Plan now to reimburse staffers, board members and volunteers | tax preparation in elkton md | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

Plan now to reimburse staffers, board members and volunteers

Even if your not-for-profit organization rarely needs to reimburse staffers, board members or volunteers, reimbursement requests almost certainly will occasionally appear. At that point, will you know how to pay stakeholders back for expenses related to your nonprofit’s operations? If you have a formal reimbursement policy, you will. Plus, you’ll be able to direct individuals with reimbursement questions to your formal document and minimize the risk of disagreements.

2 categories

In the eyes of the IRS, expense reimbursement plans generally fall into two main categories:

1. Accountable plans. Reimbursements under these plans generally aren’t taxable income for the employee, board member or volunteer. To secure this favorable tax treatment, accountable plans must satisfy three requirements: 1) Expenses must have a connection to your organization’s purpose; 2) claimants must adequately substantiate expenses within 60 days after they were paid or incurred; and 3) claimants must return any excess reimbursement or allowance within 120 days after expenses were paid or incurred.

Arrangements where you advance money to an employee or volunteer meet the third requirement only if the advance is reasonably calculated not to exceed the amount of anticipated expenses. You must make the advance within 30 days of the time the recipient pays or incurs the expense.

2. Nonaccountable plans. These don’t fulfill the above requirements. Reimbursements made under nonaccountable plans are treated as taxable wages.

Policy items

Your reimbursement policy should make it clear which types of expenses are reimbursable and which aren’t. Be sure to include any restrictions. For example, you might set a limit on the nightly cost for lodging or exclude alcoholic beverages from reimbursable meals.

Also be sure to require substantiation of travel, mileage and other reimbursable expenses within 60 days. The documentation should include items such as a statement of expenses, receipts (showing the date, vendor, and items or services purchased), and account book or calendar. Note that the IRS does allow some limited exceptions to its documentation requirements. Specifically, no receipts are necessary for:

  • A per diem allowance for out-of-town travel,
  • Non-lodging expenses less than $75, or
  • Transportation expenses for which a receipt isn’t readily available.

Your policy should require the timely (within 120 days) return of any amounts you pay that are more than the substantiated expenses.

Standard rate vs. actual costs

Finally, address mileage reimbursement, including the method you’ll use. You can reimburse employees for vehicle use at the federal standard mileage rate of 67 cents per mile for 2024, and volunteers at the charity rate of 14 cents per mile. Unlike employees, however, volunteers can be reimbursed for commuting mileage.

Alternatively, you can reimburse employees and volunteers for the actual costs of using their vehicles for your nonprofit’s purposes. For employees, you might reimburse gas, lease payments or depreciation, repairs, insurance, and registration fees. For volunteers, the only allowable actual expenses are gas and oil.

What makes sense

You don’t need to craft a reimbursement policy on your own. We can help ensure you include the elements that make sense given your nonprofit’s size, mission and activities and update it as your organization grows and evolves.

© 2024

 

What’s the best accounting method route for business tax purposes? | tax accountant in baltimore md | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

What’s the best accounting method route for business tax purposes?

Businesses basically have two accounting methods to figure their taxable income: cash and accrual. Many businesses have a choice of which method to use for tax purposes. The cash method often provides significant tax benefits for eligible businesses, though some may be better off using the accrual method. Thus, it may be prudent for your business to evaluate its method to ensure that it’s the most advantageous approach.

Eligibility to use the cash method

“Small businesses,” as defined by the tax code, are generally eligible to use either cash or accrual accounting for tax purposes. (Some businesses may also be eligible to use various hybrid approaches.) Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) took effect, the gross receipts threshold for classification as a small business varied from $1 million to $10 million depending on how a business was structured, its industry and factors involving inventory.

The TCJA simplified the small business definition by establishing a single gross receipts threshold. It also increased the threshold to $25 million (adjusted for inflation), expanding the benefits of small business status to more companies. For 2024, a small business is one whose average annual gross receipts for the three-year period ending before the 2024 tax year are $30 million or less (up from $29 million for 2023).

In addition to eligibility for the cash accounting method, small businesses can benefit from advantages including:

  • Simplified inventory accounting,
  • An exemption from the uniform capitalization rules, and
  • An exemption from the business interest deduction limit.

Note: Some businesses are eligible for cash accounting even if their gross receipts are above the threshold, including S corporations, partnerships without C corporation partners, farming businesses and certain personal service corporations. Tax shelters are ineligible for the cash method, regardless of size.

Difference between the methods

For most businesses, the cash method provides significant tax advantages. Because cash-basis businesses recognize income when received and deduct expenses when they’re paid, they have greater control over the timing of income and deductions. For example, toward the end of the year, they can defer income by delaying invoices until the following tax year or shift deductions into the current year by accelerating the payment of expenses.

In contrast, accrual-basis businesses recognize income when earned and deduct expenses when incurred, without regard to the timing of cash receipts or payments. Therefore, they have little flexibility to time the recognition of income or expenses for tax purposes.

The cash method also provides cash flow benefits. Because income is taxed in the year received, it helps ensure that a business has the funds needed to pay its tax bill.

However, for some businesses, the accrual method may be preferable. For instance, if a company’s accrued income tends to be lower than its accrued expenses, the accrual method may result in lower tax liability. Other potential advantages of the accrual method include the ability to deduct year-end bonuses paid within the first 2½ months of the following tax year and the option to defer taxes on certain advance payments.

Switching methods

Even if your business would benefit by switching from the accrual method to the cash method, or vice versa, it’s important to consider the administrative costs involved in a change. For example, if your business prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, it’s required to use the accrual method for financial reporting purposes. That doesn’t mean it can’t use the cash method for tax purposes, but it would require maintaining two sets of books.

Changing accounting methods for tax purposes also may require IRS approval. Contact us to learn more about each method.

© 2024

 

Get ready for the 2023 gift tax return deadline | accountant in baltimore md | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

Get ready for the 2023 gift tax return deadline

Did you make large gifts to your children, grandchildren or others last year? If so, it’s important to determine if you’re required to file a 2023 gift tax return. In some cases, it might be beneficial to file one — even if it’s not required.

Who must file?

The annual gift tax exclusion has increased in 2024 to $18,000 but was $17,000 for 2023. Generally, you must file a gift tax return for 2023 if, during the tax year, you made gifts:

  • That exceeded the $17,000-per-recipient gift tax annual exclusion for 2023 (other than to your U.S. citizen spouse),
  • That you wish to split with your spouse to take advantage of your combined $34,000 annual exclusion for 2023,
  • That exceeded the $175,000 annual exclusion in 2023 for gifts to a noncitizen spouse,
  • To a Section 529 college savings plan and wish to accelerate up to five years’ worth of annual exclusions ($85,000) into 2023,
  • Of future interests — such as remainder interests in a trust — regardless of the amount, or
  • Of jointly held or community property.

Keep in mind that you’ll owe gift tax only to the extent that an exclusion doesn’t apply and you’ve used up your lifetime gift and estate tax exemption ($12.92 million for 2023). As you can see, some transfers require a return even if you don’t owe tax.

Who might want to file?

No gift tax return is required if your gifts for 2023 consisted solely of gifts that are tax-free because they qualify as:

  • Annual exclusion gifts,
  • Present interest gifts to a U.S. citizen spouse,
  • Educational or medical expenses paid directly to a school or health care provider, or
  • Political or charitable contributions.

But if you transferred hard-to-value property, such as artwork or interests in a family-owned business, you should consider filing a gift tax return even if you’re not required to. Adequate disclosure of the transfer in a return triggers the statute of limitations, generally preventing the IRS from challenging your valuation more than three years after you file.

The deadline is April 15

The gift tax return deadline is the same as the income tax filing deadline. For 2023 returns, it’s Monday, April 15, 2024 — or Tuesday, October 15, 2024, if you file for an extension. But keep in mind that, if you owe gift tax, the payment deadline is April 15, regardless of whether you file for an extension. If you’re not sure whether you must (or should) file a 2023 gift tax return on IRS Form 709, contact us.

© 2024

 

If you didn’t contribute to an IRA last year, there’s still time | tax preparation in hunt valley md | Weyrich, Cronin, & Sorra

If you didn’t contribute to an IRA last year, there’s still time

If you’re gathering documents to file your 2023 tax return and you’re concerned that your tax bill may be higher than you’d like, there might still be an opportunity to lower it. If you qualify, you can make a deductible contribution to a traditional IRA right up until the April 15, 2024, filing date and benefit from the tax savings on your 2023 return.

Who is eligible?

You can make a deductible contribution to a traditional IRA if:

  • You and your spouse aren’t active participants in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, or
  • You or your spouse are an active participant in an employer plan, but your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) doesn’t exceed certain levels that vary from year to year by filing status.

For 2023, if you’re a joint tax return filer and you are covered by an employer plan, your deductible IRA contribution phases out over $116,000 to $136,000 of modified AGI. If you’re single or a head of household, the phaseout range is $73,000 to $83,000 for 2023. For married filing separately, the phaseout range is $0 to $10,000. For 2023, if you’re not an active participant in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, but your spouse is, your deductible IRA contribution phases out with modified AGI of $218,000 to $228,000.

Deductible IRA contributions reduce your current tax bill, and earnings within the IRA are tax deferred. However, every dollar you take out is taxed in full (and subject to a 10% penalty before age 59½, unless one of several exceptions apply).

IRAs are often referred to as “traditional IRAs” to differentiate them from Roth IRAs. You also have until April 15 to make a Roth IRA contribution. But while contributions to a traditional IRA are deductible, contributions to a Roth IRA aren’t. However, withdrawals from a Roth IRA are tax-free as long as the account has been open at least five years and you’re age 59½ or older. (There are also income limits to contribute to a Roth IRA.)

Here are two other IRA strategies that may help you save tax:

1. Turn a nondeductible Roth IRA contribution into a deductible IRA contribution. Did you make a Roth IRA contribution in 2023? That may help you in the future when you take tax-free payouts from the account. However, the contribution isn’t deductible. If you realize you need the deduction that a traditional IRA contribution provides, you can change your mind and turn a Roth IRA contribution into a traditional IRA contribution via the “recharacterization” mechanism. The traditional IRA deduction is then yours if you meet the requirements described above.

2. Make a deductible IRA contribution, even if you don’t work. In general, you can’t make a deductible traditional IRA contribution unless you have wages or other earned income. However, an exception applies if your spouse is the wage earner and you’re a stay-at-home parent or homemaker. In this case, you may be able to take advantage of a spousal IRA.

What’s the contribution limit?

For 2023 if you’re eligible, you can make a deductible traditional IRA contribution of up to $6,500 ($7,500 if you’re 50 or over).

In addition, small business owners can set up and contribute to a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan up to the due date for their returns, including extensions. For 2023, the maximum contribution you can make to a SEP is $66,000.

If you want more information about IRAs or SEPs, contact us or ask about it when we’re preparing your return. We can help you save the maximum tax-advantaged amount for retirement.

© 2024

 

If you gave to charity in 2023, check to see that you have substantiation | accounting firm in baltimore md | Weyrich, Cronin, & Sorra

If you gave to charity in 2023, check to see that you have substantiation

Did you donate to charity last year? Acknowledgment letters from the charities you gave to may have already shown up in your mailbox. But if you don’t receive such a letter, can you still claim a deduction for the gift on your 2023 income tax return? It depends.

What the law requires

To prove a charitable donation for which you claim a tax deduction, you must comply with IRS substantiation requirements. For a donation of $250 or more, this includes obtaining a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the charitable organization stating the amount of the donation, whether you received any goods or services in consideration for the donation and the value of any such goods or services.

“Contemporaneous” means the earlier of:

  1. The date you file your tax return, or
  2. The extended due date of your return.

Therefore, if you made a donation in 2023 but haven’t yet received substantiation from the charity, it’s not too late — as long as you haven’t filed your 2023 return. Contact the charity now and request a written acknowledgment.

Keep in mind that, if you made a cash gift of under $250 with a check or credit card, generally a canceled check, bank statement or credit card statement is adequate. However, if you received something in return for the donation, you generally must reduce your deduction by its value — and the charity is required to provide you a written acknowledgment as described earlier.

No longer a tax break for nonitemizers

Currently, taxpayers who don’t itemize their deductions (and instead claim the standard deduction) can’t claim a charitable deduction. Under previous COVID-19 relief laws, an individual who didn’t itemize deductions could claim a limited federal income tax write-off for cash contributions to IRS-approved charities for the 2020 and 2021 tax years. Unfortunately, the deduction for nonitemizers isn’t available for 2022 or 2023.

More requirements for certain donations

Some types of donations require additional substantiation. For example, if you donate property valued at more than $500, you must attach a completed Form 8283 (Noncash Charitable Contributions) to your return.

And for donated property with a value of more than $5,000, you generally must obtain a qualified appraisal and attach an appraisal summary to your tax return.

Contact us if you have questions about whether you have the required substantiation for the donations you hope to deduct on your 2023 tax return. We can also advise on the substantiation you’ll need for gifts you’re planning this year to ensure you can enjoy the desired deductions on your 2024 return.

© 2024

 

New option for unused funds in a 529 college savings plan | cpa in baltimore md | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

New option for unused funds in a 529 college savings plan

With the high cost of college, many parents begin saving with 529 plans when their children are babies. Contributions to these plans aren’t tax deductible, but they grow tax deferred. Earnings used to pay qualified education expenses can be withdrawn tax-free. However, earnings used for other purposes may be subject to income tax plus a 10% penalty.

What if you have a substantial balance in a 529 plan but your child doesn’t need all the money for college? Perhaps your child decided not to attend college or received a scholarship. Or maybe you saved for private college, but your child attended a lower-priced state university.

What should you do with unused funds? One option is to pay the tax and penalties and spend the money on whatever you wish. But there are more tax-efficient options, including a new 529-to-Roth IRA transfer.

Nuts and bolts

Beginning in 2024, you can transfer unused funds in a 529 plan to a Roth IRA for the same beneficiary, without tax or penalties. These rollovers are subject to several rules and limits:

  • Transfers have a lifetime maximum of $35,000 per beneficiary.
  • The 529 plan must have existed for at least 15 years.
  • The rollover must be through a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer.
  • Transferred funds can’t include contributions made within the preceding five years or earnings on those contributions.
  • Transfers are subject to the annual limits on contributions to Roth IRAs (without regard to income limits).

For example, let’s say you opened a 529 plan for your son after he was born in 2001. When your son graduated from college in 2023, there was $30,000 left in the account. In 2024, under the new option, you can begin transferring funds into your son’s Roth IRA. Since the 529 plan was opened at least 15 years ago (and no contributions were made in the last five years), the only restriction on rollover is the annual Roth IRA contribution limit. Assuming your son hasn’t made any other IRA contributions for 2024, you can roll over up to $7,000 (if your son has at least that much earned income for the year).

If your son’s earned income for 2024 is less than $7,000, the amount eligible for a rollover will be reduced. For example, if he takes an unpaid internship and earns $4,000 during the year from a part-time job, the most you can roll over for the year is $4,000.

A 529-to-Roth IRA rollover is an appealing option to avoid tax and penalties on unused funds, while helping the beneficiaries start saving for retirement. Roth IRAs are a great savings vehicle for young people because they’ll enjoy tax-free withdrawals decades later.

Other options

Roth IRA rollovers aren’t the only option for avoiding tax and penalties on unused 529 plan funds. You can also change a plan’s beneficiary to another family member. Or you can use 529 plans for continuing education, certain trade schools, or even up to $10,000 per year of elementary through high school tuition. In addition, you can withdraw funds tax-free to pay down student loan debt, up to $10,000 per beneficiary.

It’s not unusual for parents to end up with unused 529 funds. Contact us if you have questions about the most tax-wise way to handle them.

© 2024

 

Answers to your tax season questions | tax accountant in harford county md | Weyrich, Cronin, and Sorra

Answers to your tax season questions

The IRS announced it will open the 2024 income tax return filing season on January 29. That’s when the tax agency will begin accepting and processing 2023 tax year returns.

Here are answers to seven tax season questions we receive at this time of year.

1. What are this year’s deadlines?

The filing deadline to submit 2023 returns or file an extension is Monday, April 15, 2024, for most taxpayers. Taxpayers living in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17, due to state holidays. If taxpayers reside in a federally declared disaster area, they may have additional time to file.

2. When is my return due if I request an extension?

If you’re requesting an extension, you’ll have until October 15, 2024, to file. Keep in mind that an extension of time to file your return doesn’t grant you any extension of time to pay your taxes. You should estimate and pay any taxes owed by the April 15 deadline to avoid penalties.

3. When should I file?

You may want to wait until close to the deadline (or file for an extension), but there are reasons to file earlier. Doing so provides some protection from tax identity theft.

4. What’s tax identity theft and how does early filing help protect me?

Typically, in a tax identity theft scam, a thief uses another person’s information to file a fake tax return and claim a fraudulent refund early in the filing season.

The legitimate taxpayer discovers the fraud when filing a return. He or she is then told by the IRS that the return is being rejected because one with the same Social Security number has already been filed for the tax year. The victim should be able to eventually prove that his or her return is the valid one, but it can be time consuming and frustrating to straighten out. It can also delay a refund.

Filing early provides some proactive defense. The reason: If you file first, the tax return filed by a potential thief will be rejected.

5. Are there other benefits to filing early?

Besides providing protection against tax identity theft, another benefit of early filing is you’ll get any refund sooner. According to the IRS, “most refunds will be issued in less than 21 days.” The time may be shorter if you file electronically and receive a refund by direct deposit into a bank account. Direct deposit also avoids the possibility that a refund check could be lost, stolen, returned to the IRS as undeliverable or caught in mail delays.

6. When will my W-2s and 1099s arrive?

To file your tax return, you’ll need all of your Forms W-2 and 1099. January 31, 2024, is the deadline for employers to file 2023 W-2s and, generally, for businesses to file Form 1099s for recipients of any 2023 interest, dividends or reportable miscellaneous income payments (including those made to independent contractors).

If you haven’t received a W-2 or 1099 by early February, first contact the entity that should have issued it. If that doesn’t work, ask us how to proceed.

7. When can you prepare my return?

Contact us as soon as possible for a tax preparation appointment. Separate penalties apply for failing to file and pay on time — and they can be quite severe. Even though the IRS isn’t beginning to process returns until January 29, they can be prepared before that. We can help ensure you file an accurate, timely return and receive all the tax breaks to which you’re entitled.

© 2024

 

IRAs: Build a tax-favored retirement nest egg | tax accountant in elkton md | Weyrich, Cronin, and Sorra

IRAs: Build a tax-favored retirement nest egg

Although traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs have been around for decades, the rules involved have changed many times. The Secure 2.0 law, which was enacted at the end of 2022, brought even more changes that made IRAs more advantageous for many taxpayers. What hasn’t changed is that they can help you save for retirement on a tax-favored basis. Here’s an overview of the basic rules and some of the recent changes.

Rules for traditional IRAs

You can make an annual deductible contribution to a traditional IRA if:

  • You (and your spouse) aren’t active participants in employer-sponsored retirement plans, or
  • You (or your spouse) are active participants in an employer plan, and your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) doesn’t exceed certain levels that vary annually by filing status.

For example, in 2024, if you’re a joint return filer covered by an employer plan, your deductible IRA contribution phases out over $123,000 to $143,000 of MAGI ($77,000 to $87,000 for singles).

Deductible IRA contributions reduce your current tax bill, and earnings are tax deferred. However, withdrawals are taxed in full (and subject to a 10% penalty if taken before age 59½, unless one of several exceptions apply). Under the SECURE 2.0 law, you must now begin making minimum withdrawals by April 1 of the year following the year you turn age 73 (the age was 72 before 2023 and 70½ before 2020).

You can make an annual nondeductible IRA contribution without regard to employer plan coverage and your MAGI. The earnings in a nondeductible IRA are tax-deferred but taxed when distributed (and subject to a 10% penalty if taken early, unless an exception applies).

Nondeductible contributions aren’t taxed when withdrawn. If you’ve made deductible and nondeductible IRA contributions, a portion of each distribution is treated as coming from nontaxable IRA contributions (and the rest is taxed).

Amount you can sock away

The maximum annual IRA contribution (deductible or nondeductible, or a combination) is $7,000 for 2024 (up from $6,500 for 2023). If you are age 50 or over, you can make a $1,000 “catch-up contribution” for 2024 (unchanged from 2023). Additionally, your contribution can’t exceed the amount of your compensation includible in income for that year.

Rules for Roth IRAs

You can make an annual contribution to a Roth IRA if your income doesn’t exceed certain levels based on filing status. For example, in 2024, if you’re a joint return filer, the maximum annual Roth IRA contribution phases out over $230,000 to $240,000 of MAGI ($146,000 to $161,000 for singles). Annual Roth contributions can be made up to the amount allowed as a contribution to a traditional IRA, reduced by the amount you contribute for the year to non-Roth IRAs, but not reduced by contributions to a SEP or SIMPLE plan.

Roth IRA contributions aren’t deductible. However, earnings are tax-deferred and (unlike a traditional IRA) withdrawals are tax-free if paid out:

  • After a five-year period that begins with the first year for which you made a contribution to a Roth IRA, and
  • Once you reach age 59½, or upon death or disability, or for first-time home-buyer expenses of you, your spouse, child, grandchild, or ancestor (up to a $10,000 lifetime limit).

You don’t have to take required minimum distributions from a Roth IRA. You can “roll over” (or convert) a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA regardless of your income. The amount taken out of the traditional IRA and rolled into the Roth IRA is treated for tax purposes as a regular withdrawal (but not subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty).

There’s currently no age limit for making regular contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA, as long as you have compensation income. Contact us if you have questions about IRAs.

© 2024

 

The standard business mileage rate will be going up slightly in 2024 | accounting firm in washington dc | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

The standard business mileage rate will be going up slightly in 2024

The optional standard mileage rate used to calculate the deductible cost of operating an automobile for business will be going up by 1.5 cents per mile in 2024. The IRS recently announced that the cents-per-mile rate for the business use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck will be 67 cents (up from 65.5 cents for 2023).

The increased tax deduction partly reflects the price of gasoline, which is about the same as it was a year ago. On December 21, 2023, the national average price of a gallon of regular gas was $3.12, compared with $3.10 a year earlier, according to AAA Gas Prices.

Standard rate vs. tracking expenses

Businesses can generally deduct the actual expenses attributable to business use of vehicles. These include gas, tires, oil, repairs, insurance, licenses and vehicle registration fees. In addition, you can claim a depreciation allowance for the vehicle. However, in many cases, certain limits apply to depreciation write-offs on vehicles that don’t apply to other types of business assets.

The cents-per-mile rate is helpful if you don’t want to keep track of actual vehicle-related expenses. However, you still must record certain information, such as the mileage for each business trip, the date and the destination.

The standard rate is also used by businesses that reimburse employees for business use of their personal vehicles. These reimbursements can help attract and retain employees who drive their personal vehicles for business purposes. Why? Under current law, employees can’t deduct unreimbursed employee business expenses, such as business mileage, on their own income tax returns.

If you use the cents-per-mile rate, keep in mind that you must comply with various rules. If you don’t comply, reimbursements to employees could be considered taxable wages to them.

Rate calculation

The business cents-per-mile rate is adjusted annually. It’s based on an annual study commissioned by the IRS about the fixed and variable costs of operating a vehicle, such as gas, maintenance, repairs and depreciation. Occasionally, if there’s a substantial change in average gas prices, the IRS will change the rate midyear.

Not always allowed

There are cases when you can’t use the cents-per-mile rate. In some situations, it depends on how you’ve claimed deductions for the same vehicle in the past. In other situations, it hinges on if the vehicle is new to your business this year or whether you want to take advantage of certain first-year depreciation tax breaks on it.

As you can see, there are many factors to consider in deciding whether to use the standard mileage rate to deduct business vehicle expenses. We can help if you have questions about tracking and claiming such expenses in 2024 — or claiming 2023 expenses on your 2023 tax return.

© 2023

 

Defer a current tax bill with a like-kind exchange | tax accountant in alexandria va | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

Defer a current tax bill with a like-kind exchange

If you’re interested in selling commercial or investment real estate that has appreciated significantly, one way to defer a tax bill on the gain is with a Section 1031 “like-kind” exchange. With this transaction, you exchange the property rather than sell it. Although the real estate market has been tough recently in some locations, there are still profitable opportunities (with high resulting tax bills) when the like-kind exchange strategy may be attractive.

A like-kind exchange is any exchange of real property held for investment or for productive use in your trade or business (relinquished property) for like-kind investment, trade or business real property (replacement property).

For these purposes, like-kind is broadly defined, and most real property is considered to be like-kind with other real property. However, neither the relinquished property nor the replacement property can be real property held primarily for sale.

Asset-for-asset or boot

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, tax-deferred Section 1031 treatment is no longer allowed for exchanges of personal property — such as equipment and certain personal property building components — that are completed after December 31, 2017.

If you’re unsure if the property involved in your exchange is eligible for like-kind treatment, please contact us to discuss the matter.

Assuming the exchange qualifies, here’s how the tax rules work. If it’s a straight asset-for-asset exchange, you won’t have to recognize any gain from the exchange. You’ll take the same “basis” (your cost for tax purposes) in the replacement property that you had in the relinquished property. Even if you don’t have to recognize any gain on the exchange, you still must report it on Form 8824, “Like-Kind Exchanges.”

However, in many cases, the properties aren’t equal in value, so some cash or other property is added to the deal. This cash or other property is known as “boot.” If boot is involved, you’ll have to recognize your gain, but only up to the amount of boot you receive in the exchange. In these situations, the basis you get in the like-kind replacement property you receive is equal to the basis you had in the relinquished property reduced by the amount of boot you received but increased by the amount of any gain recognized.

How it works

For example, let’s say you exchange business property with a basis of $100,000 for a building valued at $120,000, plus $15,000 in cash. Your realized gain on the exchange is $35,000: You received $135,000 in value for an asset with a basis of $100,000. However, since it’s a like-kind exchange, you only have to recognize $15,000 of your gain. That’s the amount of cash (boot) you received. Your basis in the new building (the replacement property) will be $100,000: your original basis in the relinquished property ($100,000) plus the $15,000 gain recognized, minus the $15,000 boot received.

Note that no matter how much boot is received, you’ll never recognize more than your actual (“realized”) gain on the exchange.

If the property you’re exchanging is subject to debt from which you’re being relieved, the amount of the debt is treated as boot. The reason is that if someone takes over your debt, it’s equivalent to the person giving you cash. Of course, if the replacement property is also subject to debt, then you’re only treated as receiving boot to the extent of your “net debt relief” (the amount by which the debt you become free of exceeds the debt you pick up).

Unload one property and replace it with another

Like-kind exchanges can be a great tax-deferred way to dispose of investment, trade or business real property. But you have to make sure to meet all the requirements. Contact us if you have questions or would like to discuss the strategy further.

© 2024