The Tax Act and the Real Estate Industry

The Tax Act and the Real Estate IndustryTax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”)

On December 20, 2017 Congress passed the most extensive tax reform since 1986, which was subsequently signed into law by President Trump. Included in the TCJA are changes to the Internal Revenue Code (“Code”) that impact taxpayers engaged in the real estate business, and those who otherwise own real estate.

Individual tax rates

The TCJA lowers the marginal (top tax bracket) tax rate applicable to individuals from 39.6% to 37%. The net investment income tax (NIIT) and Medicare surtax of 3.8% and 0.9%, respectively, remain. The reduction in tax rates is not permanent like the corporate tax rate reduction, and is scheduled to expire after 2025. The tax rates applicable to long-term capital gains of individuals remains at 15% or 20%, depending on adjusted gross income (AGI).

Deduction for qualified business income of pass-through entities

The TCJA creates a new 20% tax deduction for certain pass-through businesses. For taxpayers with incomes above certain thresholds, the 20% deduction is limited to the greater of (i) 50% of the W-2 wages paid by the business, or (ii) 25% of the W-2 wages paid by the business, plus 2.5% of the unadjusted basis, immediately after acquisition, of depreciable property (which includes structures, but not land).

Pass-through businesses include partnerships, limited liabilities taxed as partnerships, S Corporations, sole proprietorships, disregarded entities, and trusts.

The deduction is subject to several limitations that are likely to materially limit the deduction for many taxpayers. These limitations include the following:

  • Qualified business income does not include IRC Section 707(c) guaranteed payments for services, amounts paid by S corporations that are treated as reasonable compensation of the taxpayer, or, to the extent provided in regulations, amounts paid or incurred for services by a partnership to a partner who is acting other than in his or her capacity as a partner.
  • Qualified business income does not include income involving the performance of services (i) in the fields of, among others: health, law, accounting consulting, financial services, brokerage services, or any trade or business where the principal asset of such trade or business is the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees or owners, or (ii) consisting of investing or investment management, trading, or dealing in securities, partnership interests or commodities.
  • Qualified business income includes (and, thus, the deduction is applicable to) only income that is effectively connected with the conduct of a trade or business within the United States.
  • The deduction is limited to 100% of the taxpayer’s combined qualified business income (e.g., if the taxpayer has losses from certain qualified businesses that, in the aggregate, exceed the income generated from other qualified businesses, the taxpayer’s deduction would be $0).

Interest expense deduction limitation

For most taxpayers, TCJA disallows the deductibility of business interest to the extent that net interest expense exceeds 30% of Earnings before Income Taxes Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) for 2018 through 2022, or Earnings before Income Taxes (EBIT) beginning in 2022. An exemption from these rules applies to certain taxpayers with average annual gross receipts under $25 million.

A real property trade or business can elect out of the new business interest disallowance by electing to utilize the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS). The ADS lives for nonresidential, residential and qualified improvements are 40, 30, and 20 years, respectively.  All of which are longer lives, resulting in lower annual depreciation allowances.

Immediate expensing of qualified depreciable personal property

The TCJA includes generous expensing provisions for acquired assets. The additional first year depreciation deduction for qualified depreciable personal property (commonly known as Bonus Depreciation) was extended and modified. For property placed in service after September 27, 2017 and before 2023, the allowance is increased from 50% to 100%. After 2022, the bonus depreciation percentage is phased-down to in each subsequent year by 20% per year.

Expansion of Section 179 expensing

Taxpayers may elect under Code Section 179 to deduct the cost of qualifying property, rather than to recover the costs through annual depreciation deductions. The TCJA increased the maximum amount a taxpayer may expense under Section 179 to $1 million, and increased the phase-out threshold amount to $2.5 million.

The Act also expanded the definition of qualified real property eligible for the 179 expensing to include certain improvements to nonresidential real property, including:

  • Roofs
  • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Property
  • Fire Protection and Alarm Systems
  • Security Systems

We’ve got your back

The new tax code is complex and every taxpayer’s situation is different, especially when real estate is involved – so don’t go it alone! Contact me at or 201.655.7411 to discuss tax planning and your real estate investments under the TCJA.