nature of the plan document.
  • The determination of whether-or-not there are non-owner employees that must be covered by the plan can be complex. Self-directed QRP/401k investors must be aware of:
    • The Controlled Group Rules
    • The Affiliated Services Group Rules
    • The Family Attribution Rules

Does a QRP provide better asset-protection than a Solo 401k?

  • A QRP that covers non-owner employees is an ERISA Plan – a plan that is subject to all the rules of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
  • ERISA federal law provides extremely powerful asset-protection of QRP assets for plans that are subject to ERISA.
  • QRPs that cover only the business owner(s) and/or their spouses are exempt from many provisions of ERISA and, therefore, don’t  have full ERISA asset-protection.
  • The asset-protection of such Solo QRP plans is still robust, but not as strong as that of an ERISA Plan. From an asset-protection perspective, they are similar to Self Directed IRAs.

Can the asset-protection features of a QRP or Self-Directed 401k be enhanced with a QRP-LLC?

Whether-or-not QRP asset-protection is enhanced by creating a QRP-owned LLC, will depend on 2 factors:

  • The jurisdiction in which the LLC is formed
  • The nature of the QRP investments

This requires knowledge of LLC nuances in all LLC domiciles, of which there are 51 in the US. Be wary of promoted one-size-fits-all asset protection structures, as one-size-fits-all… fits nobody. At ReSure, we have intimate knowledge regarding the LLC’s of all US jurisdictions and aim to provide you with services tailored to your needs.

How does the SECURE Act impact Solo 401k plans?

  • The SECURE Act impacts all QRPs, including Solo 401k plans.
  • QRPs have, historically, been able to fully exclude all employees that worked fewer than 1,000 hours/year.
    • This has allowed large employers to exclude long-term part-time employees from their QRPs.
    • This has also allowed small business owners & solopreneurs to maintain Solo QRP Plans (e.g., Solo 401k, Solo Cash Balance Plans, Solo Defined Benefit Plans), meaning QRPs covering only the business owners & spouses, exempt from ERISA complexity.
  • Under the SECURE Act, some long-term part-time employees must be allowed limited participation in a Qualified Retirement Plan.
  • Specifically, employees working 500 hours per year for 3 years (“500/3 rule”) must be allowed to make employee contributions to a QRP.
  • Only years of services beginning in 2021 must be counted towards the 3-year 500-hour requirement, effectively making this requirement inapplicable until for Solo QRP & Solo 401k plans until 2024.
  • Click here for a comprehensive overview of the SECURE Act and its impact on self-directed QRP, 401k, & SDIRA investing. 

Can you qualify for a QRP by creating an LLC to be the business sponsor of the QRP? Does such an LLC enhance QRP asset-protection?

  • An LLC is NOT a trade or business. An LLC is just a legal entity.
  • If you have business activity that meets IRS guidelines for sponsoring a QRP, you can create a QRP without an LLC.
  • If you do not have a business that meets IRS guidelines for sponsoring a QRP, creating an LLC will NOT qualify you for a QRP.

When does it make sense to establish a QRP vs an SDIRA?

  • For those qualify for a QRP by (a) having a trade or business and (b) don’t have full-time employees, a QRP is clearly the preferred choice. Such QRP will be a Solo QRP, most likely a Solo 401k, but may also include a solo defined benefit or cash balance plan.
    • A QRP-owned LLC or 401k-owned LLC can be implemented to enhance the asset-protection of the plan, if desired and advantageous.
  • However, those that do have full-time non-owner employees must do a cost-benefit analysis to determine if the additional cost and complexity of a QRP is worthwhile, based on their objectives.
  • The determination of whether-or-not there are non-owner employees that must be covered by the plan can be complex. Self-directed QRP investors must be aware of:
    • The Controlled Group Rules
    • The Affiliated Services Group Rules
    • The Family Attribution Rules
  • Operating a compliant QRP for a company that has full-time non-owner employees is extremely complex, even if the QRP does not invest in alternative assets such as real estate, gold & silver, private stock, and other “off-Wall Street” investments. It’s 10x more complicated when the QRP does invest in non-Wall Street assets.

What is an EQRP?

  • EQRP is a marketing term that has been trademarked by Total Control Financial LLC, also doing business as the eQRP Co. and the eQRP Company.
  • “EQRP” is not a technical retirement plan term description that is recognized or approved by the IRS; “EQRP” is a marketing term. Marketing terms do not represent a patented process, construction or structure.
  • Click here to view an IRS list of tax-sheltered retirement plan types
  • The promoters of EQRP have referred to their product as the “Empowered Qualified Retirement Plan” and the “Enhanced Qualified Retirement Plan.”

A trademark is used to protect proprietary marketing terms, words, symbols or designs.

What does EQRP® stand for? What is the meaning of EQRP?

  • EQRP® promoters have described their “product” using multiple terms.
  • In the past, EQRP® promoters referenced Empowered Qualified Retirement Plan, or Empowered QRP.
  • More recently, EQRP promoters have been referencing Enhanced Qualified Retirement Plan, or Enhanced QRP.

Note the following QRP facts:

  • Obtaining full ERISA asset-protection for a QRP is contingent on non-owner employee participation in the plan.
  • A QRP for which business owners are the only eligible participants is a non-ERISA plan that does not provide ERISA asset-protection, regardless of what the plan provider calls it. Such a “QRP” is a “Solo 401k.”
  • Not every type of IRA funds can be rolled into a QRP.
  • Not everyone can qualify for a QRP.
  • Operating an ERISA QRP – compliantly – requires substantial compliance support and there a myriad of pitfalls for those that are not fully informed.
  • When establishing any type of business-sponsored retirement plan, but especially QRPs, you must be aware of:
    • The Controlled Group Rules
    • The Affiliated Services Group Rules
    • The Family Attribution Rules

ReSure and other reputable firms assist clients with QRP establishment, strategy, and compliance. When establishing a QRP, ensure that you’re working with a provider that aims to fully emphasize both the rewards and responsibilities of a QRP.

eQRP®  & QRP vs. Solo 401k

  • Combining a QRP plan document with a QRP-owned LLC does not alter the nature of the QRP under ERISA or tax law.
  • Therefore, if the “QRP” is for an owner-only business, the QRP is a Solo 401k that does not provide full ERISA asset protection.
  • If the QRP is for a business that has non-owner employees, it’s an ERISA 401k plan requiring extensive administrative expertise and provides full ERISA asset-protection of plan assets – without the implementation of a QRP-owned LLC.
  • Of course, as EQRP is a trademark, the trademark owners can market anything that falls under their registration with USPTO  using the marketing term EQRP.
  • The EQRP registration includes the following:
    • Goods and Services: Financial consultation services; Financial planning services; Financial planning consultation services
    • International Class: Insurance; financial affairs; monetary affairs; real estate affairs. – Insurance; financial affairs; monetary affairs; real estate affairs.

eQRP® vs. SDIRA or Self-Directed IRA

  • Assuming eqrp is being used to market 401(k) plan documents, this is the same question as “QRP vs SDIRA” and “401k vs SDIRA” that’s addressed earlier in this post.

eQRP® vs. Checkbook IRA

  • A “Checkbook IRA” is an SDIRA-owned entity, LLC or trust, that enables SDIRA investors to exercise the same level of control as QRP investors.
  • A Checkbook IRA marginalizes the role of an SDIRA custodian, giving the SDIRA investor enhanced asset-protection, freedom, and “checkbook control” over their self-directed retirement account.
  • All the enhancements to control and freedom of Checkbook IRA notwithstanding, it is still an SDIRA – not a QRP.
  • A Checkbook IRA will be more straightforward to manage than a QRP, but does not have nearly the same tax flexibility as a QRP.
  • Of course, both QRP and Checkbook IRA are not for everyone. Each one has its potential compliance pitfalls, so getting expert advice is strongly recommended for all self-directed investors.

QRP Takeaways: The QRP Bottom Line

  • A Qualified Retirement Plan, or QRP for short, is a great financial tool through which you can grow tax-free wealth with total control.
  • There is more than one type of QRP, and all of them can be self-directed.
  • Broadly speaking, tax-sheltered self-directed retirement accounts can be grouped into 2 categories:
    • Individual Retirement Arrangement, or “IRA”
    • Qualified Retirement Plan, or  “QRP”
  • Each of the 2 categories, QRP & IRA, have many subcategories.
  • Every type of tax-sheltered account recognized by the IRS has its place.
  • Not everyone qualifies for a QRP.
  • While everyone “qualifies” for a Checkbook IRA, the structure has its compliance drawbacks.
  • A QRP that covers, or is required to cover, non-owner employees has incredible complexity to its operations and its filings – especially if it invests in real estate syndications, gold & silver, private stock, start-ups or other self-directed assets.
  • Be extremely wary of QRP oversimplification any QRP. It’s not only about the QRP plan document, it’s also about QRP plan operation.

With the ongoing misconceptions on this topic, the following additional points should be helpful to self-directed investors:

  • All “Qualified Retirement Plans” (“QRPs”) are trusts set up for the benefit of “employees.”
  • A QRP can hold investments in its own name, much like any other trust.
  • A QRP can also hold assets indirectly through an LLC. This is analogous to a “Checkbook IRA” that uses an IRA-owned LLC to hold SDIRA assets.
  • Within an SDIRA, the only way to get “checkbook control” is through the use of an IRA-owned entity.
  • With QRPs, in contrast, “checkbook control” does not require the use of a QRP-owned entity to hold assets.
  • Notwithstanding, when correctly implemented, there are benefits to investing within a QRP-owned LLC.
  • There are QRP and Solo 401(k) promoters that take a “one-size fits all” approach by requiring that (a) every client establish a 401k, (b) every investors create a 401k-owned entity and (c) that entity be a Wyoming LLC or Colorado LLC.
  • A Wyoming LLC can, potentially, be a great thing – as part of comprehensive investment entity structuring. But without the proper structuring of your plan & particular investment, that Wyoming LLC can do more harm than good.
  • So, when you hear some talking about investing through a “QRP trust” or “retirement plan trust” – that’s for investing through a plan directly. Talk of investing through a Wyoming LLC refers to QRP/401k investments done through a QRP/401k-owned LLC.

Both Solo 401k and EQRP (a registered trademark of Total Control Financial LLC) are “marketing terms.” With a bit of generalizing, the following should be helpful:

  • The ultimate difference between a full ERISA plan and “non-ERISA plan” are the nature of eligible plan participants. Are they only business owners and spouses? Or, do they include non-owner employees?
  • A Solo 401k plan is a 401k plan, is a 401k plan, is a 401k plan; just that a 401k/QRP for an owner-only business is able to sidestep much of the complexity to which Qualified Retirement Plans are subject.
  • 401(k) plans are a one of many types of Qualified Retirement Plans.
  • In other words “Solo 401k” does not describe the type of plan; it describes the type and number of individuals that are eligible plan participants.

Through our extensive industry interactions, we continue to come across investors that are not fully informed and our goal is to provide unbiased info. ReSure LLC assists with the establishment of all available self-directed account structures, within both the QRP & SDIRA categories.

ReSure assists self-directed investors with every form of checkbook control self-directed retirement account structure – whether it be SDIRA or QRP, with LLC & trust integration – and is committed to serving you with integrity.

*EQRP® & eQRP® are registered trademarks of Total Control Financial LLC; https://trademarks.justia.com/870/43/eqrp-87043744.html