What You Need to Know About Section 1031 “Like-Kind Exchanges”
Under Section 1031 of the US Code, you can sell a qualifying property, take the money from that sale, and buy new qualifying property of a “like-kind” without paying any federal income tax on the first sale. This is what’s known as a “1031 Exchange” or a “Like-Kind Exchange.”
For example, let’s say you own an investment property that you bought for $15,000 in 1965, which is now worth $250,000. You want to sell that property and buy a new investment property. If you simply sold the property, you’d need to pay income taxes on the gain of $235,000. At around 33% for combined federal and state taxes, you’d pay approximately $77,550 in taxes – a substantial amount of money.
But, under 1031, you’re allowed to exchange that property for “like-kind” property and defer paying taxes on the gain. (Note that you are deferring taxes, not eliminating them altogether.) It’s a great tool for businesses and individuals to use to reduce tax bills and manage cash flow during the year.
How Like-Kind or 1031 Exchanges Work
How does an exchange of like-kind property work under Section 1031? Using the example above, you’d sell your property (the “Relinquished Property”) and the money would go into an account controlled by a neutral third-party agent (the “Qualified Intermediary”), often an attorney or CPA, someone who has not done any work for you in the past two years. You cannot touch the money from that sale, and neither can your lawyer or CPA. Otherwise, the money is disqualified and subject to taxation.
Generally, you have 45 days to find a Replacement Property from the date of sale of the Relinquished Property and 180 days to close on that Replacement Property. The Qualified Intermediary purchases the like-kind property (the “Replacement Property”) with the money from the account you never touched, puts the Replacement Property in your name, and the process is complete.
What does “like-kind” mean? It means that the property that’s being exchanged is of the same character. You can trade livestock for livestock or investment property for investment property, for example. You cannot trade livestock for investment property under Section 1031. However, you may exchange property that “differ[s] in grade or quality,” meaning that you may essentially “upgrade” your property or assets. Determining what qualifies as Replacement Property is done on a case-by-case basis.
What type of property is eligible for like-kind exchange under Section 1031? Most property that is solely for business use is eligible, including investment property, livestock, vehicles, machinery, equipment, and other items of tangible property. Intangible property such as copyrights and patents qualify, too.
What type of property is not eligible? According to the IRS, “inventory, stocks, bonds, notes, other securities or evidence of indebtedness, or certain other assets” are not eligible. Real property for personal use, i.e., a personal residence, is not eligible. It must be used for trade or business only.
What if you do not spend all the money you made from the sale within 180 days? Money left over at the end of the 180-day period is commonly known as “boot.” If you cannot locate property that costs as much as the property you sold, or you are unable to close within 180 days, you will need to pay taxes on the boot.
What if you receive money or other types of property that are not like-kind in the exchange? “Boot” can also refer to the value of goods received in the exchange that are not qualifying. If your exchange results in boot, you’ll need to pay taxes on it. (Though if the exchange results in a loss, it won’t be recognized.)
What about property that has debt attached to it? Let’s say in the example above, you don’t own the house free and clear but have borrowed $100,000 against it. You sell the house and now have $250,000. In the exchange, you need to buy a Replacement Property that has as much equity and as much debt as the Relinquished Property. Otherwise, the IRS sees that you’re better off after the transaction, which is not the intent of the code, and you’ll need to pay tax. You need to “roll” what you made and what you owe to your new property.
What about state taxes? The laws on how states handle taxes vary from state to state. In South Carolina, the law recognizes like-kind exchanges and will defer taxes on exchanges as long as the Relinquished Property and the Replacement Property are both located within the state of South Carolina. If you sell Relinquished Property in South Carolina and buy Replacement Property in North Carolina, for example, you can defer your federal taxes on the sale under 1031, but you will be responsible for the gain earned on the sale of the Replacement Property to South Carolina.
Who is eligible to do a 1031 Exchange? Any entity that is exchanging qualifying property used solely for business. A corporation, partnership, LLC, individual, or trust may take advantage of Section 1031 as long as the property qualifies. A business may exchange equipment, or an individual may exchange investment rental property, for example. Dealers are not eligible for Section 1031 treatment.
How much does it cost to execute a 1031 Exchange? Some businesses shy away from 1031 Exchanges because they believe it will cost a lot of money. In South Carolina, you can carry out a Like-Kind or 1031 Exchange for around $1,500 or $2,000. This small amount of money could end up saving you or your business thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in taxes. In a large majority of cases, it’s a worthwhile investment.
Could your business benefit from tax deferral from a Like-Kind Exchange?
This is just the start; there are more nuances to exchanges under 1031. If you want to know whether a 1031 Exchange could be a good tool for your company, contact Mount Pleasant corporate attorney Gem McDowell at Gem McDowell Law Group. Send us a message or call us today at (843) 284-1021 today.