An Overview of a 1031 Exchange
To qualify for Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, the properties exchanged must be held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment. Stocks, bonds, and other properties are listed as expressly excluded by Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, though securitized properties are not excluded. The properties exchanged must be of “like kind”, i.e., of the same nature or character, even if they differ in grade or quality. Personal properties of a like class are like-kind properties. Personal property used predominantly in the United States and personal property used predominantly elsewhere are not like-kind properties.
Real properties generally are of like kind, regardless of whether the properties are improved or unimproved. However, a real property within the United States and a real property outside the United States would not be like-kind properties. Generally, “like kind” in terms of real estate, means any property that is classified real estate in any of the 50 US states, and in some cases, the US Virgin Islands.
Taxpayers who hold real estate as inventory, or purchase for re-sell are considered “dealers”. These properties are not eligible for Section 1031 treatment. However, if a taxpayer is a dealer and also an investor, she/he can utilize Section 1031 on qualifying properties. Personal use property will not qualify for Section 1031.
Taxpayers may wonder whether items such as equipment used on a property are included in the lump-sum sale of the property, and if they are able to be deferred. Under Treasury regulation §1.1031(k)-1(c)(5)(i), property that is transferred together with the larger item of value that does not exceed 15% of the fair market value of the larger property does not need to be identified within the 45 day identification period but still needs to be exchanged for like kind property to defer gain.
Cash to equalize a transaction cannot be deferred under Code Section 1031 because it is not of like kind. This cash is called “boot” and is taxed at a normal capital gains rate.
If liabilities assumed by the buyer exceed those of the seller (taxpayer), the realized gain of the seller will not only be realized, but recognized as well. If however, the seller assumes a greater liability than the buyer, the realized loss cannot offset any realized and recognized gain of receiving boot such as cash or other personal property considered boot.
Originally, 1031 cases needed to be simultaneous transfers of ownership. But since Starker v. U.S. (602 F.2d 1341), a contract to exchange properties in the future is practically the same as a simultaneous transfer. It is under this case, decided in 1979, that the rules for election of a delayed 1031 originated. To elect the 1031 recognition, a taxpayer must identify the property for exchange before closing, identify the replacement property within 45 days of closing, and acquire the replacement property within 180 days of closing. A Qualified Intermediary must also be used to facilitate the transaction, by holding all the profits from the sale, and then disbursing those monies at the closing, or sometimes for fees associated with acquiring the new property.