If you are fortunate enough to own real estate that has appreciated substantially, you may be hesitant to sell the property and reinvest in another property because of the taxes you’d have to pay on your profit. Instead of selling, you might want to consider a “like-kind exchange.”
A like-kind exchange is a property swap. When all tax law requirements are met, a like-kind exchange allows you to defer your gain for tax purposes.
Pete exchanges a tract of land worth $500,000 for a building, also appraised at $500,000. He originally paid $300,000 for the land and he made no improvements to it. Because the deal is structured as a like-kind exchange, Pete’s $200,000 gain on the land ($500,000 value minus $300,000 cost) is tax deferred.
Tax deferred doesn’t mean tax free. For tax purposes, Pete’s cost basis in the building he acquired in the exchange is $300,000, the same as his cost basis in the land he gave up. So, if Pete were to turn around and sell the building for $500,000, he’d have to report a taxable gain of $200,000 at that time.
Which Assets Qualify?
The like-kind exchange strategy is available for investment property and property used in a trade or business. Real estate has to be exchanged for real estate, and personal property for personal property. Inventory and shares of stock aren’t eligible for like-kind exchange treatment, and various other restrictions apply.
Making a Deal
A like-kind exchange can be accomplished when properties are not of equal value. Typically, the owner of the less valuable property turns over enough cash (or other assets) to even out the exchange. Or one owner might agree to assume the other’s debt. Note that transactions involving cash, additional assets, and debt relief are not completely tax deferred.
Other variations on the basic like-kind exchange are possible. For example, it’s possible to structure an exchange that isn’t simultaneous. Or more than two property owners can be involved in the deal.
In the right situation, a like-kind exchange can be a significant tax-saving opportunity. We’d be happy to discuss it with you.