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1031 Exchange - What is it?

Thursday, January 10, 2019   /   by Lacey Parker

1031 Exchange - What is it?


A “1031 exchange” is the nickname used to discuss Section 1031 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s tax code. This section states that if an individual exchanges one investment property for another via a 1031 exchange, they may be able to defer capital gains (or losses) that they would otherwise have to pay at time of sale.

Section 1031 applies to “property” beyond real estate, but many 1031 cases deal with buildings and land. We’ll only discuss 1031's in relation to real estate.


So why is a 1031 exchange important? It allows real estate investors to defer paying capital gains and potentially build wealth through real estate investing.

Think about it this way. If you buy a piece of real estate for $100,000 and then sell it for $500,000, you are subject to paying capital gains taxes on your $400,000 profit. From that $400,000, you would lose, say, $120,000 to capital gains taxes. With a 1031 exchange, you might be able to use the $500,000 to purchase one or more new properties and pay no capital gains taxes at the time of sale. The sale’s proceeds fund new investment properties, which in turn may generate cash flow and appreciate.

While you’ll eventually have to pay taxes when you sell these new properties, you may be able to make your money go further using a 1031 exchange. These exchanges matter because they can help real estate investors create more wealth. Investors may use 1031 exchanges throughout their careers to buy bigger or better properties and potentially reap the rewards.


What types of properties quality for a 1031 exchange? The short answer: it depends. That’s because the language used in the tax code is vague. Properties must be, it says, “like-kind.” Says the IRS

“Both properties must be similar enough to qualify as ‘like-kind.’ Like-kind property is property of the same nature, character or class. Quality or grade does not matter. Most real estate will be like-kind to other real estate. For example, real property that is improved with a residential rental house is like-kind to vacant land. One exception for real estate is that property within the United States is not like-kind to property outside of the United States. Also, improvements that are conveyed without land are not of like kind to land.”

Are you confused about exactly what “like-kind” means? You’re not alone. Says tax expert Robert Wood

“Most exchanges must merely be of ‘like-kind’–an enigmatic phrase that doesn’t mean what you think it means. You can exchange an apartment building for raw land, or a ranch for a strip mall. The rules are surprisingly liberal. You can even exchange one business for another. But again, there are traps for the unwary.”

This is why it is essential to secure professional help if you’re considering a 1031 exchange—there are pitfalls aplenty even for seasoned investors.

If you are interested in finding out more about 1031 tax exchanges or are ready to use one, let us know and we will connect you with one of the best 1031 tax experts we know. 

Keller Williams Realty Portland Premiere - The Clark Group
Alex Clark
7504 SW Bridgeport Rd
Portland, OR 97224

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