Today Theo and Travis will share their thoughts on the tax proposal that’s been recently released. And while this tax plan is only at the early stage, it’s important to consider the options early on.
Travis mentions ten main points that real estate investors need to examine. Most of them apply exclusively to high-income earners, but some touch on the very popular real estate policies such as 1031 Exchange that are true no matter what income bracket you’re in.
We also have a Syndication School series about the “How To’s” of apartment syndications, and be sure to download your FREE document by visiting SyndicationSchool.com. Thank you for listening, and I will talk to you tomorrow.
Click here for more info on groundbreaker.co
Theo Hicks: Hello Best Ever listeners and welcome back to another edition of the actively passive investing show. I’m Theo Hicks. As always, I’ll be speaking with Travis Watts. Travis, how are you doing today?
Travis Watts: Theo. I’m doing great, as always. Thanks everyone for tuning in.
Theo Hicks: Yeah. Thank you Travis for joining us. Best Ever listeners, thank you for tuning in. Today we are going to be talking about taxes. Travis put together a really detailed blog post about Biden’s proposed tax plan. So the blog post is entitled “The top 10 changes for real estate investors under the Biden tax plan.” And so as always, Travis is going to talk about why he wrote this blog post, which I think is probably pretty obvious to the listeners, and then we are going over to each and of these 10 points and the different things you can potentially expect from this tax plan. So Travis, as always, why did you write this blog post?
Travis Watts: Great point. Well, I kind of did this actually as more of a special report, right? This kind of was on a whim, in addition to the regular blogs that I do. I just felt it’s timely, it’s important… And to our listeners being mostly real estate investors, this is something everybody should be paying attention to. As you pointed out Theo, this is a tax proposal; that does not mean this is the way that it is, it doesn’t mean everything we talk about in the show will happen. There are still a lot of steps that have to be taken to put these into effect. But I just wanted to take the Biden tax plan, which was released publicly for everyone to view. I extracted each component that was relevant to real estate investors, and just I threw it and a little report that’s easy to read; it’s just one through ten… I just want to help people out that way. So that’s kind of why I’ve put it together.
I guess what we can do is just go through these 10. I’ll announce kind of what each one is, how it works, that kind of thing, and then I’ll turn it over to you if you’ve got any thoughts or comments on it, and we’ll take it from there.
Theo Hicks: Yeah. Before we begin, another thing we’re going to talk about, if you just Google “Joe Fairless taxes”, we have a couple of blog posts that talk about taxes from the perspective of the passive investor… So things that we’re going to talk about today, like bonus depreciation and capital gains, and 1031 exchanges, and things like that. This is a half an hour show, we’re not going to be able to go and into the history on those, and what specifically they mean, and go over a bunch of examples… So for more information on that, check out those blog posts we have on our blog.
Travis Watts: Yes. Thank you for pointing that out. Additionally, Theo and I did a show recently on Tom Wheelwright’s book, Tax-Free Wealth, where we go into the reasons why a lot of real estate and business owners get the tax advantages. Why that is, how that works, what those numbers are. So that’s a great coupling with this episode here today.
Essentially, let’s just start from a high level. So Donald Trump passed the Tax and Jobs Act in 2017. This was a huge incentive for both real estate investors, investors in general, and businesses. It was basically just a lot of various tax advantages that you could take part in, okay? And that was to stimulate, obviously, the economy and the stock market and everything else.
Long story short, what’s happening right now is the Biden plan essentially wants to repeal it, in a matter of words. Not every single component, not all. And there are some added tweaks that have been put into the Biden plan, but essentially that’s being taken away. So not great news for real estate investors, but we’ll go through, and I’ll try to leave opinions out on this. I just want to go through the facts of what’s being proposed.
So let’s jump into the top 10. So the first one would be the elimination of bonus depreciation. That is something that came from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. So what this is in relation to real estate investors is, everything that you do as far as improvements on real estate has a lifespan, according to the IRS. When you buy a refrigerator, when you put in the plumbing and piping, cabinetry, carpet, the IRS has defined lifespans for these that you can depreciate them over time, right? So they’re going to lose their value over that lifespan. Even though that lifespan may not be exact. That’s how depreciation works.
So what bonus depreciation is – just to use one example, landscaping improvements on a property. Meaning if we buy an apartment building, or we buy a single-family home, and we’re improving the landscaping, so we’re planting trees and bushes, and gardening outside the front for the curb appeal, that has a lifespan of 15 years, just as an example.
So what happened prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is that you would have to take the cost of all of those improvements and write them off over a 15-year period, pro-rata, each year. That’s what you get in depreciation. This bonus depreciation allows you to take 100% of that. Let’s say we spent $10,000 in landscaping, we can write off $10,000 all in the first year of ownership on the property. So what that’s done, long story short, is when you file your taxes it can be quite incredible.
One thing, by the way, I forgot to mention before I jumped into all of this is that Theo and I, by the way, are not CPA’s or tax advisors, or licensed professionals, so please do seek licensed advice. All I’m doing here is taking what was made available publicly as far as the Biden plan and I’m just relaying components of that, how that pertains to real estate. As far as all the ins and outs, I’m no expert on this by any means, so just please note that. So, that’s number one. That would potentially be removed making the tax advantages of real estate investing a little less lucrative than what they have been.
And one more disclaimer on that point, that was to expire anyway I think in 2023 under the Trump plan. So that wasn’t going to be a forever thing. But it’s been quite nice as a full-time real estate investor to have those tax advantages, especially for the high-income earners that we work with, that are passive investors. So any thoughts on that, Theo?
Theo Hicks: I would just say that there is a distinction between the bonus depreciation and then the accelerated depreciation that comes from cost segregation. It sounds like for bonus depreciation – again, not a CPA – for cost segregation you need to bring in a specialist to do this for you. It’s kind of the same thing where rather than depreciating something over the [unintelligible [00:09:38].05] I think it’s like 27 and a half years, or something like that – it kind of accelerates that and reduces it to a shorter timeframe, but it increases the depreciation, which is one of the major reasons why people invest in real estate, because it will lower their taxable income. So this is not the same as that. So it’s not saying that you’re not going to be able to do cost segregations anymore; it’s just that this new bonus depreciation might go away.
Travis Watts: That’s correct. Thank you for distinguishing that. The cost segs are done by third parties, very frequently happening in the syndications phase, private placements, and things like that. Okay.
Number two is a possible elimination – this one shocked me – of 1031 exchanges. This is a very popular, widely used tax strategy among real estate investors. This has been in place, by the way, since 1921. And for those that may not be familiar, a 1031, just to use a simple example – I buy a single-family house for $100,000 today, I improve it, I hold it a few years, and now it’s worth $200,000, and I sell it… Well, then I would have $100,000 gain that I’d have to pay long term capital gains tax on. A 1031 would allow me to not have to pay that tax, at least not right now. And I could exchange that property, I could essentially sell it and buy something like-kind, or larger, and kick the can down the road as far as having to pay those taxes.
And where this strategy really works well for a lot of people that do this, it’s more of an estate planning strategy because if you kick the can, and kick the can, and kick the can, you’re just 1031-ing over, and over, and over, and over, and then one day you pass away when you’re 90 years old, whoever inherits that last property that you’re holding gets a step-up basis, which we’ll talk about that in another one of these bullet points, where they also don’t owe all of that back tax that you never paid. So it truly can be a tax-free strategy for a lifetime. So it’s really a huge thing. And with the possible elimination of that, that’s going to be a game-changer in real estate. Any thoughts, Theo?
Theo Hicks: Yeah, the way I would think about this is that — first of all, if you’ve been doing the 1031 for a long time, and maybe you started off with a $100,000 property and now you have a million-dollar property, maybe the business plan was to sell within the next 2 or 3 years, maybe considering/assuming this goes through – I don’t think it will be like an immediate thing, you’ll have a date, maybe consider figuring out a way to get into a property that you can, as Travis mentioned, hold on to a lot longer. So at least you can kind of kick the can down a little bit longer down the road, as opposed to waiting until this happens and then selling it, and then having to pay a ton of money in taxes.
So I think here it’s just a planning thing, where you figure out okay, how many properties do I have to 1031? Is there a way figure out how to get that into a big apartment that I can hold on to for a long time, or at least spending a little bit longer, maybe 1031 every 5 years or something, cutting the current period a little bit shorter, 1031-ing again and then holding out for the next 4 to 5 years and see what happens. That’s probably the strategy there.
Travis Watts: Very good, thanks for sharing. Alright, number three is a proposal to raise the long term capital gains tax rate on people making more than a million dollars per year. So why I point this out is long term capital gains and short term capital gains are very applicable to real estate and investing. So how this would work is we have tax-favored brackets for investors, as we talked about before in Tom Wheelwright’s book, and why that is is because we’re helping provide housing, and we’re doing what the government needs done, and these kinds of things. So anytime you’re going to invest in the United States in some capacity, long term, there’s going to be a tax advantage tied to that. So this probably won’t affect a ton of people, being that you have to earn over a million a year, but quite a few people that I speak to with in my network that it is going to affect.
So how this works right now as it stands, the top bracket for long-term capital gains tax is 20%, but there’s a caveat, there’s also something called the net investment income tax of 3.8%, which came in from the Obama presidency. So technically that would mean 23.8%. So here’s something to think about – a lot of CEO’s, as one example, are paid through stock options, and it’s because of the tax-favored treatment. So a lot of CEO’s take a lot less in a W2 salary because of all of the employment taxes and the tax brackets, and instead, they’ll get millions of dollars of shares, they’ll hold them more than a year, and as they need liquidity and money, they’ll sell off and they’ll pay essentially half the tax, sometimes even less. And that’s been the name of the game. So what this is going to do is really hurt a lot of CEO’s who notoriously make more than a million dollars per year.
And what this proposal would do is take that 23.8% top bracket rate and raise it all the way up to 43.4%, and that’s at the federal level. You still have a state income tax that’s applicable if you’re in a state, especially like in California or New York, that’s very high. So essentially it’s over 50% tax that a lot of high-income earners will be paying. So that’s kind of more or less what that is. Not going to affect a lot of us, but any high-income earners, that’s a huge change; that’s going to essentially double the taxable income for a lot of people.
Theo Hicks: I don’t think I have anything to add to that one.
Travis Watts: Okay, got you. Now, what we related to earlier about the 1031 exchange strategy where one day you pass away, someone inherits your property, they don’t know the tax either, so there is now a proposal to take away that step-up basis.
Let’s think about this, so if we have a parent or parents, that may be bought a single-family home to live in in the ’70s, they paid $50,000 and then today it’s worth $500,000, the way that would work is if they were to pass away and then grant you or I that property as the beneficiary, we would get a step-up basis, meaning that that property would be valued at $500,000, and if we were to sell it tomorrow, we wouldn’t have any taxable gain, because as we inherited it, the basis stepped up to 500 and it’s worth 500, so it’s a tax-free sale. With the elimination of that step-up basis, now we would have a taxable gain of $450,000 upon receiving that property, which is just incredibly crazy.
Theo Hicks: Yeah.
Travis Watts: I will leave my opinions out, but that’s crazy. So that’s one proposal there, which obviously – that’s another estate planning strategy. It’s something to think about. A lot of people don’t think about that because it’s about death; you’re technically not paying yourself that tax, but someone is. So you’re able to leave a lot less to other people. Any thoughts?
Theo Hicks: This is like The Price Is Right [unintelligible [00:16:46].06] The Price Is Right all the time, and I didn’t realize that if someone won a car, they have to pay taxes on that car. So they win this thing, like “Oh, I got a free car.” But then they have to pay a bunch of taxes on that car. I always thought that was funny. It’s like “Oh, I won”, but then “Oh, I can’t afford the taxes”, so now the car is gone.
Travis Watts: Yeah. You can’t even afford to get a free car.
Theo Hicks: Yeah. That’s interesting, I didn’t know that. So besides The Price Is Right tax, I don’t have anything to add to that one either.
Travis Watts: Alright. Cool. Number five, let’s talk about a little bit of good news here. So there is a proposal to re-implement a first-time homebuyer tax credit. I’m pretty interested in this one, because in 2009 I was the recipient of a program that had a first-time homebuyer tax credit. That’s how I bought my first property. So at that time it was an $8,000 tax credit. And the way that that one worked, that was to re-stimulate the housing market after the great recession, right? That was the purpose behind it. This one’s a little bit different.
Because our housing market has done so well, and it’s so strong, and it really isn’t in shambles, at least not today, we don’t need to re-stimulate the housing market today. But the problem now has become, is millennials and young home buyers can’t afford houses when they’re five hundred thousand, a million bucks in some of these bigger cities; it becomes very difficult to purchase a house. So the Biden tax plan is proposing a fifteen thousand dollar first-time homebuyer credit. And what I like about this is, unlike the one that I received, I had actually come up with all the money upfront, go to closing, do the down payment, make the deal happen. Then 8 weeks later they sent me a check for 8k. This one will be received at the closing table. So you don’t actually have to retroactively receive that back, you’re going to get it right upfront. And that makes sense, right? If affordability is the issue, well then you can’t afford it. So that’s kind of the change there. So that’s a great one, I really think highly of that particular aspect to the Biden tax plan. Any thoughts on that Theo?
Theo Hicks: Yes, so assuming a 3.5% down payment, that’s like a $420,000 house. So I think you said in the blog post it’s up from 8,000, so about double. So yeah this is… Okay, I’m just looking for an active perspective. This is great news for fix and flippers, because you’re going to have that many more end buyers on the back end, assuming that the property meets the requirement for… I’m assuming that it is through FHA requirements.
Travis Watts: That’s a great point though that you bring up. So unfortunately, with a lot of these tax proposals we don’t have all the details, because they’re not real yet, they’re not actually going into effect. So we don’t know all of the stipulations.
I was reading one article that said it could be up to 15,000, so maybe there’s going to be a caveat there. FHA, VA… There are different things; I don’t know, to be honest, and nobody knows. But to your point, it’s definitely going to help, no matter how you finance. Maybe it’s only available to owner-occupants, or maybe you can use it as an investor. I don’t know. So we’ll have to wait and see. But generally speaking, it is going to allow a lot of access to homeownership at the younger levels.
Theo Hicks: And house-hacking, too; it’s great for house hacking. You basically house-hack with $0 down. [00:19:55].15] there’s probably mentioned some requirements for the person borrowing. You know what, that’s definitely good news.
Travis Watts: Yeah. That’s great news. Number six – and this one gets really complicated, so I’m just going to keep it high level… But they’re looking to phase out the QBI, which is to qualify business income deduction. That was part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as well. So basically anybody making over $400,000 per year, this is where you can basically deduct 20% of our qualified business income for tax purposes. It could apply to real estate or businesses, or real estate businesses… But that was just one additional, great, extra tax advantage for business owners and potentially real estate investors… So that may be taken away or phased out, at least for the higher income earners.
Theo Hicks: Yeah, I think it was the most recent best real estate investing advice ever conference… Or maybe it was two times ago, I can’t remember. But someone gave a presentation on QBI. You run a business and [unintelligible [00:20:49].18] it was pretty complicated. I really didn’t understand it if I’m being honest.
Travis Watts: Yeah. Anyone checking out the blog — I’ve put a lot of hyperlinks in this blog, because these topics just go on and on and on with research. So click the hyperlink, learn what QBI means, figure it out.
Theo Hicks: There you go.
Travis Watts: Okay, number seven. Trump did something pretty interesting as far as the estate tax. He raised it to 11.18 million per individual. So if you pass away and you have basically 11 million dollars in assets individually, there’s no estate tax that’s due. And as a married couple, obviously, that doubles, so 22 million dollars. So quite high, probably historically maybe the highest ever, I don’t know. But that was a huge change.
So Biden has proposed let’s take that back down to 5 million. So now we are looking at, in a lot of cases, with accredited investors, real estate investors, that you may be thinking now about estate tax possibilities especially, obviously, older folks, hopefully, not the younger folks. But these are the things, guys – back to the stoicism stuff that we talked about a few weeks ago… But there’s so much out of your control; these are things you can never predict. When you’re going to pass away, nobody knows. And what are the rules going to be at that time? We don’t know. But for anyone who’s an elderly real estate investor, this is definitely something to consider, that you got more than a 50% cut to the estate tax. Any thoughts on that?
Theo Hicks: No. I don’t think so.
Travis Watts: Okay. Pretty straightforward. Here’s a huge one, and one of the biggest – raising the corporate tax rate to 28%. So we had some of the highest corporate tax rates; and when I say corporate tax rate I’m talking primarily about C corporations, which are the most publicly traded companies. So we had a 35% tax on C corps before Trump came into office. He lowered that down to 21%, which was incredible. That’s a huge shift obviously, right? That’s almost 50% cut, which was a lot of the stimulation that we saw in the stock market and all that before COVID. Well, now the Biden plan is looking to bring it back to 28. So not back to where it was, not a complete repeal, but hey, we are in a recession now, a lot of companies are hurting badly, and now we are looking at raising taxes on them on top of that. So just be aware of that and figure out what it means for you in your portfolio. We’ll have to see.
Then also in addition to that, there’s going to be a minimum of 15% tax on corporations that have profits over a hundred million or higher, because one of the big problems that have been happening is US corporations headquartering in foreign countries that have a 0% tax, and so, therefore, they could make millions if not billions of dollars and pay no taxes here in the US. So that would change with at least a 15% minimum tax for US corporations. So that’s pretty big one. More in relation to the stock market, but I wanted to point that out.
Theo Hicks: Yeah. One thing that’s kind of related to this a little bit – I’m just doing a show on qualifying markets, so I guess I’m kind of getting ahead of myself here… But it’s really good just to make sure, in general, whatever market you’re investing in, that you’re keeping your finger on the pulse of companies moving in and out of that area… Because that has a huge impact on the real estate in the area. It doesn’t matter what asset class you’re in; for apartments, obviously, the more companies there the more jobs, the more jobs the more people have work, the more people have work, the more they can pay their rent. So I’m not necessarily saying this is going to affect that either way, but just kind of a general piece of advice is to set up a Google alert. Just go to Google, it’s in the little dot, dot, dot at the top right-hand corner of the screen. One of them is alerts, and you can set up alerts; type in your city name, like Cincinnati, plus “business”. Cincinnati unemployment, Cincinnati new businesses, Cincinnati Fortune 500. That way, every day you’ll get emailed any news articles that reference businesses. So is a business leaving, is a business moving, is a business expanding? That’s not going to have an immediate impact like, “Oh, a business is coming here. Rents went up to $100.” But it’s more of something just to be aware of for the future strength of that market.
Travis Watts: Yup. Great point. I appreciate you pointing that out. The last two, 9 and 10, I only put them in because we have a lot of high-income earners that we work with in the syndications space, and this could be applicable to a lot of people. You probably heard Biden talk a lot about “No tax change for anyone making less than $400k per year.” Well, in some ways that’s true, in some cases that are not. But anyway, number 9 is raising the top federal income bracket back to 39.6%, which is what it was before. Trump had reduced that down to 37%, so not a huge difference, 2.6%. But that could affect a lot of people. So just know if you’re a high-income earner, there’s one more tax to put on top of it, and with CEOs and everybody else.
Number 10 is a Social Security tax would be kicked back in. So the way it works right now, I didn’t even know this, by the way, this was kind of interesting. But there’s the 12.4% Social Security tax that we pay on earned income when you’re a W2 wage earner. Well after you make $137,700 in a year, that tax drops off. You quit paying it. Well, what this proposal says is, “Yeah, it still drops off at $137,700, but if you’re making $400k or more, it comes back in the play again.” So anyone making $500k a year or a million a year, they’re going to be paying that tax again on the second half of their income-earning. These are just subtle things to think about but all in all, man, if you’re a high-income earner, look out.
Theo Hicks: Yeah.
Travis Watts: Look out for this tax plan. So that’s all the 10; as I said, the last two are really just applicable to high-income earners. But for the most part, these were the real estate related things that I could extract out of that plan. Any other thoughts, Theo?
Theo Hicks: Yes, just kind of what you said in the beginning… As we mentioned, we’re not CPA’s, so we’re kind of just trying to give you the facts here, and then maybe explain a little bit about how we think this might impact real estate or businesses in general. But I think at the end of the day, as you’ve mentioned, it seems like it’s affecting high-income earners, and we are doing a real estate podcast, so this might affect a lot of you listening out there… So just make sure you’re talking to your CPA and kind of figuring out what changes you need to make to your business in order to reduce your taxable income to not be completely hit by this.
And kind of going back to the Tom Wheelwright book that we did, something he said that I really thought was interesting was he said, “I only have a few pages to talk about what to pay in taxes, and the rest is talking about how to pay less in taxes.” So the tax code is some crazy amount of pages long. So yeah, I’m just going to reiterate the advice I gave in the episode, which is that make sure whatever you’re passively investing in or actively investing in, make sure your CPA specializes in that. That way they will have knowledge of the tax code as it applies to whatever you’re doing. Maybe some of these things, there’s another part of tax code that you could use to offset that, or something. Again, I’m not a CPA, I don’t know for sure, but it couldn’t hurt to have a CPA that specializes in apartment syndications for passive investors, so that they can help you to reduce your taxes as much as possible.
Travis Watts: Exactly. And I was just… The other night, because I’m nerdy like this, I was watching a video somebody made. I think it was Graham Stephan video; I don’t know if you ever watch his content. He’s a realtor and the real estate investor out in California and now moving to Nevada… But a younger guy, millennial, advocate for investing, and real estate business, and all the stuff. Well, he made a video that was really cool about how to pay zero in taxes, legally. Again, he’s not a CPA either, but these are just planting seeds, right? These conversations topics to have with a CPA or a licensed professional. But it was really cool, he starts with just the standard deduction that we all get on our taxes, and then maxing out an HSA account, and for him, that was a 401K, and then a solo, and then a traditional, and then… He goes up to — I think it was like an $80,000 income paying zero in tax.
So again, it’s planting seeds, it’s not to say all of that is applicable to your or I. I know I wouldn’t do some of that stuff that you proposed, but your point is exactly on key, Theo. Find a competent CPA that you could take my blog post here, these top 10, and print it out and give it to your CPA and say, “Hey, how does that affect me or what strategies can we implement to where I do best in this new tax proposal scene.” So it’s stuff like that. But anyway, I’m going to cut that off, because I think we are over our time. But go check out the blog post. Thank you Theo for all of your insight on that, and that’s all I got.
Theo Hicks: Thank you, Travis. Again, that blog post is Top 10 Changes for Real Estate Investors Under the Biden Tax Plan. That is on the website, joefairless.com, under the blog tab.
So again, Travis, thank you so much for writing this blog post. It’s very detailed, it has a lot of hyperlinks in here for you as well, so you can go into more detail on what each of these different tax factors are. So Travis, again, thanks for joining me today. Best Ever listeners, as always thank you for listening. Have a Best Ever Day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.
Travis Watts: Thanks, Theo. Thanks, everybody. See you later.
This website, including the podcasts and other content herein, are made available by Joesta PF LLC solely for informational purposes. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions expressed in this website do not constitute 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. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC are providing or undertaking to provide any financial, economic, legal, accounting, tax or other advice in or by virtue of this website. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions provided in this website are general in nature, and such information, statements, comments, views and opinions are not intended to be and should not be construed as the provision of investment advice by Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC to that listener or generally, and do not result in any listener being considered a client or customer of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC.
The information, statements, comments, views, and opinions expressed or provided in this website (including by speakers who are not officers, employees, or agents of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC) are not necessarily those of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC, and may not be current. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC make any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions contained in this website, and any liability therefor (including in respect of direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever) is expressly disclaimed. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC undertake any obligation whatsoever to provide any form of update, amendment, change or correction to any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions set forth in this podcast.
No part of this podcast may, without Joesta PF LLC’s prior written consent, be reproduced, redistributed, published, copied or duplicated in any form, by any means.
Joe Fairless serves as director of investor relations with Ashcroft Capital, a real estate investment firm. Ashcroft Capital is not affiliated with Joesta PF LLC or this website, and is not responsible for any of the content herein.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast 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. For more information, go to www.bestevershow.com.