Investing in Oil and Gas Royalties Through a Self-Directed IRA
Last summer, we shared information on investing in energy assets through a self-directed IRA, including investments in mineral rights. Digging a bit further, some self-directed investors choose to include oil and gas royalties in their self-directed retirement plans. Let’s look at how that works.
What is a royalty interest in mineral rights?
In general, royalties are ongoing revenue streams based on production (in the case of energy assets) or licensing/usage (for intellectual property). In the case of oil and gas royalties in a self-directed IRA, the retirement plan owns a portion of the revenue that the oil or gas wells produce.
While most self-directed investors don’t have the equipment and financing needed to explore, extract, and produce oil or natural gas themselves, they can passively earn a royalty from the producing company that leases the land in exchange for access to it (and the ability to produce these energy assets).
How is the investment structured?
There are a couple of common scenarios. The first of which is when the oil/gas company leases land from a property owner (the IRA in this case), with mineral rights as part of the lease; this gives the producer access to the goods that lie beneath the surface (oil, natural gas, uranium, coal, etc.). The property owner is paid a percentage of the total production by the company—so if your self-directed IRA owns the land, the IRA will receive that income as landowner.
As an alternative to the above scenario, the IRA may choose to instead purchase mineral rights to the resources below the surface on a per-acre basis. The IRA then leases those mineral rights to the production company, which keeps its share of the revenue and distributes monthly royalty payments to the self-directed IRA.
These monthly royalty payments can range from a traditional 12.5% in the oil industry to upwards of 25%, depending on what is negotiated. The investor that owns the mineral rights—in this case, the self-directed IRA—may choose to sell those rights in the future for a profit. With profits flowing into the IRA, tax on those earnings would either be deferred or eliminated (in the case of a Roth IRA).
Benefits of mineral rights investments
- The production company is responsible for all exploration and extraction operations while the self-directed IRA passively collects an ongoing revenue stream.
- Unlike commercial and vacation property real estate investments, there are very little ongoing costs incurred by the investor, since the producer is dealing with expenses associated with working the land.
- Similar to real estate investments in self-directed IRAs, diversification is available within one asset class. Your self-directed IRA can invest in multiple oil and gas fields simultaneously—and collect royalties from these – or buy and sell as desired (with all income and expenses flowing through the retirement plan).
As with all self-directed investments, account holders are encouraged to conduct full due diligence about mineral rights investments and different energy assets, to fully understand how mineral rights work and the mechanics of land leases to energy producers.
At Next Generation, we’re here to answer questions you have about many types of non-publicly traded, alternative assets, including oil/gas. You may schedule a complimentary educational session with one of our knowledgeable representatives to discuss the nontraditional investments allowed through self-direction. Additionally, you may enjoy free access to our on-demand webinars and blog articles that cover many topics related to self-direction as a retirement strategy.
Fuel Your Self-Directed IRA with Energy Investments
Energy investments are among the alternative assets that can be held in a self-directed IRA; oil and gas fall under the umbrella of types of energy investments.
Oil and gas investment opportunities can include:
- The land being explored and/or the mineral rights of that land
- Interest in refineries and drilling companies
- Futures and commodities contracts
Oil and gas investments are relatively complicated, but for the right investors, can be a powerful way to fuel one’s retirement portfolio and create asset diversity. As with any nontraditional investment, individuals should carefully research the oil and gas market and understand mineral rights, surface rights, working interests, and royalty streams.
Property issues to consider
In the United States, property owners have rights to the land’s surface, structures and what lies below. Therefore, property owners with oil or gas deposits on their land control those minerals. They may sell or lease the mineral rights to make money and buyers with self-directed IRAs can invest in the mineral rights as a long-term retirement strategy.
Holding mineral rights means you own the mineral content beneath the surface. Other minerals besides oil and gas that qualify for mineral rights differ among states, so make sure your research and due diligence includes state law regarding mineral rights.
The person who holds mineral rights to a piece of property within a self-directed IRA also has access to the property’s surface; this confers the ability to use reasonable means to locate and produce the underground minerals (as in exploration or drilling).
This is the right to control the surface of the land, including existing structures erected on the land. Depending on the transaction, the seller may stipulate that he or she is selling surface rights only and retaining the mineral rights (or vice versa).
A working interest is an investment in drilling operations (also referred to as operating interest). It is an ownership percentage in the operation; therefore, the investor is responsible for a portion of the ongoing costs associated with the exploration, drilling and production of the asset. With all self-directed investments, any expenses related to the asset must be paid from the self-directed IRA account, and profits from the investment must be returned to the account.
The accounts can be tax-deferred or tax free, depending on the type of IRA (Traditional or Roth). Since there are certain tax benefits related to the costs and losses in a working interest, investors are wise to consult a tax specialist as part of their due diligence.
Royalty interests in oil and gas are the ownership portion of the resource or the revenue it produces. The entity that owns a royalty interest (such as the self-directed IRA) is not responsible for any operational costs, but does own a portion of the resource or revenue produced (the royalties). Some reasons to invest in royalty interests are whether the investor/company/IRA has the finances to bring resources to the production phase, and risk tolerance. In the case of oil production, the producing company pays the property owner a royalty in return for access to the oil field.
Other self-directed energy investments
Solar or wind options, geothermal energy, biofuel, or hydroelectric power are other energy-related assets that can be included in a self-directed IRA.
Take control of your retirement, today
You might already be investing in energy assets outside of your existing retirement plan, in which case, you can open a new self-directed IRA with Next Generation and include these as a hedge against stock market volatility. Whether you plan to include oil, gas, or other alternative assets in your portfolio, you may have questions about self-direction as a retirement strategy. If so, you can schedule a complimentary educational session with the Next Generation team. Alternatively, you can email us directly at NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com or call 888.857.8058.