An Update: Real Estate Professionals and Passive Losses

Dreaded Passive Losses

An Update: Real Estate Professionals and Passive LossesA passive loss from a real estate activity occurs when your rental property’s expenses exceeds its income. The undesirable consequence of passive losses is that a taxpayer is only allowed to claim a certain amount of losses on their tax return each year.

When income is below $100,000, a taxpayer can deduct up to $25,000 of passive losses. As income increases above $100,000, the $25,000 passive loss limitation decreases or “phases out.” The phase out is $0.50 for every $1 increase in income. Once income increases above $150,000, taxpayers are completely phased out of deducting passive losses.

Rentals are passive, unless they aren’t

The general rule is that all rental activities are, by definition, passive. However, the Internal Revenue Code created an exception for certain professionals in the real estate business.

Who is a real estate professional?

As discussed in a previous post, for income tax purposes, the real estate professional designation means you spend a certain amount of time in real estate activities.

According to the IRS, real estate professionals are individuals who meet both of these conditions:

1) More than 50% of their personal services during the tax year are performed in real property trades or businesses in which they materially participate and

2) they spend more than 750 hours of service during the year in real property trades or businesses in which they materially participate.

Any real property development, redevelopment, construction, reconstruction, acquisition, conversion, rental, operations, management, leasing, or brokerage trade or business qualifies as real property trade or business.

Can I qualify as a real estate professional?

I get these questions quite often from taxpayers:  Do I qualify as a real estate professional?  If not, how can I qualify?

There have been many cases that appear in front of the Tax Court where a taxpayer argues they qualify as a real estate professional and the IRS has disallowed treatment and subjects the taxpayer to the passive activity loss rules of Code Sec. 469.

A recent case held that a mortgage broker was not a real estate professional (Hickam, T.C. Summ. 2017-66). The taxpayer was a broker of real estate mortgages and loans secured by a real estate. Although the taxpayer held a real estate license, he did not develop, redevelop, construct, reconstruct, operate, or rent real estate in his mortgage brokerage operation.

The taxpayer argued that his mortgage brokerage services and loan origination services should be included for purposes of satisfying the real estate professional test. The Court held that the taxpayer’s mortgage brokerage services and loan origination services did not constitute real property trades or businesses under Code Sec. 469(c)(7)(c).

We’ve got your back

If you invest in real estate, it can be difficult to keep track of tax laws and how they impact you. At KRS CPAs, we stay on top of all the laws – especially the changes under the new tax reform – and can help you avoid tax problems. Contact me at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 for a complimentary initial consultation.

2017 Tax Legislation: What Individual Taxpayers Need to Know

2017 Tax Legislation: What Individual Taxpayers Need to Know

The new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act amends the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) to reduce tax rates and modify policies, credits, and deductions for individuals and businesses. It is the most sweeping update to the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years, and from what we’re seeing, it impacts everyone’s tax situation a bit differently.

What works for one individual or family may not work for another, although their circumstances may appear to be similar on the surface.

Here are some of the key features of the tax reform legislation that you need to know about as an individual tax payer. (I’ll cover the impact on businesses in a separate post.)

Individual Tax Rates

There are still seven tax brackets, however the rates have dropped in all except the lowest bracket. The new maximum tax rate was reduced from 39.6% to 37%, which applies for those earning over $500,000 annually, if single, or $600,000 if married.

Here is a comparison of the old and new tax rates:

Comparison of new and old tax rates

While these changes are likely good for everyone, I do have some clients who are married, filing jointly and when I recalculated their taxes under the new law, the results were not what we expected. The husband and wife both work, and it turns out they’re only going to save $200 in taxes! So that’s why it’s important to work with your accountant and look at your situation individually.

Alternative Minimum Tax

The alternative minimum tax (AMT) is a supplemental income tax imposed by the United States federal government. AMT is a separate tax calculation that is run after the regular tax calculations are done. The taxpayer pays the higher of the two taxes. Although this was supposed to be a tax to ensure that everyone, including the wealthy, pay some tax, in the past it did hit many middle income wage earners.

Under the new law:

  • The amount exempt from AMT increases from $86,200 to $109,400, if married, and from $55,400 to $70,300 if single.
  • The phase-out of the exemption amount begins at $1,000,000 – instead of $164,100 – if married, and $500,000 – instead of $123,100 – if single.

So we expect we will be seeing fewer middle income wage earners subject to AMT.

Deductions, exemptions, and capital gains

The standard deductions have nearly doubled to $24,000 (married) and $12,000 (single), however there is no longer any personal exemptions allowed at any income level.

Individual deductions for state and local taxes (SALT) for income, sales, and property are limited in aggregate to $10,000 for married and single filers and $5,000 for married, filing separately. What this means in a high real estate tax state like New Jersey, where you’re probably paying more than $10,000 a year in real estate taxes, you’re going to be taking a hit starting in 2018.

Most miscellaneous itemized deductions – for example, tax preparation and investment expenses – that had been subject to the 2% of adjusted gross income (AGI) floor will no longer be allowed.

As far as capital gains, there were no changes to the tax rate. The maximum rate on long-term gains and qualified dividend income (before 3.8% net investment income tax) remains at 20%.

As the reform bill was being negotiated, there had been talk of doing away with the medical expense deduction completely, which would have hurt the elderly. Instead, they reduced the floor to 7.5% of AGI for tax years 2017 and 2018.

Fortunately, there were no changes to how securities are treated. You can continue to specify which stocks you’re selling, which means if have a lot of the same stock, you can pick your highest basis so that you have the lowest amount of capital gain.

The child tax credit increases from $1,000 per qualified child to $2,000, with $1,400 being refundable. Phase-out of the credit begins at $110,000 (single) and $400,000 (married).

You will no longer be penalized if you don’t have health insurance. Starting in 2019, the new legislation eliminates the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

Mortgage interest and real estate

Before the tax law changed, you could deduct mortgage interest on mortgages up to $1 million, if you’re married, and $500,000 if you’re single. Interest on a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) could be deducted up to $100,000. Under the new law, individuals are allowed an itemized deduction for interest on a principal residence and second residence up to a combined $750,000. Mortgages obtained before 12/16/17 are grandfathered and new purchase money mortgages may be grandfathered if the purchase contract is dated before 12/16/17.

Refinancing of grandfathered mortgages is grandfathered, but not beyond the original mortgage’s term and amount, with some exceptions for balloon mortgages. Interest on HELOCs is no longer deductible.

The rules for capital gain exclusion for a primary residence remain unchanged, which is good for the real estate market. When you sell your primary residence, you get to exclude $500,000 of gain. As the taxpayer, you must own and use the home as your primary residence for two out of the previous five years. This exemption can only be used once every two years.

You will still be able to do a like-kind exchange on real estate, but no longer on personal property. This type of exchange allows for the disposal of an asset and the acquisition of another replacement asset without generating a current tax liability from the gain on the sale of the first asset.

College savings plans, estates and gifts

If you have a Section 529 plan, you can now pay up to $10,000 a year per student for high school education. This had always been limited to college, but now if you are paying public, private or religious high school tuition, you can use some of your 529 here.

Under the new tax law, the estate, gift and generation skipping transfer (GST) tax exemptions are doubled to $11.2 million per US domiciliary.  These exemptions sunset after 2025 and revert back to the law in effect for 2017 with inflation adjustments. There’s a possibility for “clawback” at death if the law is not changed.

Pass-through and charitable deductions

If you own a business that is set up as a partnership, S-corporation, or sole proprietorship, income was passed through to your individual tax returns, where it was taxed as ordinary income. There is now a new 20% deduction for qualified business income from a partnership, S-corp, or sole proprietorship. There are some income limitations to this deduction, so be sure you consult your tax advisor on this one.

We still have deductions for charitable contributions. Under the new law, a contribution made to public charities is deductible, as long as it doesn’t exceed 60% of the taxpayer’s AGI – this is up from 50% of AGI.

We’ve got your back

At KRS, we’ve been tracking tax reform legislation closely and are ready to assist you in your tax planning and preparation now that it is finally signed into law. Don’t lose sleep wondering what impact the new law will have on you and your family. Contact me at 201.655.7411 or [email protected].

 

Excluding Gain on the Sale of a Principal Residence

Excluding Gain on the Sale of a Principal Residence

One of the most valuable assets a taxpayer will ever sell is their personal residence. Under IRC Section 121 of current tax law, a taxpayer can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 if married, filing jointly) of gain realized on the sale or exchange of a principal residence.

Any loss on a principal residence is deemed a personal loss and non-deductible.

What is a principal residence?

The determination whether a property is used as a taxpayer’s principal residence depends on a variety of factors. Some of these factors include:

  • Principal place of abode for the taxpayer’s family members
  • Address on the taxpayer’s driver’s license, automobile registration, and voter registration
  • Mailing address for bills and correspondence
  • Location of taxpayer’s banks
  • Location of religious organizations and recreational clubs with which the taxpayer is affiliated
  • Location of the taxpayer’s doctors
  • Taxpayer’s place of employment

If a taxpayer uses more than one property as a residence, the property that checks the most boxes will likely be assessed as the primary residence. If a taxpayer alternates between two properties, the property used the majority of time during that year will be considered the principal residence for purposes of the IRC Section 121 exclusion. A houseboat, trailer, or apartment a taxpayer is entitled to occupy in a cooperative housing corporation (co-op) may also qualify as a principal residence.

How is gain or loss computed?

Gain (or loss) is computed based upon the selling price less expenses of the sale and the taxpayer’s adjusted basis in the residence. Adjusted basis is original cost plus the cost of improvements (not repairs) made to the residence and reduced by any depreciation claimed on the property.

Gain exclusion requirements

Taxpayer’s must meet three tests for the full gain exclusion to apply:

  1. Ownership – the taxpayer must have owned the residence for at least two years during the five years ending on the date of the sale or exchange. Tip – The measuring period is the actual time between sales, not taxable years.
  2. Use – the taxpayer must have occupied the residence as a principal residence for periods adding up to at least two years within the five-year period ending on the date of sale or exchange.
  3. One Sale in Two Years – the exclusion under Section 121 does not apply to any sale of a principal residence if, during the two-year period ending on the date of sale, the taxpayer sold their principal residence in which gain was excluded under section 121.

Example: A taxpayer sold a principal residence on March 1, 2016 and excluded the gain under Section 121. The taxpayer would not be eligible to claim the exclusion under Section 121 until April 2, 2018.

It is important to note The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act proposed increasing the length of ownership and use from two out of five years to five out of eight years. This was removed from the final version of the bill.

Property used partially as business and partially as principal residence

The IRS takes the position that the Section 121 exclusion is not available for any portion of the residence used for business purposes during the qualifying use period. Thus, if a portion of the property was used as a principal residence and a portion separate from the dwelling unit was used for non-residential purposes, only the gain allocable to the residential portion is excludable. However, no allocation is required if both the residential and nonresidential portions are within the same dwelling unit (commonly seen in home offices). It is important to note gain attributable to depreciation claimed after May 6, 1997 is not eligible for exclusion.

Example – Home office impact on gain exclusion

Jeff, an accountant, purchases a house in 2014. The house is a single unit, but Jeff has one room that is used exclusively for the accountant practice until the property is sold in 2017. Jeff claims depreciation of $3,000 attributable to the portion used as a home office. Upon the sale in 2017, Jeff realized a gain of $75,000.

Since Jeff’s home office is part of the dwelling, no allocation is required. However, Jeff must recognize $3,000 of the gain as unrecaptured Section 1250 gain (currently taxed at 25%), the depreciation claimed for the business portion of his home. The remaining $72,000 is excludable under the Section 121 exclusion.

Selling your principal residence? Get the advice you need for smart tax decisions

For more about how the sale of your principal residence can affect your tax situation, please contact me at [email protected] or (201) 655-7411.

How Tax Reform Impacts Real Estate

How Tax Reform Impacts Real Estate

The Senate and House have passed similar tax reform plans, but the bill is not yet finalized. Legislators are still working to create a unified bill, and the real estate industry can expect significant changes under the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” Key changes include:

Temporary 100% Bonus Depreciation

House Bill:

Modifies existing bonus depreciation rules under the “PATH Act” by increasing the rate to 100% through the end of 2022. It also makes bonus depreciation applicable to both new and used property, where it currently applies only to new property. The 100% bonus depreciation will not apply to real property trade or business (i.e., commercial and residential real estate).

Senate Bill:

Similar to the House bill, except the 100% bonus depreciation will apply only to new property and to real property trade or business.

Section 179 Expensing

House Bill:

The Section 179 expense limitations for 2018 will increase from $500,000 to $5 million while the phase-out limitations for assets placed in service will be increased from $2 million to $20 million.

Senate Bill:

The Section 179 expense limitations for 2018 will increase from $500,000 to $1 million while the phase-out limitations will increase from $2 million to $2.5 million. Qualified real property eligible for 179 expensing will be expanded to include improvements to certain buildings systems including roofs, HVAC, fire and alarm systems, and security systems.

Real Estate Recovery Periods

House Bill:

No changes to current depreciation recovery periods of 27.5 years for residential and 39 years for non-residential real property.

Senate Bill:

Nonresidential real and residential rental property depreciable lives would be shortened to 25 years.

Like-Kind (1031 Exchanges)

House bill:

1031 exchanges will continue for real property, but not for tangible personal property. CAUTION: The proposed rules will trigger 1245 recapture for tangible personal property.

Senate Bill:

Same as House bill.

An updated version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act must be approved by both the Senate and House before going to the president to be signed into law.

We’ve Got Your Back

At KRS, we’ve been tracking tax reform legislation closely and are ready to assist you in your tax planning and preparation when it is finally signed into law. Don’t lose sleep wondering what impact the tax changes will have on your real estate holdings. Contact me at 201.655.7411 or [email protected].

Investing in Foreign Real Estate? Here’s What You Need to Know

Investing in Foreign Real Estate? Here’s What You Need to Know

Much is written about tax compliance and withholding imposed upon a foreign entity or person owning real estate in the United States. The fact that many U.S. taxpayers own real estate outside of the country is often disregarded.

The intent of this post is to touch upon some of the differences of which an investor or potential investor in foreign real estate should be aware.

Depreciation and foreign property holdings

One of the main differences in holding a U.S. rental property compared to a foreign rental property is depreciation. The Internal Revenue Code requires any tangible property used predominantly outside the U.S. during the year to use the Alternative Depreciation System (“ADS”). Residential rental property located in a foreign country must use ADS, resulting in depreciation over a 40 year recovery period compared to the 27.5 year recovery of U.S. residential property.

1031 exchanges aren’t allowed

I have discussed the tax deferral afforded by entering into a 1031 like-kind exchange in previous posts. However, the Internal Revenue Code does not allow taxpayers to exchange U.S. investment property for foreign investment property.  U.S. property is limited to the 50 states and the District of Columbia only. Property located in U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico, is not like-kind to property located within the United States. There are limited exceptions, under certain circumstances for property located within the U.S Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Taxpayers can obtain deferral afforded by a 1031 exchange when trading U.S. property for U.S. property, but not U.S. property for foreign property. However, foreign property is deemed liked-kind when exchanged for other foreign property, thus qualifying for 1031 exchange treatment.

Preventing double taxation

If a taxpayer operates a property abroad as a rental property, taxes will be owed in the country where the property is located. To prevent double taxation, a U.S. taxpayer can claim a credit on the U.S. tax return for taxes paid to the foreign country relating to the net rental income. It is important to note that a taxpayer cannot claim a credit for more than the amount of U.S. tax on the rental income.

The foreign tax credit is also available if the property is sold and there is any capital gains tax in the foreign county.

Additional reporting obligations

A U.S. taxpayer may have additional filing obligations with their tax return as a result of the foreign rental activity.

For example, if a U.S. taxpayer establishes a foreign bank account to collect rent and the aggregate value of the account is $10,000 or more on any given day, an FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) is required to be filed.

If the property is held in a foreign corporation, Form 5471 (Information Return of U.S. Persons with Respect to Certain Foreign Corporations) is required to be filed. If the property is held in a Foreign LLC, then Form 8858 (Information Return of U.S Persons with Respect to Foreign Disregarded Entities) may be required.

We’ve got your back

Don’t go it alone if you’re an investor in foreign real estate. Contact me at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 for assistance with tax planning for your international holdings.

Special Tax Allowance for Rental Real Estate Activities

Special Tax Allowance for Rental Real Estate Activities

If a taxpayer fails to qualify as a real estate professional, losses from rental activities may still be deductible. While real estate professionals are afforded beneficial tax treatment enabling them to deduct losses from their real estate activities, real estate nonprofessionals taxpayers may still benefit.

Exception for rental real estate activities with active participation

If a taxpayer or spouse actively participated in a passive rental real estate activity, they may be able to deduct up to $25,000 of loss from the activity from nonpassive income. This special allowance is an exception to the general rule disallowing losses in excess of income from passive activities.

What determines active participation?

A taxpayer actively participated in a rental real estate activity if the taxpayer (and spouse) owned at least 10% of the rental property and made management decisions or arranged for others to provide services. Management decisions that may count as active participation include approving new tenants, deciding on rental terms, and approving expenditures.

Having a property manager will not prevent a taxpayer from meeting the active participation test. A taxpayer’s lack of participation in operations does not preclude qualification as an active participant, as long as the taxpayer is still involved in a significant sense. For example, the service vendors and approving tenants must be approved by the taxpayer before the property manager can commit to a service or lease contract. In other words, the taxpayer is still treated as actively participating if they are involved in meaningful management decisions regarding the rental property.

Maximum special allowance

The maximum special allowance is:

  • $25,000 for single taxpayers and married taxpayers filing jointly
  • $12,500 for married taxpayers who file separate returns
  • $25,000 for a qualifying estate reduced by the special allowance for which the surviving spouse qualified

If the taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $100,000 or less ($50,000 or less if married filing separately), they can deduct losses up to the amount specified above. If MAGI is more than $100,000 (more than $50,000 if married filing separately), the special allowance is limited to 50% of the difference between $150,000 ($75,000 if married filing separately and your MAGI). If MAGI is $150,000 or more ($75,000 if married filing separately), there is no special allowance.

Modified Adjust Gross Income (MAGI)

For purposes of calculating the special allowance for rental real estate activities, modified adjusted gross income is computed by deducting the following items from Adjusted Gross Income (AGI):

  • Any passive loss or passive income
  • Any rental losses (whether or not allowed by IRC § 469(c)(7))
  • IRA, taxable social security
  • One-half of self-employment tax
  • Exclusion under 137 for adoption expenses
  • Student loan interest
  • Exclusion for income from US savings bonds (to pay higher education tuition and fees)
  • Qualified tuition expenses (tax years 2002 and later)
  • Tuition and fees deduction
  • Any overall loss from a PTP (publicly traded partnership)

We’ve got your back

Learn about all the tax benefits you may qualify for if you invest in real estate. Contact me at [email protected] or 201.655.7411.

Food for Thought from NJBIZ FoodBizNJ Conference

Having recently attended the FoodBizNJ conference, “Setting the Table for Growth”, I would like to share some “food for thought” I took away from the conference.

Food for Thought from NJBIZ FoodBizNJ ConferenceNew Jersey is home to many food manufacturers, distributors, retailers, restaurants, farms, and the service providers to those companies. However, the industry does face challenges that are not specific to New Jersey.

Some key concerns are:

Managing the workforce

As many food manufacturing jobs do not require a college degree, it is possible to have a career in the food industry without a college education. If necessary, advanced education can come later, however, “soft-skills” training is necessary and most likely will need to be provided by the employer.

As stated by Donna Schaffner, Associate Director: Food Safety, Quality Assurance & Training, Rutgers Food Innovation, it is expected that individuals entering the workforce today will have 22 different jobs in their lifetime. Having a strategy for training and retaining these individuals is critical. Training time and dollars must be well spent in an effort to retain those trained employees.

Understand your margins

It is critical to have a handle on your production costs and gross margin. The first step to setting prices is to understand your cost structure. This is not an exercise that is performed only once; costs change and require constant monitoring. Costs can change materially over time. Costs that are too high and prices set too low can result in disaster. If changes are not monitored and quickly acted upon, the business may experience significant losses.

Specific challenges for family food businesses

A very low percentage of family food businesses make it to the 4th generation. Many of those that do have a “family first” mantra that extends the definition of “family” to long-time employees. Many successful multi-generational family businesses get each succeeding generation involved as early as possible and strive to teach them the business from the ground up. It is perfectly acceptable if some family members choose a different career path but retain ownership interests in the business.  The most successful multi-generational businesses employ family members in active roles, and each generation enthusiastically attempts to contribute to the business’s successful continuation.

What is one challenge that KRS has seen in multi-generational food businesses?

In our practice, we frequently encounter family businesses struggling with under-performing family members involved  in the business. It is often a difficult subject to approach when “family first” is your mantra.  A good executive training program as well as holding family members to the same standards as other employees is a good first step in avoiding the problem early on. Utilizing a performance-based evaluation and compensation program may also help alleviate any discontent within the generations.

This is one of the many challenges we have seen in multi-generational family businesses. If you are in a family food business and you have a unique challenge contact KRS CPAs as we can offer a fresh, independent evaluation of your business.

Defer Taxes with Monetized Installment Sales

Many potential sellers are concerned about the amount of taxes that would be payable upon the sale of an appreciated asset, including an operating business, investment properties, or a home with a low tax basis.

Defer Taxes with Monetized Installment SalesWhat is an installment sale?

The tax law allows for installment sales, under which a seller takes back a note (sometimes referred to as seller carryback financing). This is discussed in detail in my previous blog post How to Defer Taxes on Capital Gains. Under the installment method, each year gain is recognized as payments are received.

A risk of the traditional installment sale is buyer default due to business failure or diminution in the value of the property due to economic conditions or poor management.

Monetization loan with an installment sale

The Internal Revenue Service permits capital assets to be sold without the immediate gain recognition via a monetization loan with an installment sale. Instead of the traditional installment sale structure, a seller can use the monetized installment sale (formerly known as a collateralized installment sale) strategy to defer taxable gain recognition. In 2012 the Chief Counsel of the IRS approved this form of transaction.

Under a monetized installment sale the seller agrees to sell the business or property to a dealer who resells the property to a final buyer using the original terms. Typically, the seller has already found the ultimate buyer and agreed upon terms, which the dealer follows. The seller takes back an installment contract from the dealer. The buyer pays the dealer in cash at closing, which is held in an escrow account.

The seller receives a limited-recourse loan from a third-party lender nearly equal to the sales price (usually 95%). This is a no-money-down, non-amortizing, interest-only loan. Sellers can then invest non-taxable loan proceeds as they see fit. Monthly interest payments on the installment contract will usually equal the seller’s loan interest payments.  The final due dates on the installment contract and the monetization loan will typically be aligned, and the principal paid at the end equals or exceeds the outstanding principal balance the seller owes on the loan. When the installment contract ends the seller will recognize the gain from the installment sale.

When is the tax bill paid?

The monetized installment sale strategy does not eliminate the capital gains tax, rather it defers the payment. At the end of the installment contract between the seller and the dealer, the capital gains tax will be due.

It is important to note the monetized installment sale strategy defers tax on capital gains. Under the Internal Revenue Code, gain that would be taxed as ordinary income from depreciation recapture must be reported in the year of sale, even on an installment sale. This situation is common where depreciation deductions have been taken on a piece of machinery or equipment and consequently the fair market value now exceeds the tax basis. Those prior depreciation deductions are recaptured at ordinary income tax rates upon sale.

We’ve got your back

A monetized installment sale can be an effective way to defer taxes, but typically requires a professional tax advisor’s assistance. To learn more about setting up this strategy, contact me at [email protected] or 201.655.7411.

 

Wrap-around Mortgages Explained

Learn about wraps and structure better deals

A “wrap-around” mortgage (also referred to as a “wrap”) is a subsequent and subordinate mortgage secured by real property where a first mortgage remains outstanding and unsatisfied. A wrap differs from a conventional second mortgage in that it requires an agreement between the parties for payment of the first mortgage obligation by the lender. Consequently, the principal of the wrap-around loan is the sum of the outstanding indebtedness on the first mortgage and new funds advanced.

The wrap technique is typically employed in transactions involving large commercial loans. However the same financing technique is used in single family real estate investments.
Wrap around mortgages explained
Here’s an example:

Joe owns a commercial property with a $500,000 value and a mortgage of $150,000. He enters into a contract to sell the real property to Jane for $500,000. The contract consists of a note for the entire $500,000 payable to Joe.

Jane will make payments on the $500,000 loan directly to Joe.

Joe will in turn continue to make payments on the $150,000 underlying mortgage and retain the excess, if any.

Wraps and installment sales

Frequently in the sale of real estate, the seller may elect to receive payment in installments, providing the purchaser a convenient financing option while generating desirable tax benefits to the seller. As described in more detail in How to Defer Taxes on Capital Gains, installment payments can defer taxes on capital gains if the seller receives at least one payment after the year of a disposition. Use of an installment sale permits a seller to spread the recognition of taxable income over time and avoid recognizing the entire gain before actual payment is received.

Generally, if a buyer assumes a mortgage or purchases the property subject to an existing mortgage, the excess of that debt over the seller’s basis is treated as a payment received in the year of sale (triggering gain recognition). In addition, the assumed mortgage is not included in the contract price, resulting in a higher gross profit percentage, accelerating recognition of taxable income.

If a wrap mortgage is used, the contract price is the entire sales price, resulting in a lower gross profit percentage (and correspondingly less gain recognized in each year’s collections). Also, since the property is not taken subject to the seller’s mortgage, there is no tax on a phantom payment in the year of sale, even if the mortgage exceeds the seller’s basis.

Beware the due on sale clause

The due on sale (or acceleration clause) is a provision in most mortgage documents that allows the lender the right to demand payment of the unpaid loan balance when the property is sold. This is a right provided by the contract, not by law. This means if title to the property is transferred, the bank has the right, but not the obligation, to demand payment.

Benefits to buyers and sellers

Wrap-around mortgages can offer flexibility and tax benefits to both buyer and seller. The wrap also includes credit risk if the purchaser defaults or if the underlying mortgage lender calls the loan.

We’ve got your back

Are you considering using the wrap-around technique on your real estate transaction? You’ll need to consider both the tax and legal ramifications. At KRS, we’re pros at real estate taxes, so contact us to  discuss your plans at 201.655.7411 or [email protected].

 

KRS Business Insights Breakfast: Avoiding Employer Pitfalls

The recent KRS Insights Breakfast featured Randi Kochman, Esq., chair of the Cole Schotz Employment Law Department. Randi spoke about best practices for hiring and documentation, and the complexities of family and medical leave.

For those who missed the breakfast, we wanted to share some of Randi’s insights.

Randi Kochman, Cole SchotzBest practices for interviewing job candidates

There are laws about what you can and cannot ask when interviewing a job candidate. “New Jersey is an employee-friendly state and there’s a long list of what you can’t ask by law,” said Randi. For instance, you can’t ask:

  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children?
  • Where are you from?
  • Are you pregnant or planning to get pregnant?

The best practice – and one that will keep you out of trouble – is to ask only what you need to know to determine if the applicant can do the job. You can ask, for example:

  • Is there any reason you can’t be here from 8 to 4 and travel to California once a month?
  • This job requires that you be able to lift 50 lbs. routinely. Are you able to do that?

She also recommended putting a salary range in any job ads. In some states, including New York, you cannot legally ask about salary history.

Bottom line: stick to asking questions that relate directly to the job qualifications.

Best practices for background checks

When you need to check out a potential new hire, you must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and state law. “Hire a reputable firm to do your background checks,” Randi said. “There are specific forms that must be completed. These forms are very detailed and the potential employee must sign them.”

Using the Internet to check out potential employees can be risky. “There are potential problems when an employer learns information about an applicant from social networking sites that it is otherwise prohibited from obtaining, such as an applicant’s age, disability, or sexual orientation,” she noted. To reduce risk, Randi recommended:

  • Having a comprehensive Internet background search policy for your company
  • Using a third party, or “screened” employee to conduct any Internet background checks and send only information relevant to the employment search to decision makers.
  • Training employees – especially supervisors – on the risks of conducting private Internet background searches on applicants.

Best practices for HR documentation

“There are a lot of areas in the employment world that can trip you up and documentation is a big one,” noted Randi. She went on to list the extensive number of documents your employee files should contain, including, but not limited to:

  • Offer letters and employment agreements
  • Background checks
  • Job descriptions
  • Confidentiality or non-compete agreements

The complexities of family and medical leave

How and when family or medical leave can be taken by employees can be complex. The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies only to employers with more than 50 employees within a 75 mile radius of the worksite of the employee. There are also specific eligibility requirements for employees who want to apply for leave under FMLA.

Leave laws also vary by state. In New Jersey, for example, the NJ Family Leave Act applies to employers with at least 50 employees (located anywhere) who have worked for at least 20 weeks during the current or previous year.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the NJ Temporary Disability Benefits Law (NJTDB) also have to be considered.

“Let’s say your employee comes to you and says they have cancer and need a leave of absence. It’s important to consider all the factors that can apply – FMLA, NJFMLA, NJTB, etc.,” said Randi. “Your company also should have in place a company policy for medical and disability leave.”

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With more than 20 years of employment law experience, Randi Kochman is dedicated to helping employers understand and navigate complicated and ever-changing employment laws so they can effectively manage employees, avoid costly mistakes, and focus on their core business.  A recognized employment law expert, Randi was recently quoted in an article on tip pooling in the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) employment law blog.