The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) brings big tax changes to the real estate sector, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
Fortunately, the impact on real estate businesses should be mostly positive. That said, there are some crucial changes that business owners and entrepreneurs in the real estate sector should look out for moving forward.
You have probably heard about the 40 percent reduction in the corporate tax rate to 21 percent under the TCJA. However, if you operate as a sole proprietor, or in a pass-through entity such as a partnership, LLC or S Corporation, the TCJA also contains a significant change to how you will be taxed.
A deduction of up to 20 percent of qualified business income is now permitted. This deduction is limited to the lesser of:
- 20 percent of qualified business income
- The greater of 50 percent of W-2 wages, or 25 percent of W-2 wages plus 2.5 percent of the unadjusted basis of qualified depreciable property
Congress and the IRS need to issue new rules to further clarify and explain some of the nuances of this provision, but real estate businesses should clearly benefit from it.
Real estate depreciation rules were already favorable, but the TCJA improved them even further. Qualifying property — including, for the first time, used property — acquired after Sept. 27, 2017 is eligible for 100 percent bonus depreciation in the year it is placed in service.
Eligible assets are those with a depreciable life of 20 years or less. This encompasses personal property, and was intended to include “qualified improvement property” defined as work done to the interior of a commercial building excluding costs related to enlargement, elevators and escalators or the internal framework. Because of a drafting error, however, it was not assigned the correct class life, so this is an important provision requiring Congressional remedy.
Remember that bonus depreciation will begin to wind down in 2023. The rate will drop by 20 percent per year beginning in 2023 until it is eventually eliminated in 2027.
Additionally, Section 179, which permits the expensing of assets for commercial properties, has been expanded. The annual limitation has increased from $500,000 to $1 million, with a phase-out beginning at $2.5 million for qualifying assets. For the first time, this provision now includes roofs, fire protection and alarm systems, HVACs and security systems.
Limitations on business interest and losses
The way the losses and gains from your real estate business are taxed is also impacted by the new law. For example, debt-financed real estate operations should note that any business with more than $25 million in average annual gross revenue over the prior three years will be limited in its interest expense deduction to interest income plus 30 percent of adjusted taxable income. Rental property owners and others in real property businesses can, in some cases, opt out of this rule and claim the full interest deduction, but that comes with certain trade-offs.
If you’re on the opposite side of the scale with an overall tax loss, a new loss limitation rule allows only $500,000 for joint filers ($250,000 for single) to be used to shelter non-real estate income such as wages, interest, dividends and capital gains. These provisions will likely have the largest impact on qualifying real estate professionals.
There are many other pieces of the tax law that could affect real estate companies and investors. Section 1031 like-kind exchanges for real estate (but not for personal property) remained intact, but the taxation of carried interests, doubling of the estate and gift exemption and changes to some popular tax credits could affect your real estate holdings, taxes and financial planning.
In order to ensure you’re getting the most out of your corporate and individual taxes — in real estate and elsewhere — make sure to work with a tax professional well-versed in these changes. The sooner you review these changes with a professional, the less likely you will be caught off guard when the 2018 tax filing season rolls around.