Introduction to 1031 Exchanges

A 1031 Exchange (Tax-Deferred Exchange) Is One Of The Most Powerful Tax Deferral Strategies Remaining Available For Taxpayers. Anyone involved with advising or counseling real estate investors should know about tax-deferred exchanges, including Realtors, lawyers, accountants, financial planners, tax advisors, escrow and closing agents, and lenders. Taxpayers should never have to pay income taxes on the sale of property if they intend to reinvest the proceeds in similar or like-kind property.

 

The Advantage of a 1031 Exchange is the ability of a taxpayer to sell income, investment or business property and replace with like-kind replacement property without having to pay federal income taxes on the transaction. A sale of property and subsequent purchase of a replacement property doesn't work, there must be an Exchange. Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code is the basis for tax-deferred exchanges. The IRS issued "safe harbor" Regulations in 1991 which established approved procedures for exchanges under Code Section 1031. Prior to the issuance of these Regulations, exchanges were subject to challenge under examination on a variety of issues. With the issuance of the 1991 Regulations, tax-deferred exchanges became easier, affordable and safer than ever before.

 

The Disadvantages of a Section 1031 Exchange include a reduced basis for depreciation in the replacement property. The tax basis of replacement property is essentially the purchase price of the replacement property minus the gain which was deferred on the sale of the relinquished property as a result of the exchange. The replacement property thus includes a deferred gain that will be taxed in the future if the taxpayer cashes out of his investment.

 

Exchange Techniques. There is more than one way to structure a tax-deferred exchange" under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code. However, the 1991 "safe harbor" Regulations established procedures which include the use of an Intermediary, direct deeding, the use of qualified escrow accounts for temporary holding of "exchange funds" and other procedures which now have the official blessing of the IRS. Therefore, it is desirable to structure exchanges so that they can be in harmony with the 1991 Regulations. As a result, exchanges commonly employ the services of an Intermediary with direct deeding.

 

Exchanges can also occur without the services of an Intermediary when parties to an exchange are willing to exchange deeds or if they are willing to enter into an Exchange Agreement with each other. However, two-party exchanges are rare since in the typical Section 1031 transaction, the seller of the replacement property is not the buyer of the taxpayer's relinquished property.

 

Basic Types of 1031 Exchanges

 

A Simultaneous Exchange is an exchange in which the closing of the relinquished property and the replacement property occur on the same day, usually back-to-back. There is no interval of time between the two closings. This type of exchange is covered by the safe harbor Regulations.

 

A Delayed Exchange is an exchange where the replacement property is closed on at a later date than the closing of the relinquished property. The exchange is not simultaneous or on the same day. This type of exchange is sometimes referred to as a "Starker Exchange" after the well known Supreme Court case in which ruled in the taxpayer's favor for a delayed exchange before the Internal Revenue Code provided for such exchanges. There are strict time frames established by the Code and Regulations for completion of a delayed exchange, namely the 45-Day Clock and the 180-Day Clock (see detailed explanation below). Delayed exchanges are covered by the safe harbor Regulations.

 

A Reverse Exchange (Title-Holding Exchange) is an exchange in which the replacement property is purchased and closed on before the relinquished property is sold. Usually the Intermediary takes title to the replacement property and holds title until the taxpayer can find a buyer for his relinquished property and close on the sale under an Exchange Agreement with the Intermediary. Subsequent to the closing of the relinquished property (or simultaneous with this closing), the Intermediary conveys title to the replacement property to the taxpayer. The IRS has issued new safe harbor guidance on Reverse Exchanges.

 

An Improvement Exchange (Title-Holding Exchange) is an exchange in which a taxpayer desires to acquire a property and arrange for construction of improvements on the property before it is received as replacement property. The improvements are usually a building on an unimproved lot, but also include enhancements made to an already improved property in order to create adequate value to close on the Exchange with no boot occurring. The Code and Regulations do not permit a taxpayer to construct improvements on a property as part of a 1031 Exchange after he has taken title to property as replacement property in an exchange. Therefore, it is necessary for the Intermediary to close on, take title and hold title to the property until the improvements are constructed and then convey title to the improved property to the taxpayer as replacement property. Improvement Exchanges are done in the context of both Delayed Exchanges and Reverse Exchanges, depending on the circumstances. The IRS has issued new safe harbor guidance on Reverse Exchanges (including title-holding exchanges for construction or improvement).

 

The 45-Day Rule for Identification.

 

The first timing restriction for a delayed Section 1031 exchange is for the taxpayer to either close on the purchase of the Replacement Property or to identify the potential Replacement Property within 45 days from the date of transfer of the Relinquished Property. The 45-Day Rule is satisfied if Replacement Property is received before 45 days have expired. Otherwise, the identification must be by written document (the identification notice) signed by the taxpayer and hand delivered, mailed, faxed, or otherwise sent to the Intermediary. The identification notice must contain an unambiguous description of the Replacement Property. This includes, in the case of real property, the legal description, street address or a distinguishable name.

The 45-Day Rule for Identification imposes limitations on the number of potential Replacement Properties, which can be identified and received as Replacement Properties. More than one potential Replacement Property can be identified by one of the following three rules:

The Three-Property Rule – Any three properties regardless of their market values.

The 200% Rule – Any number of properties as long as the aggregate fair market value of the replacement properties does not exceed 200% of the aggregate FMV of all of the exchanged properties as of the initial transfer date.

The 95% Rule – Any number of replacement properties if the fair market value of the properties actually received by the end of the exchange period is at least 95% of the aggregate FMV of all the potential replacement properties identified.

Although the Regulations only require written notification within 45 days, it is recommended practice for a solid contract to be in place by the end of the 45-day period. Otherwise, a taxpayer may find himself unable to close on any of the properties which are identified under the 45-day letter. After 45 days have expired, it is not possible to close on any property which was not identified in the 45-day letter. Failure to submit the 45-Day Letter causes the Exchange Agreement to terminate and the Intermediary will disburse all unused funds in his possession to the taxpayer.

 

The 180-Day Rule for Receipt of Replacement Property.

 

The Replacement Property must be received and the exchange completed no later than the earlier of

  • 180 days after the transfer of the exchanged property or

  • The due date of the income tax return, including extensions, for the tax year in which the Relinquished Property was transferred.

The Replacement Property received must be substantially the same as the property that was identified under the 45-day rule described above. There is no provision for extension of the 180 days for any circumstance or hardship. There are provisions for extensions for presidentially declared disaster areas.

As noted above, the 180-Day Rule is shortened to the due date of a tax return if the tax return is not put on extension. For instance, if an Exchange commences late in the tax year, the 180 days can be later than the April 15 filing date of the return. If the Exchange is not completed by the time for filing the return, the return must be put on extension. Failure to put the return on extension can cause the replacement period for the Exchange to end on the due date of the return. This can be a trap for the unwary.