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Section 1031 or Like-Kind Exchange Tax Strategies


At a Glance

Main Takeaway

Investing in real estate properties can earn high returns if you use the right strategies. A Section 1031 exchange is one effective investment strategy that can defer taxes on the sale of your property.

Read on to learn about investment tools that allow you to defer paying capital gains on the sale of your property so that you can continue investing and transferring your wealth to your beneficiaries.

Next Step

Uncover the benefits of using a Section 1031 or like-kind exchange for tax deferment and wealth-building as a wealth transfer strategy.

What is a Section 1031 Exchange?

A Section 1031 exchange is an IRS-approved transaction that allows you to defer capital gains tax on the sale of your real estate investment property. This strategy comes from IRC Section 1031, which says that the IRS does not recognize gains or losses on the exchange of like-kind real property if used for investment, trade, or business purposes.

Section 1031 Exchange Regulations

To implement a Section 1031 exchange, you must follow IRS regulations regarding qualifying property and how you should conduct the transaction.

Qualifying Property

For a property to qualify as like-kind, the property sold and the property acquired must be of the same nature and character. Real properties are generally considered like-kind, whether improved or unimproved.

Additional qualifications for properties used in a Section 1031 exchange include:

  • Must be used for business, trade, or investment purposes
  • Must be real property such as land, rental properties, or buildings, including homes, apartment buildings, or condominiums
  • Must be similar in character, nature, or class

You cannot perform a Section 1031 exchange with:

  • Real property that you use for personal purposes, such as a primary residence
  • Real property that is being held primarily for sale
  • Intangible or personal property
  • Property outside the U.S. (unless it meets IRS specifications for condemned property replacement)

Section 1031 Exchange Time Frame

Section 1031 exchanges require you to adhere to a strict timetable. When you complete the sale of a property, you must move quickly to use this wealth transfer strategy.

Within 45 days of the date of sale on your initial property, you must identify at least one suitable replacement property. If you are selling multiple properties as part of the transaction, the 45 days start from the closing date of the first property.

You must complete the purchase of the like-kind property within 6 months, or 180-days, of the initial sale. Because of the limited time to complete a Section 1031 exchange, it is vital to scope out potential exchange properties ahead of time.

Qualified Intermediary

In most circumstances, you must use a Qualified Intermediary (QI) because you cannot receive the funds directly from the sale of your property; this will disqualify you from the transaction and result in you paying capital gains on your sale proceeds.

A QI is a company or person who helps you facilitate the like-kind exchange. It holds the funds from the initial sale until you need to transfer them to purchase the like-kind property.

Exchanging with a Related Party

Special rules apply to Section 1031 exchanges made with related parties, either directly or indirectly.

The properties acquired from a related party through a Section 1031 exchange must be held for a minimum of two years in order to qualify for the gain deferral.

Capital Gains and Section 1031 Exchanges

The most significant reason for using a Section 1031 exchange is to defer capital gains taxes on the sale of an investment property. Capital gains are gains recognized from the sale of investment property and are taxable on your federal income tax return at special rates of 0%, 15%, and 20%. Ordinary income from recapture of depreciation can be deferred too. The replacement property must be at least equal value as the relinquished property, otherwise, there can still be taxable gain from the Section 1031 exchange.

Many states, including California, conform to the deferral under Section 1031 for state-level income tax purposes. If you exchange a California property for out-of-state property, California will track the deferred gain with FTB Form 3840 until the replacement property is sold in a taxable transaction and the deferred tax is paid to the state of California.

Windes is a professional tax planning firm whose experienced accountants can advise you of the rules of tax-free exchanges and ensure you understand Section 1031 exchange rules and regulations when considering this strategy.

Why Consider a Section 1031 Exchange?

You might consider a Section 1031 exchange for several reasons, including wealth-building and wealth transfer.

Wealth-Building Strategy

By using a Section 1031 exchange, you can defer your capital gains tax liability. You can use this strategy repeatedly to defer the payment of capital gains indefinitely. This approach helps you build your investment portfolio and grow your wealth without losing money in taxes for each transaction.

Wealth Transfer Strategy

Section 1031 exchanges are also an excellent tool for transferring wealth. When your beneficiaries inherit an investment property you used in a Section 1031 exchange, they do not pay taxes on it until they sell it. The property’s tax basis is stepped up to its fair market value at the time of death, which can eliminate the tax liabilities on the deferred gain.

The Future of Like-Kind Exchange

The root of like-kind exchanges lies in their adoption by Congress as part of the Revenue Act of 1918. The first exchange was created in 1921 and has been used ever since as a strategy for building and retaining wealth. However, this nearly 100-year legacy may end soon.

President Biden has proposed tax reform plans that seek to limit deferred tax payments on gains over $500,000. Biden’s plan also proposes to collect capital gains on inherited assets, including investment properties. Section 1031 exchanges as a strategy to retain and build wealth could be jeopardized if Congress adopts these plans in future tax reform bills.

Develop Wealth Transfer Strategies with Windes

As tax laws shift, it is more important than ever to work with a professional accounting and tax planning firm that can advise you on applicable tax credits and incentives and help you develop wealth transfer strategies for your investments.

At Windes, we focus on strengthening your tax strategy in the face of changing tax laws. We provide high-net-worth individuals and businesses in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Orange County, and beyond with a range of tax strategies and accounting services.

Contact Windes at 844.494.6337or to discuss your current tax strategies and learn how we can help you maximize your wealth.

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