Category Archives: Business Tax Prep

Defer Capital Gains

Defer Capital Gains Using Like-Kind Exchanges

Defer Capital Gains If you’re a savvy investor, you probably know that you must generally report as income any mutual fund distributions, whether you reinvest them or exchange shares in one fund for shares of another. In other words, you must report and pay any capital gains tax owed.

But if real estate’s your game, did you know that it’s possible to defer capital gains by taking advantage of a tax break that allows you to swap investment property on a tax-deferred basis?

What Is Section 1031?

Named after Section 1031 of the tax code, a like-kind exchange generally applies to real estate and was designed for people who wanted to exchange properties of equal value. If you own land in Montana and trade it for a shopping center in Rhode Island, as long as the values of the two properties are equal, nobody pays capital gains tax even if both properties may have appreciated since they were originally purchased.

Section 1031 transactions don’t have to involve identical types of investment properties. You can swap an apartment building for a shopping center or a piece of undeveloped raw land for an office or building. You can even swap a second home that you rent out for a parking lot.

There’s also no limit as to how many times you can use a Section 1031 exchange. It’s entirely possible to roll over the gain from your investment swaps for many years and avoid paying capital gains tax until a property is finally sold. Keep in mind that gain is deferred but not forgiven in a like-kind exchange, and you must calculate and keep track of your basis in the new property you acquired in the exchange.

Section 1031 is not for personal use. For example, you can’t use it for stocks, bonds, and other securities, or personal property (with limited exceptions such as artwork).

Properties of Unequal Value

Let’s say you have a small piece of property, and you want to trade up for a bigger one by exchanging it with another party. You can make the transaction without having to pay capital gains tax on the difference between the smaller property’s current market value and your lower original cost.

That’s good for you, but the other property owner doesn’t make out so well. Presumably, you will have to pay cash or assume a mortgage on the bigger property to make up the difference in value. In the tax trade, this is referred to as “boot,” and your partner must pay capital gains tax on that part of the transaction.

To avoid that, you could work through an intermediary who is often known as an escrow agent. Instead of a two-way deal involving a one-for-one swap, your transaction becomes a three-way deal.

Your replacement property may come from a third party through the escrow agent. Juggling numerous properties in various combinations, the escrow agent may arrange evenly valued swaps.

Under the right circumstances, you don’t even need to do an equal exchange. You can sell a property at a profit, buy a more expensive one, and defer the tax indefinitely.

You sell a property and have the cash put into an escrow account. Then the escrow agent buys another property that you want. They get the title to the deed and transfers the property to you.

Mortgage and Other Debt

When considering a Section 1031 exchange, it’s important to consider mortgage loans and other debt on the property you are planning to swap. Let’s say you hold a $200,000 mortgage on your existing property but your “new” property only holds a mortgage of $150,000. Even if you’re not receiving cash from the trade, your mortgage liability has decreased by $50,000. In the eyes of the IRS, this is classified as “boot,” and you will still be liable for capital gains tax because it is still treated as “gain.”

Advance Planning Required

A Section 1031 transaction takes planning. You must identify your replacement property within 45 days of selling your estate. Then you must close on that within 180 days. There is no grace period. If your closing gets delayed by a storm or by other unforeseen circumstances, and you cannot close in time, you’re back to a taxable sale.

Find an escrow agent specializing in these types of transactions and contact your accountant to set up the IRS form ahead of time. Some people sell their property, take the cash, and put it in their bank account. They figure that all they have to do is find a new property within 45 days and close within 180 days, but that’s not the case. As soon as “sellers” have cash in their hands or the paperwork isn’t done right, they’ve lost their opportunity to use this provision of the code.

Personal Residences and Vacation Homes

Section 1031 doesn’t apply to personal residences, but the IRS lets you sell your principal residence tax-free as long as the gain is under $250,000 for individuals ($500,000 if you’re married).

Section 1031 exchanges may be used for swapping vacation homes but present a trickier situation. Here’s an example of how this might work. Let’s say you stop going to your condo at the ski resort and instead rent it out to a bona fide tenant for 12 months. In doing so, you’ve effectively converted the condo to an investment property, which you can then swap for another property under the Section 1031 exchange.

However, if you want to use your new property as a vacation home, there’s a catch. You’ll need to comply with a 2008 IRS safe harbor rule that states in each of the 12-month periods following the 1031 exchange, you must rent the dwelling to someone for 14 days (or more) consecutively. In addition, you cannot use the dwelling more than the greater of 14 days or 10 percent of the number of days during the 12-month period that the dwelling unit is rented out for at a fair rental price.

You must report a section 1031 exchange to the IRS on Form 8824, Like-Kind Exchanges, and file it with your tax return for the year in which the exchange occurred. If you do not precisely follow the rules for like-kind exchanges, you may be held liable for taxes, penalties, and interest on your transactions.

Help is Just a Phone Call Away

While they may seem straightforward, like-kind exchanges can be complicated, and you need to be careful of all kinds of restrictions and pitfalls. If you’re considering a Section 1031 exchange or have any questions, don’t hesitate to call Lahrmer & Company LLC at (866) 474-1238 or email office@lahrmercpa.com for assistance.  

Six Things To Know Before You Start a Business

Tips for starting a businessStarting your own business is an exciting prospect, but there is more to it than simply writing a business plan. Understanding the tax responsibilities of starting a business venture can save taxpayers money and help set them up for success. That’s where a tax professional can help. Here is what you need to know before you start a new business:

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payroll help

Small Business: Understanding Payroll Expenses

payroll adviceFederal law requires most employers to withhold federal taxes from their employees’ wages. Whether you’re a small business owner who is just starting or one who has been in business for a while–and ready to hire an employee or two–here is what you should know about withholding, reporting, and paying employment taxes. Continue reading

small business owner

10 Smart Tax Tips for Small Businesses in 2021

small business taxesTo run a successful small business, there are a few tax tips every owner should know to help save money and minimize their tax liability. Here are our top ten tips: Continue reading

preparation to sell business

Tax Considerations When Selling Your Small Business

selling businessSelling a small to medium-sized business is a complex venture, and many business owners are not aware of the tax consequences. Continue reading

seasonal worker

Tax Withholding for Seasonal and Part-Time Employees

Many businesses hire part-time or full-time workers, especially in the summer. The IRS classifies these employees as seasonal workers, defined as an employee who performs labor or services on a seasonal basis (i.e., six months or less). Examples of this kind of work include retail workers employed exclusively during holiday seasons, sports events, or during the harvest or commercial fishing season. Part-time and seasonal employees are subject to the same tax withholding rules that apply to other employees. Continue reading

business taxes

Small Business Tax Roundup

business ownerTax changes due to recent legislation such as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the CARES Act affect both individual taxpayers and small businesses. In 2020, the IRS issued several guidance documents and final rules and regulations that clarified several tax provisions affecting businesses. Here are five of them: Continue reading

avoid an IRS audit

Avoiding an IRS Audit

IRS auditAlthough just 0.15 percent of taxpayers were audited in 2019, the fear of being audited is never far from many taxpayer’s minds, and with the taxes becoming more complicated every year, there’s an even greater possibility of confusion turning into a tax mistake… and an IRS audit. Avoiding “red flags” like the ones listed below, however, could help you avoid one. Continue reading

employer tax credit

Employer Tax Credit Extended for Payroll Workers

payroll workerThe Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020, enacted December 27, 2020, made several changes to employee retention tax credits. These tax credits were previously made available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The most notable change was the modification of the Employee Retention Credit (ERC). Several of the changes apply only to 2021, while others apply to both 2020 and 2021. As such, employers can take advantage of the newly-extended employee retention credit, designed to make it easier for businesses that choose to keep their employees on the payroll–despite challenges posed by COVID-19. Continue reading