Installment Sales: A Viable Option for Transferring Assets

Boston-street_LI-532x266 Installment Sales: A Viable Option for Transferring Assets
Photo: Michael Browning

Are you considering transferring real estate, a family business or other assets you expect to appreciate dramatically in the future? If so, an installment sale may be a viable option. Its benefits include the ability to freeze asset values for estate tax purposes and remove future appreciation from your taxable estate.

Giving Away vs. Selling

From an estate planning perspective, if you have a taxable estate it’s usually more advantageous to give property to your children than to sell it to them. By gifting the asset you’ll be depleting your estate and thereby reducing potential estate tax liability, whereas in a sale the proceeds generally will be included in your taxable estate.

But an installment sale may be desirable if you’ve already used up your $11.18 million (for 2018) lifetime gift tax exemption or if your cash flow needs preclude you from giving the property away outright. When you sell property at fair market value to your children or other loved ones rather than gifting it, you avoid gift taxes on the transfer and freeze the property’s value for estate tax purposes as of the sale date. All future appreciation benefits the buyer and won’t be included in your taxable estate.

Because the transaction is structured as a sale rather than a gift, your buyer must have the financial resources to buy the property. But by using an installment note, the buyer can make the payments over time. Ideally, the purchased property will generate enough income to fund these payments.

Advantages and Disadvantages

An advantage of an installment sale is that it gives you the flexibility to design a payment schedule that corresponds with the property’s cash flow, as well as with your and your buyer’s financial needs. You can arrange for the payments to increase or decrease over time, or even provide for interest-only payments with an end-of-term balloon payment of the principal.

One disadvantage of an installment sale over strategies that involve gifted property is that you’ll be subject to tax on any capital gains you recognize from the sale. Fortunately, you can spread this tax liability over the term of the installment note. As of this writing, the long-term capital gains rates are 0%, 15% or 20%, depending on the amount of your net long-term capital gains plus your ordinary income.

Also, you’ll have to charge interest on the note and pay ordinary income tax on the interest payments. IRS guidelines provide for a minimum rate of interest that must be paid on the note. On the bright side, any capital gains and ordinary income tax you pay further reduces the size of your taxable estate.

Simple Technique, Big Benefits

An installment sale is an approach worth exploring for business owners, real estate investors and others who have gathered high-value assets. It can help keep a family-owned business in the family or otherwise play an important role in your estate plan.

Bear in mind, however, that this simple technique isn’t right for everyone.

We can review your situation and help you determine whether an installment sale is a wise move for you. Contact us today, before transferring real estate.

Home Equity Loans May Still Be Deductible

house-lawn_LI Home Equity Loans May Still Be Deductible
Photo: Valentina Locatelli

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 affected the tax deduction for interest paid on home equity debt as of 2018. Under prior law, you could deduct interest on up to $100,000 of home equity debt, no matter how you used the money. The old rule is scheduled to return in 2026.

The bad news is that you now cannot deduct interest on home equity loans or home equity lines of credit if you use the money for college bills, medical expenses, paying down credit card debt, and so on. The good news is that the IRS has announced “Interest on Home Equity Loans Often Still Deductible Under New Law.” The details are in IR 2018-32, a news release from the IRS.

The Book, Not The Cover

According to the IRS, even if a loan is labeled “home equity,” the interest may be deductible on your tax return. The key is how the borrowed money is used. In addition, the $100,000 ceiling doesn’t apply.

For home loan interest to be tax deductible, the taxpayer that secures the loan must use the money to buy, build, or substantially improve his or her home. Beginning in 2018, taxpayers may only deduct interest on $750,000 of such “qualified residence loans,” or $375,000 for a married taxpayer filing separately.

Those numbers apply to the total of a taxpayer’s home loans, but older loans up to $1 million and $500,000, respectively, may have fully deductible interest. As before, home loan interest on debt that exceeds the cost of the home won’t be eligible for an interest deduction, among other requirements.

Fine Points

For home loans obtained in 2018 and future years, some tax rules are clear, but some are more complex.

Example 1: Eve Harper gets a $500,000 loan from Main Street Bank to buy a home in July 2018. In November 2018, Eve gets a $50,000 “home equity” loan from Broad Street Bank, which she uses to buy a car. The interest on the second loan is not tax deductible.

Example 2: Same as example 1, except that Eve uses the Broad Street Bank loan to install central air conditioning, add a powder room, and upgrade plumbing throughout her new home. The interest on both of these loans will be deductible.

The tax treatment of these examples may seem straightforward, but that’s not always true.

Example 3: Same as example 1, except that the Broad Street Bank loan is used to make a down payment on a mountain cabin, where Eve plans to go for vacations. Interest on this $50,000 loan is deductible because the total of both loans does not exceed $750,000, and the $50,000 loan is secured by the cabin. Indeed, Eve could get a loan up to $250,000 (for a $750,000 total of home loans) to buy the cabin and still deduct the interest, as long as this loan is secured by the cabin.

Example 4: Same as example 3, except that the Broad Street Bank loan is secured by Eve’s main home, not by the cabin she’s buying. Now, the Broad Street Bank loan would be considered home equity debt no matter how much was borrowed, and no interest on that loan could be deducted.

Over the Limit

What would happen if Eve gets a $500,000 loan in June to buy her main house and another $500,000 loan in November to buy a vacation home? She would be over the $750,000 debt limit for deducting interest on 2018 home loans, so only a percentage of the interest paid would be tax deductible.

The bottom line is that if you intend to use a home equity loan to buy, build, or substantially improve a home, you should be careful about how the debt is secured. Be prepared to show that the money really was used for qualified purposes.

Moreover, qualified home loans obtained on or before December 15, 2017, are grandfathered, with tax deductions allowed for interest up to $1 million or $500,000, as explained. Some questions remain, though, about how refinancing those grandfathered loans will affect the tax treatment. If you are considering refinancing a home loan that’s now grandfathered, our office can provide the latest guidance on how your taxes might be affected.

Secured Debt

  • Home loan interest is deductible, up to the applicable limit, only if the obligation is a secured debt.
  • You must sign an instrument, such as a mortgage, deed of trust, or land contract, that makes your ownership interest in a qualified home security for payment of the debt.
  • A qualified home includes a house, condominium, mobile home, boat, or house trailer with sleeping, cooking, and toilet facilities that is your main home or second home.
  • In case of default, the home used as security can satisfy the debt.
  • This arrangement must be recorded or otherwise officially noted under the relevant state or local law.

Make an appointment with one of our tax professionals or financial advisors to make sure you’re receiving the most deducted possible as a home owner. You could also complete the following form to reach us.

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4288418666 Home Equity Loans May Still Be Deductible



 

This post originally appeared in the CPA Client Bulletin Resource Guide, © 2018 Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. Reprinted by permission.

Are state and local taxes a reason to move?

Moving-Truck_LI Are state and local taxes a reason to move?

As many people are all too aware, some states and localities impose higher income and property taxes than others. Residents of high tax areas may have taken some solace by itemizing deductions on their tax returns and reducing federal income tax obligations by deducting the taxes paid.

Example: Jennifer Knight deducted $25,000 worth of state income tax and local property tax on her 2017 tax return. Assuming Jennifer was in a 25% tax bracket, she reduced her net outlay for those taxes with $6,250 in tax savings (her 25% tax rate times the $25,000 tax deductions).

In this scenario, Jennifer’s actual tax cost was $18,750, not $25,000, because she cut her federal tax bill by $6,250.

New Rules

Under the TCJA, there is still an itemized deduction for taxes paid, but it is now capped at $10,000 a year, starting in 2018. Some people refer to this as the SALT deduction for state and local taxes. It mainly covers property and income taxes, although taxpayers can choose to include sales tax instead of income tax towards the $10,000 cap. (The $10,000 limit is the same for single filers and couples filing jointly, so there is a true “marriage penalty” here.)

As might be expected, taxpayers and politicians in high tax states and localities have loudly protested the cutback in the deduction for taxes paid. Is this the final straw? The added burden that will drive people to move to areas where income and property tax (and perhaps estate tax) are less of a burden?

Relocation may make sense, but such a decision should be made with care. Calculate how much extra you’ll be paying in tax now, considering the loss of the taxes paid deduction and all the other features of the TCJA. Don’t forget to include the alternative minimum tax (AMT), which still impacts many individuals. People who owe the AMT get no tax benefit from deducting state or local taxes. Our office can help with this computation.

Then, find out how much you’d owe after a move to a different area. Include income taxes and, assuming you’ll be a homeowner, likely property tax. Find out if sales tax will be meaningful in the new area. Determine the state’s estate tax exemption and estate tax rates, if you expect to leave assets to loved ones.

Typically, you’ll discover that relocating is a puzzle with many different parts of varying sizes. Effectively paying more in state and local tax under the TCJA may be a key piece of that puzzle, but it’s just one thing to consider before calling the movers.

Additional Resources

View our many calculators to help you plan for the big move, or other important life changes.

 

This post originally appeared in the CPA Client Bulletin Resource Guide, © 2018 Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. Reprinted by permission.