House Ways and Means Members Call on Treasury to Withdraw FIRPTA Regulatory Proposal
House Ways and Means Committee Members Darin LaHood (R-IL) and Carol Miller (R-WV) recently called on Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to withdraw a proposed IRS rule that would expand the reach of the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) of 1980. The policymakers’ request followed a letter by The Real Estate Roundtable and 14 other real estate trade organizations that urged congressional tax-writing committees to oppose the FIRPTA proposal. (Letter to Yellen, July 28 and Industry coalition letter, March 1)
Retroactive Rewrite for REITs
Under current law, shareholders of domestically controlled REITs are not subject to FIRPTA, a statutory regime that subjects foreign investors to capital gains tax on their U.S. property investments.
The proposed IRS Look-Through Rule would no longer treat a taxpaying U.S. C corporation that has ownership shares in a REIT as a U.S. person—if more than 25% of the owners of the C corporation are foreign. If enacted, the new rule would trigger FIRPTA capital gains, retroactively, on REITS and investment structures used for decades when planning real estate and infrastructure investments.
Congressional CRE Concerns
Reps. LaHood and Miller asked Treasury and the IRS to reverse course and withdraw the proposed regulation, stating in their letter, “The proposed regulation’s retroactivity is severely burdensome and is already having a chilling effect on foreign investment, which has been a vital contributor to the economic health of the U.S. commercial real esate market. If Treasury decides to move forward with this proposal, it is imperative that the retroactivity provisions are removed.”
The letter also noted the proposed change would limit access to capital at a time when the CRE market is showing signs of destablization. The House taxwriters added, “We fear this proposal could worsen the commercial real estate outlook and harm the many Americans who rely on these crucial investments in their communities.”
Additionally, The Roundtable, Nareit, American Investment Council, Managed Funds Association, and ICSC submitted comments to Treasury in February in opposition to the proposed look-through rule. The organizations wrote that the regulation would “reverse decades of well-settled tax law, severely misconstrue the statute, and contradict Congressional intent.” (Letter to Treasury, Feb. 27)
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Real Estate Industry Urges FHFA to Avoid Linking New Regulations to GSE Financing
The Roundtable and an industry coalition recently submitted separate comments in response to a Request for Input from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) on multifamily properties with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises). The letters encourage the FHFA to remain focused on the Enterprises’ stated mission "to serve as a reliable source of liquidity and funding for housing finance and community investment.” The industry comments also raise concerns about the FHFA imposing counterproductive property restrictions, such as rent control, on multifamily properties backed by loans from the Enterprises. (Roundtable comments, July 28 and Industry coalition comments, July 31)
The Roundtable’s comments encouraged the FHFA—the regulator and conservator of the Enterprises—to focus on its pivotal role in America’s housing finance market by maintaining Enterprise support of the multifamily affordable housing market, particularly for low-income households. The letter noted that the imposition of counterproductive restrictions on Enterprise-backed financing and private rental housing providers would lead to less investment and development in the affordable housing market, especially during this time of market uncertainty.
The Roundtable letter expressed support for measures to:
Enhance the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC);
Support initiatives that explicitly tie federal funding of infrastructure and other federal funding for “green” initiatives to local assurances to improve exclusionary zoning;
Reduce regulatory costs, including a broad range of fees, standards and other requirements imposed at different stages of the development and construction process; and,
Stabilize the GSEs to ensure appropriate liquidity in mortgage markets.
The Roundtable’s July 28 letter also noted the important role of institutional investors as a source of capital for affordable housing. The comments emphasized how FHFA should not disincentivize this important source of capital for expanding the housing infrastructure.
The real estate coalition’s July 31 letter reiterated that the best way to help the nation’s renters find affordable housing is to keep the Enterprises focused on financing housing creation. The real estate organizations note that rental housing is already a heavily regulated industry that should not be subject to a one-size-fits-all set of new “protections” that conflict with the unique housing needs of individual markets.
National Multifamily Housing Council President Sharon Wilson Géno said, “When we have market dynamics like we do now, where we have really high interest rates and difficulty accessing capital, the GSEs are even more important. If they start putting mandatory restrictions and rent caps on their products, people are going to go back into that private market at higher cost, and that’s going to increase rent and decrease affordability.” (PoliticoPro, Aug. 1)
This week, Senate Banking Chair Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and 17 Senate Democrats also responded to the FHFA by supporting rent increase limits and other tenant measures on properties with federally backed loans from the GSEs. (Senate Banking Committee letter, Aug. 1)
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SEC Issues Final Cybersecurity Disclosure Rules for Public Companies
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finalized new rules last week by a vote of 3-2 that will require public companies to disclose more information about cybersecurity-related incidents, risk management, strategy, and governance. A joint comment letter by The Real Estate Roundtable and Nareit about the SEC proposal was cited nearly a dozen times in the final rule. (SEC fact sheet | Roundtable-Nareit comment letter, May 9, 2022)
The Roundtable and Nareit expressed a number of concerns in their May 2022 letter about the proposed rule’s rigid incident reporting deadlines and granular requirements, which the industry organizations stated may unintentionally exacerbate cybersecurity risks for issuers while imposing unjustified burdens. (Roundtable Weekly, May 13, 2022)
Under the new rules, registered companies must report cyber-attacks by filing an 8-K form with the SEC within four business days, which The Roundtable and Nareit objected to in their joint letter.
Responding to these concerns, the SEC stated in its final rule that it is “… providing for a delay for disclosures that would pose a substantial risk to national security or public safety, contingent on a written notification by the Attorney General, who may take into consideration other Federal or other law enforcement agencies’ finding.” (Pensions and Investments, July 26)
The SEC also responded to industry concerns by stating it had “streamlined” its requirements on cyber-attack disclosures to focus more on the potential effects, rather than the details of the incident itself. (Wall Street Journal, July 26 | PillsburyLaw and GreenbergTaurig)
The agency states in its final rule, "To that end, to balance investors’ needs with the concerns raised by commenters …The final rules will require the registrant to describe the material aspects of the nature, scope, and timing of the incident, and the material impact or reasonably likely material impact on the registrant, including its financial condition and results of operations."
Public real estate companies will also be required to disclose the board of directors’ oversight of cybersecurity threats, identify any board committee (or subcommittee) responsible for cybersecurity oversight, and the processes by which the board or (sub) committee is informed about these risks.
The final SEC rule will become effective on September 5, according to a notice today in the Federal Register. All registered public companies, other than smaller reporting companies, must begin complying by Dec. 18, 2023.
The Roundtable’s Homeland Security Task Force will remain engaged with government officials and private sector partners on industry best practices to detect, protect, and respond to a variety of key threats, including cyber-attacks.