Death and taxes. Neither can be avoided. However, with some clean living, careful choices, and a little luck the former can be delayed. So can the capital gains tax on the sale of your real estate, which happily only requires some planning.
The tool to make this delay of tax is known as a Like-Kind Exchange, often referred to as a 1031 exchange, from the IRS code of that same number. As of January 2018, this only pertains to real property used productively in business or held for investment and not personal property such as equipment, vehicles, and other such things.
What is a like-kind exchange? Simply put, it is exchanging one property, held for productive use in a trade or business or held for investment, for another property for those same purposes. What it is not? It cannot be used for delaying taxes on real estate which is held primarily for sale, often referred to as dealer property, where it is your business to buy and sell real estate for profit. This will likely be taxed as ordinary income.
Pros and Cons – The benefits of using a like-kind exchange are pretty obvious if growing your real estate investment net worth is your primary goal. Reinvesting equity gain which would otherwise be paid to Uncle Sam in capital gains tax, may net a better return on investment. The downside to the exchange can be the lack of liquidity of real estate in general and less diversification of investments. As an example, if a great stock opportunity became available to you, the equity from the property sale could not be used tax deferred to purchase it.
Is it complicated you ask? We are talking about the IRS, so of course it is. Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. There are several types of exchanges and rules such as time to complete the exchange, naming of properties to exchange into, and not directly receiving the proceeds from the sale of the relinquished property, plus many other potential concerns. The process involved in an exchange can take up many chapters in how-to books, so I will not cover all the details here. The good news is, if you are interested in an exchange, there are professionals out there, such as Qualified Intermediary (QI), CPAs, real estate brokers, and attorneys that can guide you through the process.
If you think that the like-kind exchange is a possible route that you may take, plan it from the day you put your property on the market. Engage the appropriate professionals that are required to help you. Be sure you inform the buyer of your property about your intentions to exchange in both the property disclosure and purchase and sale agreement. This is not necessarily required but certainly will make for a smoother closing.
If you need more information, here are some links to the IRS website and a QI and attorney we have used.