Roundtable Weekly - October 19, 2018

Interest Deductibility - Tax Policy

Treasury Proposes Detailed Rules for New Restrictions on Deducting Business Interest

On Tuesday, the Treasury Department released proposed regulations governing the new limitation on the deductibility of business interest expense, including the exception for real estate businesses. 

On Tuesday, the Treasury Department released proposed regulations governing the new limitation on the deductibility of business interest expense, including the exception for real estate businesses. 

  • Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), businesses generally can no longer deduct their interest expense to the extent it exceeds 30 percent of their annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).  Business interest deductibility was a key issue in Real Estate Roundtable President & CEO Jeffrey DeBoer's testimony before the Senate Finance Committee shortly before consideration of the tax bill.  (Roundtable Statement for the Record, Sept. 19, 2017)
  • DeBoer testified that the proposal could have severe unintended consequences.  Noting that the cost of debt is a necessary expense that must be accounted for when measuring income, he testified that our capital markets are the envy of the world and that responsible, appropriate leverage helps entrepreneurs and contributes to economic growth and job creation. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 29 and testimony video clips)
  • The final bill included a critical exception from the interest limit for an electing real property trade or business.  An electing real property trade or business is defined broadly to cover: any real property development, redevelopment, construction, reconstruction, acquisition, conversion, rental, operation, management, leasing, or brokerage trade or business. 
  • In February, the Roundtable submitted comments to Treasury with recommendations for how the real estate exception should work in the case of tiered business structures, and in the case of businesses that involve both real estate and non-real estate activities.  (Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 23, 2018)  

    Business interest deductibility was a key issue in Real Estate Roundtable President & CEO Jeffrey DeBoer's testimony before the Senate Finance Committee shortly before consideration of the tax bill.  (Roundtable Statement for the Record, Sept. 19, 2017 and  video clips )

  • The proposed regulations are largely favorable.  Most importantly, the regulations clarify that partner-level borrowing qualifies for the real estate exception. Thus, at the election of the taxpayer, the real estate exception can extend to debt that is incurred by a partner to acquire an interest in a partnership that is engaged in a real property trade or business.  In addition, the regulations confirm the broad definition of a real property trade or business.  The regulations also clarify that capitalized interest, which commonly arises during the development of real estate, is not subject to the interest limit.
  • With respect to taxpayers engaged in both real estate and non-real estate activities, the proposed regulations generally would allocate and apportion debt based on the relative amount of the taxpayer's adjusted basis in assets used in those activities.  However, taxpayers would directly trace and allocate qualified nonrecourse indebtedness to the asset securing the loan (with no apportionment).  This latter rule should result in the allocation of a larger share of debt to assets qualifying for the real estate exception.
  • Some concerns remain.  Notably, the attribution rule that allows partners to qualify for the real estate exception based on partnership-level activities does not extend broadly to all upper-tier borrowing for investment in lower-tier real estate businesses.  Thus, except in limited circumstances, debt incurred by a taxpayer to invest in a corporation (or REIT) that is engaged in a real property trade or business is not eligible for the real estate exception. 

The Roundtable's Tax Policy Advisory Committee is continuing to review the 439-page regulatory package to understand its full implications for the financing of U.S. real estate.  Comments on the proposed regulations will be due 60 days after their publication in the Federal Register.

Back to Top
Condominium Tax Accounting - Tax Policy

Congressional Lame Duck Session Could Consider Condominium Tax Accounting and Other Real Estate Tax Policy Issues

Following the Nov. 6 mid-term elections, a “Lame Duck” session of Congress is expected to consider various tax policies of importance to commercial real estate.   

Several tax issues of importance to real estate may be in play during the November "Lame Duck" congressional session, including  condo tax accounting rules; technical corrections; the cost recovery period for qualified improvement property (QIP);and tax extenders.

  • As part of a potential year-end omnibus spending bill to fund the government, tax policies that may be addressed include condo tax accounting rules; technical corrections; the cost recovery period for qualified improvement property (QIP); and tax extenders.  (Roundtable Weekly, Oct. 12) 
  • Current condo tax accounting rules require multifamily developers of buildings with five or more residential units to recognize income and pay tax on their expected profit as construction is ongoing — well before pre-sale transactions are closed and full payment is due from the buyer.  This mismatch of cash flow and tax liability prevents income tax deferment until a condo building is finished.   Home builders of single-family homes, townhouses and row houses are not subject to this accounting rule restriction. 
  • A House bill introduced last summer by Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Joe Crowley (D-NY) aimed to correct this disparity.  Although the Fair Accounting for Condominium Construction Act (H.R. 3659) stalled in 2017, it could serve as a template for inclusion in year-end tax legislation.  The Real Estate Roundtable supports lawmakers' efforts to pass H.R. 3659
  • Other congressional efforts to ensure that development accounting rules treat condos like other residential construction included a 2016 letter from 10 members of the Senate Finance Committee urging regulatory corrections to former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. 
  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer on April 7, 2017 sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin   outlining eight regulatory actions the Treasury Department could take to stimulate new real estate investment, job creation, and economic growth.  Among the recommendations addressed in the letter are tax accounting for new condominium construction; the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act, tax treatment of private real estate funds and partnership tax rules. 

Last week, an article on the condo tax accounting issue in The Real Deal included a quote from Roundtable Senior Vice President & Counsel Ryan McCormick, who commented on the outlook for correcting the current rules.  "Legislation may be the most likely route, in light of all the work ongoing at Treasury with tax reform," McCormick said.

Back to Top
In Memoriam

Commercial Real Estate Industry Pioneer Marshall Bennett

The commercial real estate industry mourns the recent passing of real estate industry icon Marshall Bennett.  He was 97.  (Chicago Tribune, Oct. 16)

Commercial real estate industry icon Marshall Bennett passed away this week at the age of 97.

  • Marshall Bennett was one of the most successful real estate developers in Chicago and a pioneer of the modern industrial park.  In 1946, Bennett and Louis Kahnweiler, with financial backing from Jay Pritzker, launched Centex Industrial Park in the 1950s on more than 2,000 acres in Elk Grove Village—opening up the O'Hare submarket to large, industrial properties. This facility would become the nation’s largest and serve 1,500 companies. Throughout their partnership, Bennet and Kahnweiler amassed a portfolio of 26 industrial parks around the country. (RE Journals, Oct. 16)
  • Among his many accomplishments, Bennett was a World War II Navy veteran; was inducted into the Chicago Board of Realtors Hall of Fame in 1989; and served on the board of the East-West Institute global think tank. He also co-founded the Chicago Ten, an interfaith group that worked for peace in the Middle East.

Notably, Bennett co-founded Roosevelt University’s Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate in 2002. He helped raise $11 million to start the school as a training ground for real estate professionals. Since its inception, the program has graduated almost 325 in two master’s degree programs. (Crain’s Chicago Business, Oct. 15)

Back to Top