March 7, 2017
A popular real estate investment vehicle could be in jeopardy under Republican-led tax reform.
The “like-kind” or 1031 exchange was introduced in the 1920s to soften the tax burden on farmers looking to swap land. The rationale went something like this: If a taxpayer receives nothing in the transaction to pay taxes on (it is tied up in the new property), no tax should be owed. It has since morphed into a way for businesses like airlines to save millions by trading in older assets for something newer.
“Political sands shift quickly,” Mount Vernon Co. chairman and founder Bruce Percelay said. “There’s no question the real estate world will be significantly influenced by Trump policies — both positively and negatively.”
Percelay presides over one of the largest apartment landlords in Massachusetts, and he wonders what kind of future, if any, 1031 exchanges have under President Donald Trump’s administration.
With more than 1,500 apartments, five hotels and several commercial properties in its portfolio, Mount Vernon will be impacted by any course the Trump administration takes with CRE. Percelay, who will speak at Bisnow's Trump Era Forecast event in Boston on March 28, personally counts Donald Trump Jr. as a friend. He said there are several policy areas of interest in Trump’s administration he is watching, including the elimination of the 1031 exchange provision.
“I don’t know how much of a realty [1031 elimination] is,” he said, “but it is certainly being bantered about as a way of lowering the capital gains rate.”
CBRE Americas head of research Spencer Levy said the GOP tax reform plan would allow businesses to fully expense real estate investments apart from land. This would lead to the elimination of the 1031 exchange because the full expensing would enable a new type of exchange for all transactions apart from land. 1031 elimination in this manner would lower the capital gains tax rate for businesses. Some are not sold on 1031 exchange elimination actually making the agenda.
“A majority of [1031 exchanges] are from individuals and not businesses,” said Randy Blankstein, president of Chicago-based brokerage group Boulder Group. “I don’t see them being targeted by this White House. If it was going to happen, it would have happened in the last eight years.”
Blankstein notes the idea to eliminate the exchanges as a measure to close budget shortfalls has been on the table each of the 25 years he has been in business. Citing their nature as reinvestment incentives, he doesn’t see it on the chopping block in light of the Trump administration’s investor-friendly policies thus far — especially with many economists saying elimination would drive costs up for consumers.
“It would be very unusual for a president who was in real estate to eliminate incentives like this,” he said.
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