On March 19, the Internal Revenue Service released Revenue Procedure 2002-22, which addresses the use of real property fractional ownership interests as replacement property in Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 tax-deferred exchanges. Commercial real estate professionals commonly refer to these fractional ownership opportunities as tenancy-in-common interests.
The potential advantages of using fractional ownership interests to complete a 1031 exchange are significant for both investors and their advisers. Tenancy-in-common interests offer increased opportunities to identify a replacement property within 45 days, the option to buy into institutional-grade product for less money, and the potential to diversify into multiple properties with fewer dollars.
Like-Kind Exchange Primer
Under Section 1031, property owners may defer gain recognition on a sale by exchanging for like-kind property; however, they must meet numerous requirements to complete a successful exchange.
In order to achieve 100 percent tax deferral, the cost of the replacement property must be equal to or greater than the net sales price of the property being sold, and all the proceeds must be used. Further, the seller must identify a suitable replacement property within 45 days of the relinquished property sale. Finally, the seller must take title to the property he ultimately buys in the same manner in which he gives title to the property he sells.
In the past, tax professionals and other investment advisers were wary of recommending fractional interests as replacement properties because the IRS often considered the investor's interest in the new property to be a partnership, thereby invalidating the exchange. Along with partnerships, Section 1031 prohibits owners from exchanging out of real estate and into a corporation or limited liability company.
This concern often prevented investors from buying shares of larger and potentially more attractive properties. In response to the need for high-quality replacement property in a range of prices, a niche group of companies began offering tenancy-in-common interests to complete 1031 exchanges. To meet the title requirements, investors receive a deed for a portion of the property, rather than a share of a partnership. To encourage referrals, many tenancy-in-common program sponsors offer referral fees ranging from 1 percent to 6 percent of the equity value placed in the product.
Fundamentals of the New Guidelines
Rev. Proc. 2002-22 provides guidance on the use of fractional interests as replacement properties in 1031 exchanges. Although the IRS did not provide the ultimate safe harbor blessing for these investments, it outlined 15 minimum standards tenancy-in-common interests must meet to be considered as potential replacement property. A few of the key criteria are:
the number of tenants-in-common cannot exceed 35;
the sponsor of the interests may own the property (or an interest therein) for only six months before 100 percent of the interests are sold;
any decision that has material or economic impact on the property or its owners must be approved unanimously by the owners; and
the management agreement must be renewable annually and must provide for market rate compensation.
For the complete listing of requirements, visit the IRS Web site at http://www.irs.gov/. Investors should seek private-letter rulings on specific offerings for more concrete assurance that their fractional interest meets the specified qualifications.
Some investment advisers have found that recommending properly structured tenancy-in-common programs can result in a win-win situation for all parties. For example, one of your clients owns a small apartment building that requires an inordinate amount of time to manage. As he nears retirement, your client receives a $750,000 offer on the building and wants to exchange into an institutional-grade investment. With the amount he will be able to invest from the sale, your client doesn't think he can afford a high-quality investment offering a strong yield and greater appreciation potential. However, in this scenario, your client should consider a tenancy-in-common program that complies with the recent IRS ruling. With his sale proceeds, your client feasibly could exchange into a 15 percent interest in a class A office building worth $5 million.
The new guidelines also open the door for investors who want to structure fractional interests in a desirable replacement property on their own. For instance, Jennifer Reed owns a high-quality rental property in suburban Atlanta worth $500,000. She notices a small strip shopping center for sale in the area and, after some due diligence, discovers the center can be purchased for $1.5 million. Though individually she cannot afford the center, she has two friends who would like to invest a portion of their portfolio in real estate. The three decide to purchase the property together. When Jennifer sells the rental property, she exchanges all of the debt and equity from the sale for a one-third interest in the shopping center as a tenant-in-common. The other two investors provide the balance of the funds necessary to close the deal.
Proceed With Caution
As tenancy-in-common programs are in their infancy, commercial real estate professionals should review them carefully before advising clients to consider them as viable replacement property options. Because all programs are not created equal and may have been structured prior to the release of Rev. Proc. 2002-22, careful due diligence is essential. As more sponsors modify their programs to seek and receive private-letter rulings certifying compliance, less due diligence will be necessary.
Whether for groups sponsoring fractional interests or creative investors looking to pool resources into a larger property, the new IRS guidelines are good news for the commercial real estate industry. For investment advisers, this guidance provides exciting new options for clients who don't want to forego the benefits of a Section 1031 tax-deferred exchange.
Consult a tax professional for further information on individual cases.