Detail

Roundtable Asks Treasury to Clarify Real Estate Exception to New Limit on Business Interest Deductibility

  • March 1, 2019

The Real Estate Roundtable on Tuesday wrote to the Treasury Department and IRS about the new limitation on business interest deductibility enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA).  The provision allows qualifying businesses to continue fully deducting interest related to commercial real estate debt.  (Roundtable comment letter, Feb. 26)

The Roundtable's Feb. 26 letter on business interest deductibility.

  • Roundtable President & CEO Jeffrey DeBoer sent the detailed comments as Treasury officials work to finalize proposed regulations implementing TCJA's new section 163(j), which limits the deductibility of business interest to no more than 30% of modified, adjusted taxable income.  Section 163(j) includes a critical exception for real estate.
  • On December 28, 2018 Treasury published proposed regulations clarifying that partner-level debt may qualify for the real estate exception-if the debt is allocable to a partnership engaged in a real property trade or business (RPTOB). 
  • DeBoer notes in The Roundtable's Feb. 26 letter, "In light of the clear legislative intent to enact a broad real estate exception and its importance to the health and stability of real estate markets, the final Treasury regulations should build on the proposed rules and not limit unnecessarily the ability of a real property trade or business (RPTOB) to elect out of the provisions of section 163(j)."
  • DeBoer adds, "No issue in tax reform is more important to the health and stability of U.S. commercial real estate than the new rules related to the taxation of business-related borrowing.  U.S. commercial real estate is leveraged conservatively with roughly $14 trillion of total property value and $4 trillion of debt."

The letter includes detailed comments on several 163(j) implementation issues and makes the following recommendations:

The need to preserve the deduction for income-producing real estate was at the center of Jeffrey DeBoer's testimony and exchanges with Senate Finance Committee members before final passage of the 2017 tax overhaul law. (Roundtable Statement for the Record, Sept. 19, 2017 and video clips). 

 

  • The real estate exception should extend through all "tiered" investment structures. 
  • The real estate exception should apply fully to non-rental activities. 
  • Treasury regulations should not "whipsaw" corporations/REITs through conflicting definitions of a "trade or business" that can effectively block their ability to use the real estate exception. 
  • Treasury regulations should modify the anti-abuse rule for related-party leases. 
  • The small business exception should not prevent otherwise eligible partners from qualifying for the real estate exception. 
  • Debt allocation rules should not undercount real estate assets for purposes of the real estate exception.
  • Treasury regulations should confirm that senior housing constitutes a real property trade or business.

The economic consequences of changes to the deductibility of business interest expense, and particularly the potential impact on real estate, was a central focus of lawmakers during consideration of the historic tax overhaul in 2017.  The need to preserve the deduction for income-producing real estate was at the center of DeBoer's testimony and exchanges with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch – and other members of the committee – during the last congressional hearing on business tax reform prior to votes on the TCJA.  (Roundtable Statement for the Record, Sept. 19, 2017 and video clips).