The federal tax overhaul, which was enacted into law on December 22, 2017, was the most drastic tax law changes that the United States has seen in 30 years. While it will take some time to fully understand how much tax savings the changes could generate for commercial real estate investors, there are several significant impacts that are quite apparent.
New tax climate favors commercial real estate investors
Legal and tax experts agree that the new tax law bestows several benefits that make it more appealing for commercial real estate investors to buy properties. Many of the changes will put more money back into the pocket of investors in terms of tax savings. Some of the changes, particularly the tax treatment of capital expenditures, will shield a tremendous amount of income for property owners that are making capital investments and improvements to their properties. And let’s not overlook the ripple effect the new tax bill may create, such as fueling economic and job growth that will drive demand for commercial real estate. All things considered, real estate has become just about the most accessible way for high net-worth investors to profit from the tax law.
A shift in capital should increase demand for commercial properties
The tax new law creates an incentive for investors to shift capital from equities to pass-through businesses. Essentially, the law enables a taxpayer to factor 2.5 percent of the original purchase price of a property into the calculation of the 20 percent deduction for pass-through income. This allows a real estate investor the ability to reduce real estate investments to an effective 29.6 percent tax rate, which is 10 points lower than it was in 2017. Without the predicted shift in capital based on the tax new law, commercial real estate prices likely would have stalled in 2018, due to increasing interest rates and decreasing cap rates. It’s important to note that the deduction is set to expire in December 2025.
Expansion of Section 179 allows commercial property owners to direct expense improvements
Another positive for commercial real estate investors is the expansion of the Section 179 deduction for depreciation. Under the Section 179 revision, the new tax law lets commercial property owners count the cost of improvements (i.e. roofs, HVAC systems and security systems) as direct expenses in the year these items were installed. Under the previous tax law, improvements had to be capitalized with a small piece being expensed each year until the full cost was exhausted. Additionally, the Section 179 change is retroactive to the 2017 tax year, which is unlike other parts of the new law.
Tax-free 1031 swaps for real estate were retained
Another piece of the tax law that should have commercial real estate investors excited is the retention of tax-free 1031 swaps for real estate. The real victory here is that lawmakers did not yank 1031-exchanges for real estate, as they did for aircraft and other types of personal property. In fact, under the new law 1031 trades are now restricted exclusively to real estate.
Insights from a tax adviser
The new tax law creates some gray areas and leaves many questions unanswered, particularly as it relates to commercial real estate. As a commercial real estate investor, the best thing you can do is consult a tax adviser before making any drastic changes to your real estate investment strategies. At Omni Realty Group, we had a few questions of our own so we asked Jim Holland, accountant and owner of Jim Holland CPA to weigh in with his insight. Here is what he shared.
“There is no doubt the biggest winner in the real estate arena was for commercial real estate investors; however, it is wise to proceed with caution. I would recommend to any commercial real estate investor that they tread lightly until more is known about calculating the 20% reduction of business income, including from flow through entities. The calculation can be complicated and burdensome.”
That’s not to say there are some immediate actions CRE investors might consider taking in 2018 to put themselves in the best possible position to maximize the benefits of the new tax law. Clifton Guise, Tax Attorney and Partner at Halbruner, Hatch & Guise, LLP shares the following.
“Because most real estate investors own and operate their real estate activities through pass-through entities (LLCs, LPs, and S-Corps) or sole proprietorships, it is important to determine if the investor qualifies for the Qualified Business Income (“QBI”) Deduction. The QBI Deduction is an individual level deduction that can reduce the tax rate on income from pass-through entities. An investor may need to restructure their entity or in some cases restructure their leases in order to qualify for the QBI Deduction.”
Taking the time to fully understand the new tax law, and identifying how you may need to restructure your leases or business model to maximize your benefits under this law is a worthy investment of your time. If you are a commercial real estate investor, make it a goal to seek advice on the new tax law and how it stands to impact your business going forward.
Share your opinion! What do you think is the most important impact the new tax law will have on commercial real estate?