Treasury Department's new package of rules around the pass-through tax deduction is
good news for financial advisers whose clients own rental property or invest in
mutual funds that hold real estate investment trusts, according to tax experts.
certain provisions, like one related to retirement plan contributions, may
reduce the overall tax break that advisers and clients get.
"My overall reaction is,
this is good," said Leon LaBrecque, an adviser and chief growth officer at
Sequoia Financial Group. "They didn't give us everything we wanted, but
almost everything we wanted."
Treasury issued final regulations Friday afternoon around the pass-through tax deduction,
a 20% tax break applied to pass-through business income that was created as
part of the broad tax overhaul that President Donald J. Trump signed into law
in December 2017. The deduction applies to businesses such as partnerships, S
corporations and sole proprietorships whose income is taxed at the owners'
individual tax rate.
final rules, which follow proposed rules issued in August, created
a safe harbor rule clarifying how clients can claim a tax deduction on profits
from rental properties.
One key element, according to
Jeffrey Levine, CEO and director of financial planning at Blueprint Wealth
Alliance, is the requirement that owners, employees or independent contractors
spend 250 hours on the property each taxable year.
"This is one of the big
takeaways," Mr. Levine said. "I think this is the most important
thing to come out that is new and materially different than the proposed
Activities that count toward
the 250 hours include negotiating and executing leases, verifying information
contained in prospective tenant applications, collecting rent, advertising to
rent or lease the real estate, and managing the real estate, purchase of
materials, and daily operation, maintenance and repair of the property.
Activities such as procuring property, arranging financing, studying and
reviewing financial statements, and traveling to and from the real estate don't
It may be difficult to reach
250 hours for a single property, but the rules allow taxpayers to bundle all
like properties together, advisers said. Those with triple-net leases don't
qualify for the pass-through deduction.
Treasury also proposed more
rules around the pass-through deduction Friday, including one that would
benefit mutual-fund shareholders by clarifying that REITs held by funds are
eligible for the 20% tax deduction — providing a tax windfall for shareholders.
It was previously understood that REITs held outside of funds would get a tax break.
"I think it changes a
little bit of the algorithm, particularly as I see people getting more income-focused,"
Mr. LaBrecque said of investing clients' money.
At the same time, there was
bad news for financial advisers and clients. For one, the final rules
solidified that financial advisers and stockbrokers are "service"
businesses who are ineligible for a deduction if their taxable income exceeds
$207,500 (single filers) or $415,000 (married couples). Insurance agents and
mortgage brokers, however, got an exemption from this requirement.
Further, the Treasury said
the tax deductions business owners get for retirement plan contributions,
self-employment tax and self-employed health insurance dilute the overall
pass-through deduction. That's because those deductions would count against
For example, a business with
$100,000 of profits would grant the owner a 20%, or $20,000, tax deduction. If
that business owner, however, had made $10,000 in retirement plan
contributions, the deduction would only be $18,000 (which is 20% of $90,000).
"It's a haircut against
the amount of income that qualifies," said Tim Steffen, director of
advanced planning in Robert W. Baird & Co.'s private wealth management
group. "It reduces the size of the deduction you can take."
Final rules also clarified
another unfavorable point for business owners whose firms have multiple
business lines — for example, a firm that sells eyeglasses and also offers
optometry services, said Mr. Levine.
If the business line that
counts as a "service" business (optometry, in this example)
contributes more than 10% of revenues to the firm, then the entire business is
ineligible for the pass-through deduction (if the owner's taxable income
exceeds the aforementioned threshold).
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