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Understanding the Buy, Borrow, Die Tax Planning Strategy

At a Glance

Main Takeaway

Many people interested in building personal and generational wealth follow the buy, borrow, die tax planning strategy to reduce tax liability on their assets. Like stocks and collectibles, real estate is an appreciating asset commonly used by those intrigued by the buy, borrow, die strategy.

Rental real estate is perfect for this strategy because of asset appreciation, low volatility to market forces, reduction of taxable income through depreciation, and the ability to pull cash without selling the asset.

Understanding the tax implications of this strategy can help retain wealth and minimize your tax burden.

Next Step

Learn the rules of the buy, borrow, die tax planning strategy and how working with a tax professional with real estate expertise can help you minimize tax exposure and protect your assets for generations.

What is Buy, Borrow, Die Tax Planning?

Buy, borrow, die is a simple, long-term strategy that allows you and your future beneficiaries to capitalize on the appreciation of your assets. This tax-free, wealth-building strategy is simple in theory. It consists of the following three elements:

  • Buy: Purchase an asset that generally appreciates in value over time, such as real estate, stocks, or collectibles. Ideally, for the strategy to be effective, the assets purchased should generate enough income to cover your living expenses.

Rental real estate is one of the best ways to achieve this goal because monthly income and expenses are relatively predictable, including depreciation, which lowers your taxable income without lowering your cash flow.

  • Borrow: If cash flow is needed, the property can be refinanced. The proceeds can be used to improve the property, purchase another property or investment, or for other personal expenses. By refinancing rather than selling the property, the taxpayer has deferred paying taxes between 15% to 20% on the capital gain.
  • Die: At the time of the taxpayer’s death, the beneficiaries (and the decedent’s estate) will not have to pay income tax on that asset’s appreciation.

Under current tax law, beneficiaries of inherited property receive a “basis step-up,” which means that for tax purposes, the asset’s cost basis is now the fair market value at the time of the decedent’s death. If the beneficiaries decide to sell the asset shortly after the decedent’s death, the sale price will be equal to or close to their cost basis, which results in little to no taxable gain.

While buy, borrow, die is tax efficient, certain tax complications can still arise, particularly when looking at the “borrow” part of the equation.

Combining the Buy, Borrow, Die Strategy with other Tax Deferral Strategies

Holding a real estate asset is an excellent investment due to asset appreciation. Taxpayers can also exchange the asset for another like-kind asset with little or no tax burden under IRC Section 1031 or Like-Kind Exchange.

In a 1031 Exchange, a taxpayer can exchange a single-family property for a multi-family commercial or industrial property. However, both the single-family and multi-family properties must be used for business or investment. Incorporating this planning tool empowers taxpayers with the flexibility to diversify their holdings without having to sell, pay taxes, and then purchase another property.

To learn more about some of the requirements, rules, and tax implications of completing a successful 1031 Exchange with full tax deferral, read our Section 1031 or Like-Kind Exchange article.

Minimize Your Tax Liability with Windes

Savvy investors understand that like stocks and collectibles, real estate is an appreciating asset that can be used for the buy, borrow, die strategy. However, this type of tax planning has rules that must be adhered to in order to capitalize on the strategy.

The knowledgeable real estate tax professionals at Windes can help you maintain compliance with these rules while maximizing your deductions. We can help you reap the benefits of the buy, borrow, die strategy to grow your family’s assets and wealth.

Contact us today to learn about our tax planning and accounting services for individuals and businesses in Long Beach, Orange County, Los Angeles, and beyond.


Christy Woods, CPA
Christy Woods, CPA, MST

Partner-in-Charge, Tax – Long Beach
Real Estate Services Practice Leader
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