Public Officials and Industry Leaders Discuss National Policy Challenges Affecting CRE
Supreme Court Rules in Case of Federal Taxation of Unrealized Income
IRS and Treasury Unveil New Rules Aimed at Partnership “Basis-Shifting” Transactions
Roundtable Weekly
June 21, 2024
Public Officials and Industry Leaders Discuss National Policy Challenges Affecting CRE

The Real Estate Roundtable’s 2024 Annual Meeting this week included discussions with key public officials and industry leaders on issues affecting commercial real estate, including market conditions, the upcoming elections, affordable housing solutions, tax policy, sustainability issues, rebuilding cities, and evolving security threats.

Roundtable Leadership

  • During the meeting, Roundtable Chair Emeritus Robert Taubman (Chairman, President & CEO, Taubman Centers, Inc.) presented outgoing Chair John Fish (Chairman & CEO, SUFFOLK) with a gift from The Roundtable Board of Directors and membership, for his outstanding leadership and successful time as Chair.
  • In his outgoing speech as now-Immediate Past Chair, Fish thanked Jeffrey DeBoer, The Roundtable Board of Directors, membership, and staff for their hard work, and reiterated a key lesson from his time as Chair: Whats good for America is good for our business.
  • Kathleen McCarthy (Global Co-Head of Blackstone Real Estate) will begin her three-year term as Roundtable Chair on July 1, 2024.

Meeting Speakers

  • (L-R): Kenneth T. Rosen (Chairman of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley; Chairman, Rosen Consulting Group) presented and led a panel discussion on the economy and market conditions with Scott Rechler (Chairman & CEO, RXR), Bryan McDonnell (Managing Director, Chair of Global Debt & Agriculture, PGIM Real Estate), and Andrew P. Power (President & CEO, Digital Realty).
  • The Honorable Elliot Doomes (Commissioner, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration) discussed public-private partnership opportunities and sustainable building practices.
  • “We urge the Public Buildings Service to accelerate their process to catalogue and sell to the private sector underutilized federal buildings.  The private sector can convert those buildings to much needed housing, reduce unnecessary emissions, and help revitalize communities still struggling to recover from the pandemic,” said Roundtable President & CEO Jeffrey DeBoer.
  • Dr. Frank Luntz (Founder and President, FIL Inc.)
  • Bruce J. Katz (Director, Nowak Metro Finance Lab, Drexel University, former Inaugural Centennial Scholar and Vice President of the Brookings Institution)

Policy Advisory Committee Meetings

Joint Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC) and Research Committee

  • During a joint meeting, Research Co-Chair Spencer Levy (Global Chief Client Officer & Senior Economic Advisor, CBRE) and Darin Mellot (CBRE) briefed members on current real estate market conditions. RECPAC Co-Chair Michael Lowe (Co-CEO, Lowe) led a discussion about real estate credit and capital markets with: Kathleen S. Briscoe (Dermody Properties); Christina Chiu (Empire State Realty Trust); John Kessler (Mitsui Fudosan America); and Rex Rudy (U.S. Bank).  Roundtable Senior Vice President Chip Rodgers moderated a discussion with Terry Haines (Pangea Policy) and Alex Sternhell (Sternhell Group) on key policy issues affecting the industry.  (Agenda & Speakers)

Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC)

  • TPAC Vice Chair David Friedline (Partner, Deloitte Tax LLP) led panels on tax legislation at the forefront of policy debates in Washington, including the Revitalizing Downtowns Act 2.0, the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA), partnerships, and pass-throughs. (Agenda & Speakers)

Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC)

  • SPAC Chair Anthony E. Malkin (Chairman and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust, Inc.) and Vice Chair Ben Myers (Vice President, Sustainability, BXP) led discussions on the recently announced national definition of a Zero Emissions Building (ZEB), the SEC’s climate risk reporting rule, US-EPA ENERGY STAR, and NextGen. (Agenda & Speakers)

Homeland Security Task Force (HSTF)

  • Co-Chairs Amanda S. Mason (Executive Director, Global Intelligence, Related Companies) and Keith Wallace (VP, Global Safety & Security, Marriott International) led a series of discussions on a number of key areas of concerns for the commercial facilities sector. Dr. Todd C. Helmus (Senior Behavioral Scientist, RAND) discussed issues related to the 2024 U.S. election; Dr. Michael Doran (Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Peace and Security in the Middle East at the Hudson Institute) discussed risks posed by Iran; and FBI special agent Matthew Drummond briefed the Task Force on the current threat picture. (Agenda & Speakers)

Next on The Roundtable's FY 2025 meeting calendar is the Fall Meeting on October 8-9. The Fall Meeting is restricted to Roundtable-level members only. 

Supreme Court Rules in Case of Federal Taxation of Unrealized Income

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 to uphold the constitutionality of mandatory repatriation tax (MRT) enacted in 2017, but chose to sidestep and not rule on the issue of whether the Constitution imposes a realization requirement on the taxation of income. (Moore v. United States)

Background & The Decision

  • The petitioners in Moore argued that the MRT exceeds Congress’s authority under the 16th Amendment to lay and collect taxes on income. The Moore’s were shareholders of a foreign corporation. The corporation never distributed its earnings, but the MRT taxed the Moore’s on their deemed share of the corporation’s income. The Moore’s argued that the federal government could not tax them on income they never realized. (Roundtable Weekly, Oct. 13)
  • A decision in favor of the Moore’s could have important consequences for both legislative proposals to tax unrealized gains, but also existing aspects of the tax code and pass-through taxation
  • The Ninth Circuit ruled against the Moore’s on the grounds that there is no realization requirement in the Constitution
  • The Roundtable has consistently opposed proposals to tax unrealized gains on several grounds, including their constitutionality and the damage they would cause to the economy, entrepreneurship, and productive investment. 
  • The Supreme Court, in a decision authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, stepped back from the sweeping holding by Ninth Circuit and concluded that it did not need to rule on the realization question because the foreign company’s operating income was clearly “realized” by the foreign company. In passing the MRT, Congress was simply attributing (or passing through) that income to its U.S. shareholders. 
  • The 7-2 opinion by Justice Kavanagh was accompanied by two concurring opinions, one from Justice Jackson and one from Justice Barrett (joined by Justice Alito). Justices Thomas and Gorsuch dissented. 
  • While the Real Estate Roundtable’s Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) and its members are still parsing the language of the various opinions to understand the broader implications, at the end of the day, there appear to be at least four justices willing to uphold a realization requirement (Barrett, Alito, Thomas, and Gorsuch), one justice prepared to hold that realization is not required (Jackson), and four justices who have not yet tipped their hand (Kavanaugh, Roberts, Sotomayor, and Kagan).  See analysis of Moore decision by TPAC member Don Susswein (Principal, RSM US LLP)

The Moore ruling is unlikely the last word in the heated debate over the constitutionality of taxing unrealized gains.

IRS and Treasury Unveil New Rules Aimed at Partnership “Basis-Shifting” Transactions

This week, the IRS and Treasury Department announced a multistage regulatory initiative aimed at regulating certain partnership transactions that shift the tax basis of assets and generate additional depreciation deductions, reduce taxable gains, or increase deductible losses. (IRS-Treasury Press Release, June 17)

Guidance Package

IRS building in Washington DC
  • In Notice 2024-54, Treasury and the IRS indicated they intend to issue proposed regulations governing certain transactions that affect the basis of property held by a partnership or distributed by a partnership. The guidance will focus on partnerships that involve related parties or tax-indifferent parties. 
  • Related parties could include family members, corporations and their shareholders, and other entities and businesses with common or overlapping ownership.  It is unclear from the guidance where the administration believes the targeted abuses generating inappropriate tax benefits are most likely to arise (e.g., corporate mergers, family offices, real estate, etc.). 
  • The rules will apply to cost recovery deductions and gain/loss calculations for tax years ending after June 17, 2024, thus covering deductions, gains, or losses attributable to transactions completed in prior years. 

Roundtable Concerns

  • A principal concern voiced at this week’s RER Tax Policy Advisory Committee meeting is related to the broad scope of the new rules. Rather than focusing specifically on identifiable, abusive transactions, Notice 2024-54 states that the forthcoming regulations will provide “mechanical rules applicable to all covered transactions without regard to the taxpayer's intent and without regard to whether the transactions could be abusive or lacking in economic substance.”
  • Moreover, the Notice states that the regulations will only apply if the transaction results in a basis increase for the relevant property.  “If, and to the extent, property has been allocated a basis decrease, the proposed rules would not apply.”
  • The new rules thus apply to a transaction regardless of whether the transaction is abusive or lacking in economic substance, but only if they result in a negative outcome for the taxpayer.  If the same mechanical rules would generate a positive result for another taxpayer, they are disregarded.  In sum: Heads, IRS wins; tails, taxpayer loses. 

Additional Developments:

Other elements of the regulatory initiative include:

  • Proposed regulations (REG-124593-23) identifying some partnership-related-party basis adjustment transactions as transactions of interest and requiring disclosures by participants and material advisers. 
  • Revenue Ruling 2024-14 notifying taxpayers that it will apply the codified economic substance doctrine to challenge certain basis-shifting transactions. 
  • The IRS Office of Chief Counsel also announced the formation of a new associate office focused exclusively on partnerships, S corporations, trusts, and estates. (TaxNotes, June 17)

The Roundtable’s Tax Policy Advisory Committee will continue its discussion of the partnership basis-shifting issue and how best to respond on its next TPAC Zoom meeting.