Tax Break for Commercial Real Estate Investors

COVID-19 impacted the economy dramatically and commercial real estate was no exception in terms of decreased values. Often, the real property could no longer service the debt used to finance it. This debt restructuring and resulting debt forgiveness can result in taxable income.

Taxable Income and Debt Cancellation

If you have a $80,000 loan and the bank reduced the amount you owe down to $50,000, then you have an economic benefit of $30,000, which should be treated as taxable income. This is indeed how cancellation of debt is treated, but there are exceptions such as in the case of bankruptcy or insolvency. There is another unique scenario that applies only to commercial real estate.

Assuming that the taxpayer is not a C-corporation, debt cancellation is excludable from taxable income if it results from qualified real property business indebtedness (QRPBI). QRPBI is debt taken on to buy real property used for commercial purposes. Starting in 1993, debt used for building or improving a property also qualify.

As we all know, there is no such thing as a free lunch. In order for debt cancellation to not be considered current taxable income, the taxpayer must reduce their basis in the real property by this same amount. This does not cancel the income; instead, it defers its recognition and helps cash flow as a result. Below, we look at an example of how this works.

Illustrative Example

Assume David bought a property in 2017 and he uses it for business purposes. In 2022, the property has a first mortgage of $200,000 and a second mortgage of $100,000 (both with the same bank), with a fair market value (FMV) of $240,000. He negotiates with the bank to reduce the second mortgage down to $20,000, resulting in income from the cancellation of debt of $80,000.

The amount of debt cancellation that can be deferred is equal to the amount of the second mortgage before the debt cancellation, less the FMV minus the first mortgage. In David’s case, before debt cancellation, the FMV ($240k) minus the first mortgage ($200k) was $40,000. The balance of the second mortgage ($100k) exceeded this by $60,000. Out of the total debt cancellation of $80,000, this $60k is subject to deferral, with only the remaining $20,000 reported as immediate taxable income.

The $60,000 is not considered as taxable income only to the extent that David has sufficient adjusted tax basis in the depreciable real property to absorb this as a reduction in basis. Assuming this is the case, the reduction in basis applies the first day of the tax year after the debt cancellation (unless the property is sold before year-end – then it applies immediately).

In the example above, David would include the $10,000 of cancellation of debt income on his 2022 tax return and adjust his basis in the real property by $60,000 as of Jan. 1, 2023.

Filing Mechanics

For real estate held via partnerships instead of by individuals, determining if debt is QRPBI qualified happens at the entity level, although reductions of basis are done at the individual level for each partner, allowing individual planning. The election to defer cancellation of debt income is recorded on Form 982.

Conclusion

The COVID pandemic caused many real estate investors to restructure their debts. The option to defer debt income cancellation offers a great tax planning opportunity by delaying taxable income and improving cash flows.

How Social Security Benefits Are Affected by Earned Income

Thanks to the Great Resignation trend over the past year, there is a high availability of jobs. Therefore, now is a good time for retirees who would like to go back to work to ease into the job market. However, if you’ve already begun drawing Social Security benefits, you should understand how earning income will affect those payouts.

First of all, you have two options if you’d like to stop receiving Social Security. One option is available only if you’ve been drawing benefits for a year or less. In this case, you may cancel your application; but be aware that you must repay all the benefits that you and your family have received to date. That includes spousal benefits and even Medicare premiums that were deducted from your payout. You will still be able to reapply for Social Security later.

The second option is available only if you have reached full retirement age but have not yet turned 70 years old. In this case, you may request to have your Social Security payouts suspended.

There are two benefits associated with these strategies: 1) foregoing Social Security income will likely reduce your tax bill; and 2) your Social Security benefits will start accruing again based on the delay and calculations that include your new wages.

However, you may continue receiving Social Security while you work, which could be important if your spouse is receiving benefits based on your earnings record. Under this scenario, a portion of your benefit may be withheld or even subject to higher taxes. It all depends on how much you earn. If your annual income is $19,560 or less (2022), it won’t impact your Social Security benefits.

Note that only wages from a job or self-employment count toward your Social Security income limit for withholding purposes. Distributions you receive from pensions, annuities, investment income, interest, veterans benefits or other government or military retirement benefits are not considered earned income.

Once your income totals more than $19,560, the impact depends on your age. If you have not yet reached “full retirement age,” Social Security will withhold $1 in benefits for every $2 you earn over the limit.

During the year you reach full retirement age, your annual total earnings limit increases to $51,960 (2022), and the subsequent benefit reduction drops to $1 for every $3 you earn over that amount. In fact, they count only how much you’ve earned up to the month before your birthday – not what you end up earning in a whole year. Once you’ve reached full retirement age, it doesn’t matter much how you earn, there will no longer be any withholding of benefits.

Better yet, starting in January of the year after you turn full retirement age, regardless of whether you continue working or not, your Social Security benefit will increase to reflect any previously withheld benefits due to your income exceeding the limit. And if the years you subsequently worked rank among your 35 highest earning years, your payout will increase even more to reflect a higher benefit calculation (since you paid FICA taxes on that income).

Tax Considerations

In the case of all beneficiaries, at least 15 percent of Social Security income is exempt from federal income taxes. Be aware though, that for tax purposes, your reportable income includes half of your Social Security benefit plus all other forms of income, such as a job, pension or investment income. If your total annual income is between $25,000 and $34,000, then as much as 50 percent of your Social Security benefit is taxable. If you earn more than $34,000 in a year, then up to 85 percent of your Social Security benefit is subject to taxes.

This is a general overview of what happens to your Social Security benefits when mixed with earned income. There are additional details, so it’s a good idea to work with a Social Security expert to decide if you should cancel or suspend payouts, and to understand how your income and tax situation may be impacted by going back to work.

With that said, if your portfolio has taken a beating this year, you might want to stop investment distributions for now and give it time to grow. Fortunately, the United States is currently enjoying a robust job market in which highly experienced candidates can negotiate a flexible work schedule, job site and higher salary, so it may be worth it to go back to work for another year or two to help secure your long-term retirement plans.

Tips to Save on A/C This Summer

You love summer, don’t you? School’s out and BBQs are on. But what you probably don’t love are those higher air conditioning bills. Here are some tried-and-true ways to help lower the cost of keeping cool.

Change Air Filters

Make sure you switch out your filters before those sizzling summer temps arrive, then once a month after that. When filters are dirty, they block the airflow, which causes your air conditioner to work harder when cooling your home. You’ll not only lower your bills by five to 15 percent, but you will also extend the life of your entire A/C system. If you don’t change those clogged filters, it could create a malfunction and you’ll have to get your unit repaired.

Turn Up Your Thermostat

Set it to 78 degrees and shed a few layers. Yes, this might not be preferable to your icy 72 degrees, but you know what will feel good? Seeing your electricity bill go down 18 percent.

Run the Ceiling Fan

This works in tandem with turning your thermostat to 78 degrees. If you’ve been running your fan clockwise during the previous months, be sure to change the direction so the air moves down into the room.

Invest In a Smart Thermostat

With these babies, you can regulate the temps when you’re not home from an app on your phone or via voice commands. For instance, you can set the A/C to a toasty 80 degrees when you’re not home to save money. Two good brands to check into are Nest and Ecobee, but here’s a list of others. They’re well worth the cost.

Close Your Curtains and Blinds

When the sun’s rays enter your home, they not only heat up the room, but also your thermostat. The best time to shut your curtains and blinds is during the warmest part of the day, between (roughly) 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. This will help insulate your windows and stop the cool air from escaping.

Consider the Placement of Your Thermostat

Where do you have this? If it’s next to a hot window, your poor A/C will work harder than it needs to because it will think the room’s hotter than it is. Other places not to put it are near doors that could let in drafts. Or by bathrooms that are usually warm and steamy. In fact, the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy advises to avoid placing thermostats near lamps or TVs. Why? They release heat that could confuse the sensors of your poor, struggling device.

Avoid Activities that Heat Up the House

Try to refrain from using the oven, dishwasher or dryer during the middle of the day. This heats up the house. Instead, use the microwave, grill outside or – if you can stand it – wash your dishes by hand. If you need to dry clothes, wait until after sundown.

Check Your Air-Conditioner

If you had some issues with it last summer, get someone (a professional) to take a look at it before the high temps descend upon you. If you make a few small repairs, you’ll save mightily in the long run.

If you implement one or all of these tips, you’ll be in a much better, cooler place come full-on summer, the time of year when you most want to chill.

Sources

8 Best Practices For Saving Money On Air Conditioning This Summer

https://www.cnet.com/home/energy-and-utilities/lower-your-electric-bill-this-summer-with-these-air-conditioni