DISCLAIMER: THIS IS FOR YOUR INFORMATION ONLY. SINCE I AM NOT A TAX ADVISORY FIRM, I REFER ALL GENERAL TAX-RELATED REAL ESTATE QUESTIONS FROM PASSIVE INVESTORS BACK TO THEIR ACCOUNTANTS. HOWEVER, I WILL SAY THAT INVESTORS OFTEN SEEK REAL ESTATE OPPORTUNITIES TO INVEST IN DUE TO THE TAX ADVANTAGES THAT MAY COME FROM DEBT WRITE OFF AND LOSS DUE TO DEPRECIATION. BUT I DON’T INCLUDE ANY ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THESE TAX ADVANTAGES IN OUR PROJECTIONS.
Fixed asset items (a long-term tangible piece of property or equipment that is used in operations to generate income and is not expected to be consumed or converted into cash within a year) at an apartment community reduce in value over time due to usage and normal wear and tear. Depreciation is the amount that can be deducted from income each year to reflect this reduction in value. The IRS classifies each depreciable item according to the number of years of its useful life. It is over this period that the fixed asset can be fully depreciated.
A cost segregation study identifies building assets that can be depreciated at an accelerated rate using a shorter depreciation life. These assets are the interior and exterior components of a building in addition to its structure. They may be part of newly constructed buildings or existing buildings that have been purchased or renovated. Approximately 20% to 40% of these components can be depreciated at a much faster rate than the building structure itself. A cost segregation study dissects the purchase/construction price of a property that would normally be depreciated over 27 ½ years—and identifies all property-related costs that can be depreciated over 5, 7, and 15 years.
If the expense of the construction, purchase or renovation was in a previous year, favorable IRS rulings allow taxpayers to complete a cost segregation study on a past acquisition or improvement and take the current year’s deduction for the resulting accelerated depreciation not claimed in prior years.
Each year, the general partner’s accountant creates a Schedule K-1 for the limited partners for each apartment syndicate deal. The passive investors file the K-1 with their tax returns to report their share of the investment’s profits, losses, deductions and credits to the IRS, including any depreciation expense that was passed through to them.
Click here for a sample Schedule K-1.
There are three boxes on the K-1 that passive investors care about the most.
Box 2. Net rental real estate income (loss). This is the net of revenues less expenses, including depreciation expense passed through to the LPs. For most operating properties, the resulting loss is primarily due to accelerated deprecation. On the example K-1, the depreciation deduction passed through to the Limited Partner is $50,507, thereby resulting in an overall loss (negative taxable income).
Box 19. Distributions. This is the amount of equity that was returned to the limited partner. On the example K-1, the limited partner received $1,400 in cash distributions from their preferred return of distribution and profits.
Just because the LP realizes a loss on paper does not mean the property isn’t performing well. The loss is generally from the accelerated depreciation, not from loss of income or capital.
Section L. Partner’s capital account analysis. On the sample K-1, the ending capital account is $48,093. However, this lower amount doesn’t reflect the capital balance that the limited partner’s preferred return is based on. The $48,094 is a tax basis, not a capital account balance. Thus, this limited partner wouldn’t receive a lowered preferred return distribution based on a capital balance of $48,094. From the operator’s perspective, depreciation doesn’t reduce the passive investor’s capital account balance.
The capital balance is technically reduced by the distribution amount above the preferred return (i.e., the distribution from the profit split), which is a portion of the $1,400 in the “withdrawals & distributions” box. However, operator’s deals are structured in a way so that the LPs continue to receive a preferred return based on their original equity investment amount, with the difference made up at sale.
The majority of the other accounting items on the K-1 are reported on and flow through to your Qualified Business Income worksheet. The net effect of these items will be unique to each investor based on their specific situation and other holdings.
If you want to learn more about each of the individual sections and boxes, click IRIS instructions to review IRS instructions for the Schedule K-1.
To better understand your own tax implications on any investment, it is important to consult a professional who has an understanding of your overall finances so that they may give full tax advice. Therefore, always speak with a CPA or financial advisor before making an investment decision.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action.